When my husband and I first began looking for a house in Manatee county, we weren't sure exactly where we wanted to be. We searched all over and looked at all types of houses: new tract homes, remodeled homes, old homes and fixer-uppers. Like any good HGTV House Hunters episode, we were divided.
My husband spent his middle and high school years living Philadelphia where all the houses are old. So, the thought of buying an old home didn't seem as charming to him as it did to me. I've always appreciated the details and grandeur of turn of the century homes and dreamed of someday living in one.
After exhausting all of our options of homes on the market, I decided to try something different. I began cruising neighborhoods we liked looking for houses that looked empty. I'd write down the address and use the county tax records to do research on who owned the property. You can also get great information from neighbors that are out and about...usually way more than you can find out on the internet!
Side note...I've been known to make my husband stop the car so I can pick up a piece of project furniture that I found on the side of the road. Things like this and the fact that I talk to random neighbors at times horrifies him, but he was such a great support through this fixer-upper journey! I only wish I still had the picture of him holding me on his shoulders so I could peek into the window of a bank owned property. Needless to say, he has gotten accustomed to my unconventional ways!
I had found a couple properties that I was interested in and located the owners addresses on the tax records (scary I know but it's all public record). I wrote a handwritten letter expressing my interest in the houses and mailed them off.
A couple months had gone by so I didn't expect to hear anything. Meanwhile we continued our home search. We looked at so many house that we had to give them nicknames so we could remember which ones they were when weighing the pros & cons. Then one day I got a phone call from one of the owners; her name was Martha. She had owned the house we purchased for nearly 20 years but never lived there. It just sat empty and Martha admitted she was just beginning to consider selling.
Martha got an appraisal, we negotiated and the sale was made without there ever even being a "for sale" sign in the yard. Lesson learned, given the right circumstances you can buy even when a property isn't for sale. Sometimes, all it takes is a little courage to ask.
We decided to go with a fixer-upper because it was the only way to get what we wanted in the price range we were looking for. We found some nice turn key properties but ultimately didn't want to pay for someone else's design choices. In the end, we both got what we wanted an old home that was like new.
Although most of the original details had been stripped from the home, we did our best to recreate details what you would have seen in an older home.
Here is sneak peek semi-before (I lost the picture before insulation) and after shot.