That Sinking Feeling

I’ve spent some of the last couple of days talking to a local Realtor (someone I’ve known a very very long time and whose opinion I trust) about the value of our Bedford house were we to put it on the market. Our intention from the get-go was to live here then escape to the land of no taxes!

You’ve seen enough photos of our simple home. It’s a 1930s cottage basically, with all the things no one wants anymore. Low ceilings. Not much of an open concept floor plan. First floor master suite. Second floor bathrooms that need to be gutted and redone. Perimeter wooden fencing that is old and falling down. See where I’m going?????

Long story short, the house with so much needing to be done upstairs and not a floor plan that appeals to young buyers, added to the acreage to be maintained and a big property tax bill, the house is worth a good $500k less than we paid for it, losing money from the original purchase and losing all the money we’ve put into it over the years.

It’s not surprising news. I pay close attention to local real estate and see neighbors not sell for two to three years and when they do, they sell for a shockingly low price. So low that you have to stop and think – do I just give the damn house away?

Our oldest said he’d LOVE the house for his family but we had hoped to sell the house for enough money to buy a NC abode AND help him upgrade as well as helping the other kids upgrade their current housing.

Not gonna happen if we sell for $1.50. It’s a dilemma we didn’t foresee when we downsized to this house seventeen years ago.

It’s a perfect storm of bad timing. New York egregiously high property taxes. Young families not wanting to be in the backcountry. A floor plan not aligned with current trends.

Sigh. Got matches???? 😬😳

43 thoughts on “That Sinking Feeling

  1. I faced the same hurdle after my husband died and I chose to move to a condo. The house was old and needed lots of updating. We lived in it for 40 years and didn’t mind its limitations but buyers balked. I was shocked how little the house was worth. My realtor told me to expect the sale for land value only but the family who bought the house gut renovated it. It looks beautiful. I had a lot less money than I thought when it came to buying a condo and overpaid at a time when condos downtown Greenwich were selling for big dollars. If I went to sell it now, I’d lose money again. I don’t plan on moving though and am comfortable here until they take me out on a stretcher!!

    Don’t be so pessimistic. It only takes one person to fall in love with what you’ve done. The outdoor Christmas tree is worth a million alone!!

    1. Old houses are not in here unless they are on the Village Green and truly historic. Ironic that in looking to buy back in 2001 after selling the big house quickly, we looked at a house on the Green that needed a full gut renovation. We didn’t think we were up to the task. In hindsight, that would have been the better purchase. In town. Classic. Always in demand. Keeps its value. We made the wrong decision.

  2. We hope to break even. After the hurricane and flooding, people are skittish, even though we are not in a known flood plain. Insurance paid for much of the restoration we did, but we bought new furniture and and things like new curtains etc. We have a realtors open house on Tuesday and hope to get some feedback as to the house v. price etc.

    I know so many others our age seeing their home lose money. It’s tough to accept.

    1. Breaking even would be the most we could hope for but as sellers, being on the hook for the 6% broker fee, bye bye breaking even.
      We have to decide if we put more money into fixing upstairs, as we got plans and a permit to do but opted out when downstairs ran over budget. It could be money down the drain.

      1. At this point you should probably consider any money you spend on improvements to be solely for your own use and enjoyment. I’ve long faced the fact that my house is a teardown and have spent on improvements accordingly. Fortunately we bought so long ago that the land is worth multiple times what we paid back then. Still, if we had sold during the early aughts we’d have gotten more than we could today.

