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A House With Potential

One of my favorite TV shows was a series called “Build a New Life in the Country”.

Every episode focused on a couple who decided to leave the big city and move to the country, where property was much cheaper, especially if the place needed work.

Via Channel 5
Channel 5 UK

And they all did. Some were derelict houses, even abandoned barns.

Stone walls falling down? Check. Money running out halfway through the job? Check.  Crumbling roof, ceiling and floors?  Check, check, check.  But these brave souls were determined.

 What made each story gripping was the risk of failure.  Some of these homeowners couldn’t build their way out of a paper bag. Yet, they’d taken on the challenge, dreaming of that better life in the country. Some hired skilled workers, but other couples tried to do the work themselves.

At a critical point in the project, the host,  architect George, would appear on site and utter a dire prediction: “It will take a miracle for this work to be completed….”

Via channel 5
Channel 5, UK

And there I’d be in my living room, cheering on these intrepid builders, hoping they’d get their miracle (they usually did). But at the end of each episode, I’d wonder: What makes a sane person look at an old house and say “I think I’ll just buy this pile of bricks and bring it back to life”?

These questions came to mind recently when I came across a photo of a quaint old house near to both charming Roseneath and artsy Warkworth, two villages in the rolling hills of Northumberland, about ninety minutes’ drive from Toronto.  It was listed at a mind-bogglingly low price compared to houses in the Greater Toronto Area:  just $259,000.

mls.ca
Realtor.ca

The house sits on nearly 4 acres of land, and has, the listing says, “fantastic views”.  It has some nice original features: 2 staircases from the main level to upstairs (a great feature found in some old houses), wide-plank floors, a beautiful front verandah and a circular driveway. It also has some recent improvements, such as updated furnace, some new wiring and a drilled well.

mls.ca

But the interior photos tell a sobering story:  this house needs significant updating. New plastering, some new windows, maybe a new roof, new kitchen, etc., etc, etc. In other words, money and work. So who’d buy it?

Blog Photo - Red Brick House 1 staircase

http://beta.realtor.ca/propertyDetails.aspx?PropertyId=13876645

“Well”, says my husband, peering over my shoulder at the computer screen, “$259,000 is a low starting point; could be great if someone had the money to update it.”

mls.ca
Realtor.ca

“Sure”, I think, daydreaming  of buying that house and installing my dream kitchen.

Farmhouse ktichen
“Dream kitchen” via myhomeideas.com

Then the  thought of all that work, all that money — and all that renovation dust in my nose, eyes and mouth –  wakes me up immediately.

But my friend John, who bought a century-old house east of Toronto and is lovingly restoring and updating it, thinks the Northumberland house has potential.  It could be a wonderful project for the right buyer.

“Some things obviously have been done but definitely not all and that is really the key.  I would purchase this house over one that’s completely updated, as by doing the work and exploring the house you really get to know it and make it what you want and then it is your home!

“And if you do most of the work yourself and only contract out the (really skilled stuff like) electrical and roofing and not get too carried away with your renovations, $150,000 should cover everything!”

So here’s my pie-in-the-sky question: if you had a choice, would you buy a nicely renovated house that’s move-in ready? Or would you buy the house that needs a lot of work but could yield a significant financial return?

 

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The Essence of Home

What does home mean to you?

I’ve spent a lot of time at home these last two weeks. Yes, I went and overdid it with all the book stuff and landed myself in bed — again.  But, hey – I’ve got a bed.  And I’m safe at home.  These days, that’s something to be VERY thankful for.

I asked a few writers to be guest-bloggers – to contribute very short stories, which I’ll post  every so often.  Here’s the question each had to answer:  “What does home/belonging mean to you?”

Georgeina Knapp sent this lovely story:

THE ESSENCE OF HOME

Home.

The word is a floodgate that releases memories and emotions — at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes, all it takes is a sound, a smell, a sensation, a sentence, or even the sight of a simple household item.

And before you know it, you’re swept back. Home.

Home is an image. The image of the blue and white mixing bowl and the brown pitcher embossed in a basket- weave pattern, passed down from my grandmother. The sight of these objects brings me straight back home.

Grandmother's Bowl and Pitcher
Grandmother’s Bowl and Pitcher

Home to my childhood, and to my mother making pastry. I’d watch her measure the flour and lard into the bowl. Beside it, the pitcher held the ice-cold water that she slowly added, creating the basis of delicious pies of every kind.

The building that held the  essence of home was an old farm house, its exterior covered in cream clapboard with green trim. It stood apart from neighbouring houses and faced open fields across the street, giving it a feeling of country although it was at the edge of the village. On the front lawn, there was a swing on each of the two large maple trees, a place for happy summer hours. In the back, there was a huge garden where my mother grew the vegetables she would preserve for us to eat all winter.

Home is sound.  The sounds from our small barn.  The white Leghorn chickens, the pigs and the cows.

The cows mooed softly as though having a conversation with each other, and called more loudly to get our attention when they decided it was time to be fed or milked. The pigs sounded like someone with a bad cold. They snuffled and snorted until one offended the other; then there was a loud squeal of protest. The sounds from the chicken coop ranged from the gentle clucking and chirping of contentment to the loud squawk of excitement.

Image courtesy of Jacobs Farm, UK
Image courtesy of Jacobs Farm, UK

Home is smell. The outdoor smell of animals, the damp earthy smell of the garden after a rain, and the sweet smell of flowers growing around the house.

The inside of our house was fragrant with the vegetables, fruit, jam and pickles my mother preserved during the summer, or food cooking in the oven on cold winter days.  In the dark cellar downstairs, there was a different, but no less distinctive smell: a somewhat damp, musty odour which filled my nose whenever I ventured down there for coal or a jar of the preserves crowded on the concrete bench along one wall.

At Christmas the house was filled with the spicy aroma of special cookies baking and the fresh pine scent of the real Christmas tree we brought home from my uncle’s farm.

Google Images
Google Images

Home is sensation.  The warmth of family and friends who gather for a cozy evening, and the warmth of the big kitchen range that burned coal and wood.

In winter, we loved the heat from that big range. We put our wet mittens to dry on the open oven door and set our boots under the stove.

In summer that same heat could be unwelcome: even on the hottest days, the fire would have to be lit to cook our meals.

On summer nights when the upstairs bedrooms were too hot to sleep in, my mother would spread some quilts on our front lawn and we would sleep there for a few hours until the house cooled down enough for us to return to our beds.

Home is a single sentence: words from my father.

I’ll always remember how my father summed up the feeling of home one winter evening. He and I were coming back to the house from the barn and he lifted me up to look through the kitchen window. He asked me what I saw. I told him I saw mom taking something out of the oven. And that the table was set for supper and a freshly made pie was on the cupboard.

My father said, “That’s the best thing of all: coming home and there’s somebody there”.

I was just a small child, but I knew what my father meant, and I agreed.

Note from Cynthia: Thank you, Georgeina!!