Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Real Estate, Red In Tooth And Claw

What do you see out your kitchen window?

I'm a little slow on the uptake from time to time. Occasionally people mistake this form of aphasia for things right in front of my face as a kind of aplomb -- it isn't. To coin an aphorism by butchering Kipling quotes: If you seem to be keeping your head because you're a little dimwitted, while everyone else is smart enough to be losing theirs, they'll often put you in charge of that pack of panicking headless men, for all the wrong reasons, and then you'll be a man in a world of trouble, my son.

Anyhoo, I read the Instapundit most every day, but it wasn't until Sunday that I realized he's got comments on his webpage now. When did this happen? I didn't get the memo; someone must have forgotten to put a cover sheet on my TPS report again. Ah, well, comment sections have comment sections now, and there are aggregators of aggregators all over the place on the Intertunnels, so I guess it was inevitable.

After the Instapundit's latest link to this page, someone left an interesting comment. Well, it was interesting to me; I'll let you make up your own mind. Of course we're discussing my entry about buying my house for twenty-five grand, and then fixing it in a desultory and substandard way. Here's what Jack had to say about our little scheme to shiver and hit our thumbs with hammers in Maine:

Not to be a buzz kill, but that's not a $25,000 house. Sounds very much like is needs around $50,000 of work to make it livable (though less if completely DIY) and probably another $25,000 - $50,000 to make it "nice".

Could you. Please. Excuse me. For. A. Moment...

OK, I'm back. I bwah hah ha... ouch... snort... ouch... I went to the local hospital to get  an estimate to have my ribs glued and various organs stuffed back in where they belong, because I busted my gut over that. Jack, put your hand on your forehead and tell me if you're feverish. Check carefully, because if it's cool, you're nuts, and the co-pay for that is much higher.

It's not Jack's fault. It's wise to be a skeptic on the Intertunnel, otherwise you might end up with carbon taxes out the wazoo, or perhaps with fully immunized children. Can't believe everything you read. The world might not be run by lizard people. It prolly is, but there's a scant chance they're just regular jerks, not lizards.

It's also not Jack's fault that everyone's forgotten what a house is supposed to be, and what it's for, and what would make one more habitable than another. He says it's not a house until I dump a hundred gees or so into it. (Ow, ow, ow --snorting coffee out your nose with your ribs in disarray hurts like the dickens) So I disagree with Jack. It's ipso facto "a house" if my wife, two children, and I move into it and live in it. Because that's exactly what we did, a month or two after I took that picture. A house is shelter, first and foremost. Almost everything else is gravy, or more likely, beside the point altogether.

If I had a hundred grand...

Sorry, I passed out with pain and laughter again. Me, with a hundred grand to throw around in the foreseeable future? And then dumping it into this place? Just for a place to live?

Here's an experiment: Stuff that hundred grand we're going to need into an attache case. Don't worry about where we'll get it, I'll poop out the hundred grand later, out by the magic money tree in the back yard, after we re-elect Warren G. Harding and there's an economy again. Now take that attache case to any address in my town, ring the doorbell, stand there for an hour, realize that there hasn't been a working doorbell in Western Maine since Eisenhower, then knock. Any door. I guarantee you that every single person you encounter will take that case from you and walk right past you, leaving their steaming bowl of gruel on their kitchen table, and let you have their house. Hell, they'll give you their funeral parlor, or the library, or maybe the fire station for a hunny large. Most people in western Maine are leery of anything too good to be true, and would probably count out twenty-five thousand, hand it back to you, and run away laughing with what's left.

Housing here is red and tooth and claw. There are no Joneses to keep up with. People compare shotguns and four-wheelers, maybe, to see who's fly and who's a dork, but they don't know Martha Stewart from Jimmy Stewart. I knew that. I wanted that. I did a very detailed search for a liveable place that had real estate I'd be interested in that I could afford. That's what I got.

See, what didn't happen to me was this: no one got to my house before I did, and took $100,000, went to Home Depot, then destroyed this house with what they bought, and then tried to charge me for what they did. To me, everything the average person wants in and on their house nowadays is an abomination, or a waste of money, or both; and to make me pay for it on top of having to live with it is like charging more to use a public toilet because a hobo filled the bowl just before you showed up.  My house might be a toilet, but it's an empty toilet, by gad.

This house has been a nice place for us to live, although life here has been very challenging. We know that if  your life's too easy, you can end up sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber with a pet monkey and the Elephant Man's bones, breathing through a gelded nose, so we don't mind the privations as much as others might. They haven't done us any harm. My children sleep quietly and contentedly in their beds. There are four rooms on my ground floor that are sixteen feet square each, with nine foot ceilings. My office is big, has faceted walls filled with giant windows that look out on a greensward. Many of the windows in the house look out upon things a normal human would want to see, and let in sunshine and fresh air where I want it. What would I do to this house with a hundred grand? Buy granite counters, as gaudy as Liberace's Christmas tree, and place them atop Chinese kitchen cabinets made from equal parts sawdust, formaldehyde, and lead? Buy a jacuzzi? If I wanted to get in a shabby, flimsy fiberglass tub half full of water that goes WUB WUB WUB at flight-deck volume, I'd be a lobster fisherman. I don't want vinyl siding and plastic floors that look almost woodlike. I don't want a water heater that costs more than a car, which produces water ten degrees below hot, but saves enough energy in a year to heat my left foot for fifteen minutes on one day in October.

