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So . . . You Want to Restore a Vintage Home: A Buyer's Guide


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Even though I didn't consider myself a capital-R restorationist, I had developed some habits associated with fixing up an old house that were hard to shake. My restoration project was done, but I still found myself:

I have always fancied myself a person of simple needs, easily satisfied by a quiet lifestyle. But try as I might, like Thoreau, I high-tail it to town on a regular basis. I won't pretend that I spend much of my time in the city attending concerts or gallery openings, but I have never really lived over hanf an hour's drive from a metropolis of at least 20,000.

There was no denying that this house was big-time country. I didn't need my kids to point out that the nice wide city streets in the pictures I showed them were gravel and that there were no cars parked anywhere in sight -- much less moving on them. In fact, the only sigh of life was a cat ambling across the road.

A word of warning. Do not be fooled by replacement values. The real estate agent told me that at the time of its nomination to the Register, the architect had set the replacement value of this house at $500,000. Real estate agents go by market value, what people are actually paying for houses, not the replacement value (See Appendix A).

For a vintage home, replacement value really has no real meaning at all because there is no way this house could be reproduced today even for $500,000. The materials are simply no longer available. Nor are the craftspeople to build it.

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