Home Sweet Home


Looks like I'll be staying in the Madison area for quite some time. After a few years of renting, moving numerous times, staying with friends, and even spending a few nights in my car, I pulled the trigger and bought a new house.


I wasn't sure if I could afford to own a house here in Madison, as I still have the place in Arkansas, but after crunching numbers and talking with a few lenders, I got pre-approved for a second home, without contingency to sell the Arkansas home.

I started shopping around in March, and quickly discovered that most houses in Madison don't stay on the market for very long. On one particular weekend, I scheduled six showings; by Sunday morning, five of the six had accepted offers for full asking price. Yikes!

After viewing several dozen dumps and missing out on a few places because I took too long to see them or because someone else beat me to an offer, I was feeling pretty discouraged. Making matters worse, I was quickly running out of time on the lease at my rental house in Verona.

Thankfully, my boss's fiancee came to the rescue. A few years ago, I entertained renting her house, but decided to look for something on the west side of town (her place was downtown). But, after having lived in the 'burbs for a few years, I realized that downtown is where it's at... there are a ton of great restaurants, bars, events, parks - you name it - and I liked the vibe and feel of those areas, so I felt comfortable living a bit farther from my workplace.

So, we talked, and we worked out a deal that was good for both of us. A deal was struck, and we were off and running. But not without some challenges...

The house is 107 years old, and started its life as a single-family home. Some time in the 1950s, the house was converted into a two-flat home. Molly (my boss's fiancee) bought the house in the late 90s and performed a ton of upgrades on it - new kitchens (upstairs and downstairs), new bathroom (downstairs), all new mechanicals, a new roof, a new two-story deck, fence, and so on.

However, there were a few items that needed to be addressed before it could be sold. The house had "knob and tube" wiring, which was common until the mid-sixties, when it was determined to be unsafe for use with modern appliances and insulation methods. So, we had to update the wiring... I spent my Memorial Day weekend converting the place from knob-and-tube to Romex with 200-amp service. What a project that was! But, it knocked $5K off the price of the house, so that was good.

Then, the appraiser/inspector found the detached garage could possibly have had lead paint... so, we scraped and painted and fixed that issue. The inspector also made note that the garage was in need of major repair (I knew that beforehand) and that the basement needed a smoke/carbon monoxide detector (easy fix). Aside from that, the place received a glowing review.

Molly wasn't surprised by any of the news; she had lived in the house for 10+ years and worked hard to keep the house in good condition. When we closed on the house, she handed me a stack of papers about 1" thick - receipts for work/upgrades that she had done.

She also transferred the lease for the first-floor renter to me. There's a girl who has been renting the first floor unit for several years and has been a model renter. I met with her a few times and she definitely seems like a great renter (and person). When Molly moved in with my boss, the renter volunteered to take over responsibilities for yard work, snow removal, and general maintenance. Things looked great every time I was there, so I don't have any doubts that she's responsible and helpful.

My plan is to continue renting the first floor for a year or two; I'll use the rental income to fund replacing the garage, and will then focus on converting the house back into a single family home. I can envision converting the second kitchen to a wet bar, and possibly taking advantage of the huge attic as a master loft...

I love old houses - they have a ton of character, the hardwood flooring is always spectacular, and the little details/nuances are so cool and interesting. Sure, they're not perfect (the plaster walls are a bit uneven and could benefit from some patching, and the floors squeak a bit), but I do enjoy projects, so this should be a good fit.

I moved-in on Sunday and am busy unpacking and getting things set-up. Here's what the house looks like as of yesterday (no first-floor pics, as I didn't want to bother my renter).

Upon entering the front door, there's a landing. The door to the first floor unit is to the left.


At the top of the stairs you'll find my door. Opening the door lands you into the living room:


If you take an immediate left (toward the front of the house), you'll find yourself in the master bedroom, which is huge. It even has a full walk-in closet (not seen in this photo):


From the front door, if you'd turn right, there's a hallway:


The bathroom has a cast iron, true "claw foot" tub, with a shower attachment. My first project will be to update this bathroom - I'd like to work on it over the winter. I'll remove the tub and install a walk-in shower, and will update the vanity and toilet.


The back room is a small second bedroom. I'll use it to store bikes and guitar stuff.


The kitchen is a bit small; I'd like to install a larger range and a larger refrigerator, but the stuff that's in there is nice (it needed a good cleaning, which is why it's disassembled in this photo). There's a dishwasher as well, which is a bonus.


And here's a photo from the backyard, which shows the two decks.


So, there you have it. Even though I haven't fully unpacked and set-up my stuff, it's good to be "home" and to not have to worry about moving again. Flea seems to be enjoying the house - she likes the fenced-in yard, and has been making friends with neighborhood dogs.

I spent all day yesterday (from 8am to 11pm) packing, loading, moving, and upacking... I'm a little beat today, to say the least. I still have a solid week's worth of work to do unpacking and organizing... being in an unsettled house makes me a bit crazy. :-)

Oh... there's also a full basement (full height and full size of house), with laundry and tons of storage. I need to get some shelving down there so that I can organize better... that'll be project #0 (before the bathroom work). :-D

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on August 5, 2013 10:06 AM.

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