North Fork Farmhouse Follow-Up 293K

SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF. That was the case with the Southold Victorian on the North Fork of Long Island whose listing I blogged about a few days ago. Even though it is more than an hour’s drive and a $30 round trip ferry fare through Shelter Island from my house in Springs, I made the trek on Sunday morning to see just what was wrong with the place for it to be priced so low. I knew there had to be something.

Ah, yes… it is an intriguing situation, and an object lesson in how listing photos can lie. Head on in the photos, the place looks normal: a gabled farmhouse of the late 1800s, with a wide front porch. But there were no photos of the sides or back of the house.

Here’s why: for reasons known only to previous owners, the house had metastasized over the years, with a series of completely and utterly wrong-headed, senseless, absurdly un-designed additions and extensions. What we have here is a demolition project. The whole house doesn’t need to be taken down — just 2/3 of the existing 3,600-square-foot structure (if it can be called a structure), to bring it back to approximately its original size and shape.

There’s very little in the way of old detail, even in the original part of the house, and the rooms have been mostly chopped up with extraneous walls. There are little jigs and jogs that lead to nowhere, closets with windows, room after tiny room so confusing you can’t even tell what’s meant to be the dining room, the living room, or the master bedroom. The whole house is covered with vinyl siding, over 1950s asbestos shingle. Maybe there’s clapboard underneath, or perhaps that’s long gone.

Any bad decision that could be made has been made. There are a couple of roof decks that have no logical access (you have to climb through windows to get to them). They would provide a view of Long Island Sound, which is tantalizingly nearby — a matter of a few hundred yards — but inaccessible, because of fenced neighboring properties, except by roundabout road.

The balusters on the original staircase have been replaced with new Victorian-style ones, below. The floors are newish and mismatched.

The windows in the “best” room, below — a coffered (though low) ceilinged space in the middle of the old part of the house — were replaced with an ugly modern ‘picture window.’

One of the rear additions, below, was meant to be a rec room or family room of some sort. It is dark, water damaged, visibly moldy.

A huge disproportionate growth on the second floor, below, is a sun-flooded room with another modern picture window that should perhaps, if it’s to be anything, be a bedroom or office, has been given over to a crummy-looking Jacuzzi — someone’s idea of a good use of that space.

There are two kitchens (both awful) and 3-1/2 baths, done cheaply and horribly. There are approximately 7 bedrooms.

The only original windows are in the attic, below, reached by a ladder that folds down out of the ceiling.

On paper, the place is exactly what I was looking for when I began my search for an old house on Long Island in early 2009: a Victorian farmhouse fixer-upper in a secluded location — it’s at the end of an unpaved road, on a 1/2 acre lot with abundant sunshine — for under 300K. But the amount of money that would probably have to go into demolition and rubbish carting alone, not to mention rebuilding, makes it no bargain. As you look around, incredulous, the house even begins to seem over-priced (though it is a foreclosure, and offers are being accepted).

On the plus side, the basement looks clean, the circuit breaker panel fairly new. There are two furnaces in undetermined condition, forced-air ducts running hither and yon, and the plumbing pipes have been properly drained and winterized.

Anybody know how much demo costs? If only I owned a bulldozer.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in LONG ISLAND, NORTH FORK, PROPERTIES FOR SALE, REAL ESTATE/INVESTING and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to North Fork Farmhouse Follow-Up 293K

  1. Anonymous says:

    Cara, I was very attracted to the house as well when you first posted it. I bet the problems could be fixed. You would need the right architect and would probably sacrifice some square footage but who needs 3600 SF? If the location is good then it might be worth it. Demolition is relatively cheap.


  2. cara says:

    hi Lula, it’s too much for me, frankly…and as you know, my first choice is that other Springs property. I agree it’s do-able, by someone with deep pockets, and the location is better than good – it’s wonderful (except for the lack of direct beach access).

  3. Judy Dean says:

    Hi Cara,

    Glad to see the update. I’ll be going out Thursday and may get to see it if my friend is interested. The area is so marvelous it’s hard to resist. Thanks.

  4. Elke says:

    Looks like a MESS to me………Lula….you are beautifully POSITIVE!

  5. GAP says:

    Wow. I never would have guessed what is behind/inside that house from the photos of the front. Major job, but if the price is right and the location is as good as it gets, it could be worth it.

  6. After seeing this, I’d love to know your opinion of this project: Holleywood.

    It belonged to friends of mine here in Michigan who had kept it in the family since it was built in the 1850’s, I believe. The new owners sure have their work cut out for them! I don’t know the square footage or what was paid for the property but I’m sure a little digging could uncover it. I think if there ever was a money pit, this would qualify!


  7. cara says:

    Wow Ellen, thanks for sending… that is fascinating. I only had time to read the prologue, but I can tell you there is absolutely no comparison between the north fork farmhouse on half an acre, which was probably a sort of kit house in its day, and this extraordinary national treasure! Look forward to reading more of the posts, and don’t be surprised if you see re-blogging right here on casaCARA.

  8. mopar says:

    If you have $300,000 to spend on a wonderful architect, I’m sure you could make this into a splendid house.

    As for demo, figure somewhere between $3,000 and $10,000. A 30-foot cart costs $500, and three guys for three or four hours to fill it with already bagged and removed debris costs $300. That cart will hold about 3,000 sq feet of linoleum. You could probably fill at least five carts with these extensions, maybe more, but you can rent bigger, cheaper carts.

  9. cara says:

    Mopar, if I thought it would cost only $3-10,000 to demolish and dispose of the equivalent of a 2,400 square foot home, I would seriously consider this. Then again, I don’t have 300K for an architect!

Got something to say? Please say it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s