Nearing the hopeful big expense finish line
Have you ever wanted to own or just live in a big charming stone house like this one? I did too and got lucky that my spicy pepper pot had already bought it when we met or I would have talked her out of it.
When I moved to this place in 2003 Buffalo was still pretty rough in our neighborhood. The real estate plunge around the great recession of 2008-09 hardly hit this small city because there wasn’t far to fall. She was frugal and lived in a $300 apartment in the ‘hood for many years to save up for the downpayment of 20%. This big beast sold for less than a hundred G’s in ’98 with not much needed except the original wooden floors needing sanding and refinishing. I wrote about some of the up’s and down’s of owning a big old f’ing house a few months ago. Well, with the roof replacement in the rear-view mirror, a new water heater a couple of years ago, and a needed bathroom makeover about 5 years back we’re nearing the home stretch of major repairs! The painters came today to start work and it will take a week or two and we will no longer have the shittiest looking house on the block. I’m particularly excited to have it done and know where our home repair/vacation/gift bucket stands for the rest of the year. It’s like our good time meter or Magic 8-ball.
A funny thing happened on the yellow brick road to financial independence and home ownership: the neighborhood and economy finally caught up with the rest of the country and these old places became far from the dirt cheap that we paid. That was pure luck on our part but we’ll take it and spend the profit if we decide to ever peace out of here. This joint has been paid off for about five years now so saving for a high end paint job wasn’t too much of a task on the budget, even having gone down to about 1.2 incomes in the past year. I know some of you Smidlappers are probably saying “that lazy ass Freddy ought to be frugally painting the damned place himself!” If that’s the case, look again. The peak of the house must be about 40 feet in the air with certain death or dismemberment the penalty for a little oops up on that ladder. The cost of a professional paint job like this is about 5 grand in the interest of full disclosure and I’ll update you when I write the final check. We took a home equity line of credit last year that I explained in Do It Before it Becomes an Emergency.
We haven’t touched that and never intend to use the line but it’s free if you don’t borrow and at the time we didn’t know the cost of the roof. I didn’t want to sell investments to cover it and borrowing at 4% seemed pretty reasonable if we needed to tap it. We haven’t needed it but you never know when we might take the whole thing and break parole and head on down to South America! So we just saved up for the roof and paint and part of the upside of Mrs. Smidlap working very part-time is her ability to act as an arranger and type of general contractor while the workers are around on these projects. She had also done some insulating of the studio space in the attic (the large white window in front) along with a handyman friend who even got us a big stack of closed cell insulation for free from the local Re-Use place. I continue to believe that karma is a beautiful thing as she has been sincerely nice to everyone on life’s journey and it comes back to give when you see folks willing to help you for free/cheap. Hopefully this year the studio will be insulated with new electrical and drywall and mostly in a DIY fashion.
Another big benefit of these old houses is the pure architectural beauty of living in something that was put together 150 years ago by real craftsmen. I believe it to be friggin’ bulletproof. This joint has a bunch of stained glass, leaded glass near the disco light, wooden wall panels and floors that would cost you a zillion dollars if you wanted them in a new house. All the doors are real wood with brass hardware so you bitch and whine too much when the upkeep costs a little more than your average house.
One last thing I learned today
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the end game of selling investment in the spend-down phase of retirement. I also know a lot of the personal finance community thinks that home ownership is for suckers and rubes and renting your homes and cars is the only way to reach the promised land. It’s true there are associated costs and taxes in this state are like prison sex, but for the right price it makes sense to own a casa. The reason I was thinking about the end game is possibly needing nursing home care via Medicaid. There’s a long post coming on this subject but you can chew on this while waiting for the Dr. Doom end of life article: In NY state your home is protected up to 850 thousand ducats if one spouse gets ill and needs long term nursing home care. On the other hand the amount you can keep in assets is only a little over a hundred grand. So when things look bleak for yours truly I’m advising Mrs. Smidlap to spend all that’s left on 850 G’s worth of the nicest Taj Mahal looking place she can get. So we got that going for us, which is nice.
Tell me where I’m way off base on these opinions. This way isn’t the way for everybody but it’s working for us until it doesn’t. Do you own a house that you truly enjoy or is it just about utility? Thinking of buying a place? Let it fly. I can take it.
August 8,2018 edit. Final cost was $6800 for the paint job. Final cost for last year’s roof was $34k. The roof cost a ton due to asbestos abatement and the fact there was no plywood up there and it’s big and high. We ought to be good for at least 10-15 years on these items now.