I don't think it's out of the ordinary to be interested in house listings, even if you're not looking to buy. I remember loving to browse through the Sunday paper with the extra large real estate section. Dreaming of all the different things each house could bring. Granted my ideas of a great house were very different as a child... pools, big backyards, cool hangout rooms (kid priorities, you know). Now we have the wonderful world wide web to endlessly browse through listing and I had a whole new set of priorities. My wonderful aunt, Karen Linton, is a real estate agent and quickly got me thinking about houses after I graduated. Once she started me a "client portal" through her agency (Royal LePage) I had a private account with her where she could post listings just for me to see. A great way to quickly communicate new places on the market (quick is key sometimes).
So what were my new priorities in a home? I needed something that needed some major loving and could let me show my stuff. I wasn't interested in buying someone else's style or paying for renovations I wouldn't have done myself. You often see people try to upgrade their place before selling so they can get a few more dollars. These last minutes renovations can leave you with a brand new kitchen (or whatever) that you totally despise but feel like you can't change because it was just done. Gross cabinets? Bring them on! I'll rip them out and feel good about it.
So one day, Karen sends me this listing for a house downtown on Montreal St. It's big and brick ,and the roof looks good. That's all I got though, an exterior photo. It was enough to get me in there that evening. The price was right so I needed to know what was going on inside.
Cat pee and darkness welcomed us, but it was hard to care when you started looking around: high ceilings, big staircase, a newel post to dream about, good condition wood floors, antique radiators, big windows, pocket sliding french doors, a big backyard, right downtown, a large and dry basement, two full washrooms, an attic that was ready to become a cool new living space, and plenty of bedrooms to rent out! Sounds perfect, right? Well that's what I saw. Check out listing photos and you might have wanted to run away.
It was perfectly horrible in all the right ways. Over 100 years old, with so much character, and sturdy as a rock! The house hadn't been lived in in 5 years. It was being used as the family's storage basically. It was so untouched and so ready to shine. The house did need all new electrical which was a pretty penny, but at least this was known right off the bat and wasn't a nasty surprise later.
We got in a few more times with different eyes (luckily my family work in the building industry and know what's good) and it was decided that this was my perfect reno. My first personal project to show my design skills. No clients to work with, just me. The house was closed in under a week (with a little drama in between, but that just adds to the fun). That month between getting the keys though was the hardest. I wanted nothing more than to get in there and start pulling things apart. But it left me time to plan. My aunt had gotten me in there a couple more times before we got the keys so I could do a whole measure of the house. This allowed me to draw the house in AutoCAD so I had a floor plan that I could work with. This kept me sane until I was able to get in and get started.
I've been finding out the history of the house as I go. Luckily my neighbours have an identical house to us and they have been in theirs for 30 years. They are very familiar with the history and have been happy to share it with me. Our two houses were built for 4 ship captains around 1908. Before Kingston become more developed, our houses were close to the water and their ships for their convenience. I can't wait to find out more and discover things out of my own. This house has lots to tell and teach.