By Candis Meredith
You probably already know that Andy and I both really love old houses, and finding homes to renovate can be one of the best parts of the restoration business. But if you don’t know where to look or how to find these properties, it can be really discouraging. That’s why I decided to put together a list of a few of the best tips I use on a regular basis to find some of the nineteenth century houses that we restore.
Get to Know Your Restoration Neighborhoods
First of all, you’re obviously not going to find a restoration house in one of those brand new planned neighborhoods that you see popping up all over the place, so you know that you can mark those off the list immediately. You know which subdivisions in your area you can skip entirely, but how do you know where you should actually start looking?
If you want to restore locally (which I definitely recommend; traveling for a renovation comes with all kinds of details and stresses that you probably don’t need to worry about right now), you might just want to get in the car and take a drive. If you’re not sure where to drive, go online first. Look up the historic districts for the towns and cities in your county and the surrounding counties. These are the areas where you’re most likely to find older neighborhoods where historic houses are still standing but might need some love.
Once you have a few areas picked out, it’s time to start doing some footwork. Spend time online and in person getting to know the areas where you want to restore homes. Some of these properties may not be listed on the MLS yet, but if you get familiar with them, you can look up their owners at the local tax office. Then you can make an offer, and you might just be on your way to a great restoration project.
Keep a Close Eye on the MLS
If you know the story of Love House, you know that I grew up admiring the house where Andy and I would fall in love as we restored it and eventually get married. However, you also know that I wouldn’t ever have gotten the chance to buy Love House if it hadn’t been for a bit of luck and the MLS. I found out that one of my favorite old houses was up for sale for a steal because I was watching the listings. So, while you’re touring neighborhoods and looking for old houses, don’t forget to keep checking the MLS every day.
Be Realistic About Your Renovations
Once you find a house that you think you want to restore, I want to encourage you to be as realistic about it as possible. Look at what it’s going to cost to restore it versus what it would cost to update it, and think about what you really want to do with it. If you want to make a profit on it, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your budget, so never hesitate to have a contractor walk through the property with you and give you a rough estimate of what it’s going to cost before you make an offer.
As you know, Andy and I do most of the work on our restorations and renovations, with some help from our boys, and that can save you a lot of money on labor. However, it can take more time, and you might find yourself in over your head with some projects. So always keep the math in mind.
Now you should have a good idea of what you need to do to find and pick the perfect restoration property for you. Good luck, and have fun!