Down the Rabbit Hole
Back in 2002 Matt and I purchased a house in Springfield, Massachusetts with the sole intention of fixing it up to flip it quick. Therein lies the first mistake, we had no idea that a home has a life of its own and the second you intend on doing anything other than what it wants the sucker will come right for you and stab you in the jugular until you are left to quiver in the corner like a mass of goo in full submission to its life force while it bleeds you dry.
Or something like that.
At the time we purchased the house we had been engaged for about seven months, had known each other a little over three years and had been living together since September of 2001. We were planning a fall wedding and thought it would be a great way to start our married lives, with a little cash in our pocket.
Insert hysterical laughter here. Continue cackling for the remainder of this story, no matter how long that might be, and then for approximately 2 years after it is over.
We chose Springfield as our investment location for a few reasons. First it was close enough to Boston that we could get there if we needed to, and considering we were intending on completing all the work ourselves, we would definitely need to. Second it was cheap as hell. Being just two hours west of Boston we were amazed at how low the prices were in comparison. Finally, we could get bang for our buck. The cost of entry ran under $50,000 and that was for a home of approximately 1500 square feet.
We should have seen the red flags. We should have paid more attention to all of the signs along the way guiding us into different directions. But we were naïve; we were determined to do what we wanted no matter the cost.
Cost being the operative word here.
We took a couple weekend scouting trips to the area and got a feel for where we would be buying and working. Once we felt comfortable with it, a real estate agent in the area took us through four homes in various neighborhoods.
There was the 500 square foot, one bedroom home with a huge side yard and driveway in the Pine Point area which we dubbed Grandma’s Cottage. That home was in the best shape physically of all of them and would have turned a small profit but due to the size we considered it could be a lengthy period before it would even sell so we offered them about half of the listing price, just to see what would happen. They flat out rejected it and we moved on.
Next up was the huge home on Pendelton, the heart of the second scariest neighborhood in Springfield. The interior stairs had holes in them. In fact everything had holes except the plywood covering all the windows that had not yet been smashed, and some that had. When we headed down the tiny back hall stairs to the basement I was nervous we might find people living down there. I didn’t even know anything about the neighborhood at the time and still I could feel it was sketchy. No offer; again, we moved on.
The next house we saw is the woulda, coulda, shoulda if ever there was one. Had we known more about real estate speculation or what level of work would be involved in completing a renovation to an entire home we would have placed an offer on the little ranch with perfect siding and a new roof over on Vadnais. Sadly we allowed the sound from the expressway out back, the smell of cat pee and the completely demolished kitchen to deter us. The home was on a slab and a total gut renovation (even back then when we were completely green) would have likely only taken through the late fall. The systems were totally intact meaning we would not have needed Jerry, the pirate Electrician; a chapter in and of itself.
We thought they were asking too much for too small a house once we saw the size and listing price of the next place and thus began our slow descent down the rabbit hole known as Thayer Ave.