OHJ August 2019

Old House Journal August 2019

Editor's Note: The terror of house-buying

After the long winter and a cold, wet March that lasted 10 weeks, I found myself scavenging a package of potting soil from a storage chest on the kitchen porch, which I approached from the patio. That’s when I spotted trouble: open joints, displacement, and rot in the eaves of the porch roof. I raised an eyebrow, I sighed—and that’s it. No fear of the unknown. No panic that the work would mushroom. I know that wooden houses need regular upkeep and cyclical repairs. But my big-ticket renovations on this house are, thankfully, over and done.

I’m decades removed from house trauma, which admittedly I brought upon myself. My house, a wonderful shingled pile that I love, was once so far gone, it was on the market as a teardown. Before that, I’d restored a very damaged limestone row house in Brooklyn. Oh the memories.

They came back to me last weekend, when I was invited to tag along on the inspection of a house that my son, a first-time home buyer, is hoping will be his. Nothing like watching your kid experience turmoil to remind you of your own. Buying a house is as terrifying as ever: Can we really afford this? How serious is that crack? Why are the houses in our range puny, ugly, or unlivable? What if we take a day to decide and lose out? Do I smell mildew? And the big one: Do we really want to spend every weekend in the foreseeable future working on the house?

After the visit, I tried to be judicious in voicing my opinion, balancing pros and cons. (The location is great and they can move right in; maybe the rest is fixable, right?) It’s hard not to be excited: a home of their own! Here come my good memories—of freedom, then again rootedness, of nest-building, pride . . . and picking a paint color! There’s nothing like working on your own home, watching improvements take shape, and knowing you’ll leave it better than you found it.

~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal

Look below to see stories from this issue.

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