Recycled Houses- By: M Shane
The average person out house hunting, is looking for real estate in move-in condition. Many refuse to see past the pink walls or shag carpeting and are determined to hold out for that perfect home, but don't realize that they are drastically limiting their selection.
Even those who don't consider themselves handy, can do small repairs or pay others to do so. By doing this, a whole new section of the market opens up. The handyman helper. Those houses that require not structural changes, but a little loving care to bring them up to today's standards. Perhaps a good cleaning and coat of paint and some minor repairs is all that's required to purchase a home slightly below market value with the potential to make a tidy profit upon sale.
Now, really start thinking outside of the "housing box," and consider the listings that aren't necessarily houses to begin with. Old buildings that are structurally sound can be recycled into gorgeous character homes. This process takes a bit more research than the average house purchase, and the buyer would have to engage a contractor and housing inspector to give them an idea of the complexity of the project.
Sometimes these discarded buildings, are "diamonds in the rough," and result in becoming fine homes with an elevated market value due to their individuality or historical value.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal featured a 10,000 square foot, former bomb shelter in their "House of the Day" feature. Located in the Mill Hill district of London, this 1950's, moss covered concrete box was used as a bunker during the Cold War. Considered a historically significant property, its purpose was to serve as a regional command center in the event of a nuclear war. Once the hydrogen bomb was invented, the bunker was obsolete and later abandoned.
Daniel Smith of SLLB Architects purchased the property from the government and gave it a whole new purpose when he converted it into a residence. With the addition of a penthouse with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, this once cold structure now has a modern, open and bright appearance - a far cry from the windowless, five foot thick walls that once existed throughout.
The home features six bedrooms and five bathrooms, a wine cellar, vault, sauna library and media room. As well as adding the upper level penthouse, Smith dug deep to create a basement, complete with in ground swimming pool and plenty of light filtering in from cone-shaped skylights.
Today, the house is listed at $11.23 million.
The bomb shelter was an extreme example of creative real estate thinking. This next example shows how the average home buyer can cash in on those unique finds.
A few years ago, some friends had $100,000 in combined downpayment and available financing for a first home. They were looking for a place in the country with a bit of elbow room, but in their price range, the pickings were slim. Finally, after keeping a constant eye on the listings, they spotted an old schoolhouse that had never been a residence on a 3/4 acre property, only minutes from where they currently lived. They had both seen these types of historical renovations and were thrilled at the prospect of living in such a home. In addition, they were both, handy types, kidless and young enough to have the energy to put into this type of project.
The house had been empty for about 40 years until it had been recently put up for sale. Upon entry, they saw past the heaved hardwood flooring, damaged by the leaky roof, broken windows, and the giant woodstove that would have to be removed. When their parents saw the schoolhouse for the first time they cried and begged them not to embark on such a project.
The couple were not to be swayed and could only envision what the house could become. After purchasing the home and property for $52,000, and landing a nice financing deal where the vendor secured the mortgage, they went to work.
About $40,000 later and a dedicated commitment, they completed most of the work themselves. The only trades they hired was a sandblast company to restore the original tin ceiling, and a plumber. The couple lived in the home for five years, sold it in a sellers market for $250,000 and built a large home in a nearby estate subdivision.
Although these types of homes aren't to everyone's liking, they demonstrate how some of the best house deals can be had by widening your sights and considering new possibilities when making your next real estate investment.
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