I NEED A NEW PROJECT. I am getting antsy to find another property to fix up. It’s been two-and-a-half years since my last real estate purchase — the Long Island cottage where I sit this morning, waiting for it to warm up enough to go out and put burlap winter jackets on my deer-prone shrubs.
My official profession, the one I’ve been putting on my tax returns for 30 years — freelance writing — is not nearly as engaging and energizing as the active, hands-on work of transforming a derelict property into something not only with curb appeal, but with inside appeal as well.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the hard part is not scrabbling together the down payment, or getting a mortgage, though God knows, that part is hard enough. The hard part is finding the property in the first place.
I have not been resting on my mountain laurels here in East Hampton North, which I’ve come to love. It has everything: woods and gardens, bay and ocean, art galleries and farmland. Do I miss the big city 2-1/2 hours to the west? In a word, NO.
Naturally, any “For Sale” sign gets my scrutiny. But none of these have captured my attention. What I’m excited about these days are two properties that are not actively on the market but that are both unlived-in, unloved, and apparently have been for some time. Both are very near my own cottage, so I know the neighborhood intimately. Both are on half-acre lots. I’ve been to the Town Assessor’s office to get every shred of information I can on each one, including the owners’ contact information (often outdated or wrong, I’ve found).
Last summer, I reached one owner by phone, of a secluded 1960s modernist house, top, quite near the water. Just to give you an idea of the property’s condition: there’s a ‘swimming pool,’ above, with a tree growing in it. The owner threw out a price, which is more than I can manage but not beyond the bounds of reason. I said I’d like to see the inside. He lives far away (and indeed, the house has been abandoned for years); evidently he is in no rush to sell. He said he would contact me when he was in the area, which is not often. I followed up a couple of months later. He said he’d keep me posted. That’s where it stands. But the lines of communication are open. If I had the down payment in hand, I’d be more aggressive. Meanwhile, I’m trying to make my cash on hand grow, and looking around for other, cheaper properties.
Such as this one, above, just down the road from where I live now, a 1940s cottage with an outbuilding only a bit smaller than the original house. I couldn’t find a phone number, but wrote a letter to the present owner’s PO Box. It came back marked Unforwardable. I’m going to put a copy of my letter in the mailbox of the house today.
The place looks like it has been ransacked. I don’t care. It’s on a fairly busy road. I don’t care. There may be mold. I don’t care. (Even mold can be gotten rid of.) I do care about price (presuming the owner’s willingness to sell at all). That has to make sense. If it does, I’m in.
That’s what I want: a fixer-upper to fix up. A handywoman’s special. A diamond in the rough, the rougher the better.
I see value. I see potential. I see challenge. I see reward. Call me crazy, but I see fun.