I wouldn't want to blow a hundred grand on this house even if I could. This is not the parable of the sour grapes. I'm fixing it, which costs a little money and a lot of effort, it's true, but when I'm done, someone will give me a hundred grand for it instead of the other way around. Let them put granite countertops in it. I'm with the people that built the house in the first place, and used the granite for the foundation, like a sensible person would. 

(to be continued)
What's a lupin worth?


Anonymous said...

"My house might be a toilet, but it's an empty toilet, by gad."

I need that as a embroidery sampler.

tmoore said...

The pictures of your house look lovely. It looks as if it needs tender loving care, only a portion of which is the real nasty hard work. The only thing I am jealous of is that you found it instead of me.

But to many Americans have changed to something I am glad I am not. It appears the modern American dream is to have a house so big and so fine and so expensive that they have to work long hours to pay for it.

Having someone realize that a house is to live in, to spend time with wife and children in makes so much sense that "modern" people have trouble understanding. I sometimes think such stupid thoughts as that time spent with family is not counted against the years of your life.

I have no real ability at art, which I regret, but I will never regret floating the river in a canoe with my kids. I will never regret taking the family on mountain hikes. (the bottom of our mountains start at about 8000 feet) I will not regret being able to do family activities because I never wanted four wheelers or ski machines. All neat stuff, but unable to compete with a child's trusting smile.

Anonymous said...

Jaysus, that was funny. Breaks up a day filled with lawyer'n over the same such nonsense. JHD.

Everyman said...

What, no ceiling fans?

chasmatic said...

"... It's ipso facto "a house" if my wife, two children, and I move into it and live in it ..."

It is merely "a house" until the wife and kiddos and you move in. Then it becomes a *home*. That's the priceless part.

leelu said...

^Everyman... "Trading Spaces" must have gotten to him!

Leslie said...

19 years ago, I paid just a few 10 gs more than you did, for my old house. The roof was solid, and so was the plumbing, but it had only one bathroom, and what a horror it was. I have spent every year since, replastering walls, laying tile, and slowly, replacing fixtures and appliances. It is a custom home, in the truest sense, and we have lived and schooled and grown in it, whatever it's state.

Anonymous said...

We have a nice warm dry house; good kitchen, hot shower, small shop area, indoor parking out of the snow, garden and orchard. After 19 years we have rehabbed everything inside and out. It is our home. Home is where the garbage is. JT in CO.

Jim said...

Mr. Sippican, I'd be honored indeed to give you the nickel tour of our humble abode here in Galveston.

Built to mimic the Craftsman style, it was a brand new house that we moved into just five weeks before Hurricane Ike.

Absolutely zero wind damage to the house. Not so much as a lifted tab on the shingles.

But the house is pier-on-beam (and those piers go thirty-six feed into the ground!), the plane of the floor is 4'9" above grade.

We got 3 inches of the Gulf of Mexico in as an uninvited guest. (the garage got the full depth)

So? Tear out the subfloors, and lower 2' of sheetrock. I had a contractor friend do that for me, as he's a genius with 'rock n' tape & float. He did that up through texturing, and btw, we used a submersible grade, epoxy based USB for the new subflooring. MASSIVELY reinforced under the kitchen, baths and laundry, for tile.

After the contractor was gone, I did every scrap of wood flooring, tile, both baths from bare walls, trim including baseboards & shoe mouldings, crown mouldings, and even a hidden "cat's bathroom".

Using an angle guage, I tweaked each cut on the miter saw to ensure each corner was perfect, and they are.

If you'd like, I'll take some pics and send 'em to you. Might do your heart good to know that there are still amateurs out here with some skill and give a damn?

And, I'm looking forward to you posting more details of yours, along the way. Old houses have souls, and are fascinating indeed.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Anonymous said...

My first home cost $7000 and was built in 1929 which is OLD by Louisiana standards. Knob and tube, lead drains, the only heat was space heaters, dirt driveway (in the City!)
I did Everything myself and lived there for 17 years. I put in all new plumbing, central air and heat and Romex. It sold for only twice what I paid for it (because the blacks) but the important part was that I lived there debt free

Guy said...

Beetlejuice (the movie) has the granite-top destruction of a New England home as the situation of the comedy

Sam L. said...

Glad to see you pay no nevermind to the fools out there, but do to the fools and others here. I don't know what I see in you, but I like it regardless.

HMS Defiant said...

In Maine, even western Maine, lupins are free. The darned things just won't grow here (Ohio) which makes them almost priceless.

yes yes, I know. They grow in Ohio but just not here!

Anonymous said...

I've got some used ceiling fans from my 21,000 dollar house you can have.
They even put them in the basement which has 7' ceilings, I'm 6'4 and don't want to get my head chopped off.

Rob in AZ.