Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How We Got Here

On September 30th, 2016 - my husband and I closed on a house we have been admiring for 2 years.  For a small background story - Mat and I have been buying houses in our hometown of Connellsville, PA for the last few years.  It started with me wanting to improve the neighborhood around where my parents live.  While the last few years my parents immediate neighbors have improved greatly, the general area still had some.....slums.  We had been looking to get into the rental property business, so 3 years ago, we took the plunge and bought a triplex a few blocks from my parents.

That triplex was our baby for the last few years.  Our only child.  Or - for lack of better words - our only demon child.  It needed, and continues to need, so much work.  We have named it the "Orange Monster" because whomever owned it in years past decided that rust orange was their color.  Due to all of the other repairs it has needed these last 3 years, paint job has been low on the list.  So - it is still orange.  And still a monster.  But we finally have three beautiful apartments with three wonderful tenants.  We felt like we were no longer novices in this rental market game, so this year we added three more properties.  That is how families work, right?  One child is working out great, so you add three more all at once?  I thought so.

The first two properties we added were duplexes.  Little charmers in the same neighborhood as our demon child.  We have learned a lot of valuable lessons.  Like....ask how old the roof is.  And how old the furnace is.  Both of the duplexes have new of both, so boom, boom.  They became ours.  They both needed cosmetic work, but we have an amazing contractor, so we weren't worried.  As long as they didn't need a $22,000 roof like the Orange Monster (don't even ask), then we were already better off.

Our fourth child is why I decided to start this blog.  This house is a beautiful red brick number whose picture is to the right of this blog post.  Two years ago we looked at it and decided we were too new to the rental property business to take a plunge this big.  It was off the market for awhile, but at the end of August, my realtor called and said the "sign was back" in the lawn.  We had already seen it - knew it was bad - so we just decided to offer a lowball number and see how interested the sellers were to unload the house.  And it worked.  For the very low price of $17,000 - we had our beauty.

Unlike our other three properties, this one has some history.  It was built in 1898, and was owned by a very prominent family in the town at that time.  It is a red brick Victorian that at one time - had a turret.  While we have yet to find pictures of it from long ago, we have spent a huge amount of time researching the history of the house and the families that owned it.

I am sad to say that the Soissons (the family that lived here the longest) would be very upset to see what has become of their mansion.  It has changed hands many many times, and by the time we got in there - not much from its original days was left.  It has been vacant for three years, and hasn't had power or water for more than 1 year.  It's copper pipes were stolen in early August, along with the water meters.  It has mold, and mildew, and a scary amount of work.

But the beauty and unique features that remain are what sold us on the property.  Believe it or not - even though the house changed hands many times - some of the original woodwork survived.  And the best feature of all?  There is a tunnel in the basement.  A tunnel, people.  It is partially blocked off, but it originally was a pass through to a house across the street for the servants.  Here is a picture of it.

Cool, right?  Every time I think about what this house doesn't have - I look at a picture of this, think of its amazing history, and realize it deserves to be made pretty again.

This house will be another rental.  There are not many families left in the Connellsville area that would need - or coulc afford - a 7 bedroom, 3 bathroom 3 story home.  But we will be restoring the floors to the original character of the home the best we can.  Mat and I are going to be doing some of the work ourselves because, unlike our other rentals, this one just has different meaning.  It is more than a "nice place for people to live".  It has a story to tell.

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