        1. This is the only house where we foresee losing money. Our first Bedford home was a giant 1920s gem that we fixed up, lived in happily until the last one was off to boarding school and sold for a big gain. We sold it so quickly we had to buy a gap house because we weren’t sure where in Bedford to throw the next dart. That house we flipped for almost double what we paid for it. This house was where we wanted to be, out from town, no road noise, none. We knew and loved the people next door so it was a no brainer. The house had a pool and a tennis court, both of which we loved and used until it was just the two of us and we were in RI more than here. The pool was opened for very little use and the tennis court fence was full of carpenter bees and falling down. Trees fell into fence too. Pool aged so much it was necessary to start all over. We opted to bury the pool and get rid of the tennis court too leaving more lawn. We’re not sure getting rid of both amenities was a good thing in the long run. It made sense for us. But maybe that was shortsighted.
          The second story desperately needs renovation. The only time it’s used us when we have a houseful. If we don’t fix it up, the house will be sold and scraped. Maybe we have to accept that idea and move on. Ugh.

        2. You’re absolutely right, Anon. EOS, don’t do it! My blog has long documented the loss of every penny spent on renovations, and if yours is headed for a land sale, that goes double.

        3. We’re not even sure our land has any value. That’s the sadder aspect. It’s way out of town. Zoned 4acres. We have five. No one wants that much land anymore. No one.

  3. I blame HGTV for giving young couples unrealistic expectations. We live in an antique house in a prime neighborhood. We managed to live here 40 years and raise a family . My son is interested in buying it but per him it needs massive renovation!!
    Thinking we will stay put for now. Moving is expensive.

  4. Ugh. Sorry to hear that news. Others have made a lot of good comments. I’ll add that you should consider the cost of carry for you; property taxes, maintenance, opportunity cost, and don’t forget your mental state. Pros and cons, plus costs listed out to see could help with these big decisions. Xoxo

    1. The property taxes are painfully high but otherwise the house isn’t expensive to maintain. I’m the one who is chomping to leave NY despite the fact the house suits us with all the living downstairs and our next door neighbors are the best people in the planet. Upstairs renovation and exterior upgrading would easily come in over $100k so its a matter of deciding if we want to spend that to sell or spend it to stay.

  5. We lost a ton of money last year selling our family home in Greenwich. Our kids didn’t want it and we wanted to move to Florida. We accepted the first offer, cried for two days, then packed up the wagon and moved on down. We had to compromise bigly in Florida, smaller than we wanted and not on the water, but we’re here and not in financially ruined CT. There’s that.

    You’ll have to decide how important it is to move no matter the level of loss.

  6. Don’t put more $ into your house unless they’re for necessary repairs. Get it ready to sell, put it on the market, price it properly and see what happens.

    1. The problem is that the necessary repairs are substantial and are linked. We can’t do some without doing it all. The upstairs renovation that we thought we’d do when we did downstairs called for new larger dormers, all new windows, reconfiguration of the two upstairs bathrooms and adding another utility room and storage. The roof needs reshingling but no sense in doing that without redoing the dormers and windows. It’s a big circle of money.

      1. I’m talking repairs, not renovation. Buyers expect a roof that doesn’t leak and a bannister that doesn’t wobble.
        You have an estimate of its market value as is. It’s up to your realtor to show buyers how great the place can be with some updating. Let the new owners renovate to their taste.
        We planned on selling our city townhouse many times and would get the deferred maintenance done before putting it on the market. Each time, we liked the fresh paint, the fact that everything was in working order and the clutter gone. So we stayed. We stayed for 35 years before we made the decision to finally move.
        We lost $ when we sold the place we owned for many years in northern New England. But, I was happy to leave the taxes, the maintenance, the utility bills on a house we were using less and less.
        Don’t agonize over it. Weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision- move or don’t move. Or, delay the decision and focus on party planning.

        1. When we added on to the front of the house we had to put new cedar shingles up. That made the old part of the roof look like crap in comparison. It’s not leaking. It’s just old.

          As you wisely said, let’s get through my 70th and mom’s 100th, THEN make a house decision.

  7. We sold in Essex CT about three years ago and lost money. It was a house we owned for just about five years, buying it after selling the Darien house we raised the children in. Husband is a big sailor and he loved the water and town vibe of Essex. We bought at the height, found we didn’t like Essex as much as we hoped to, and tried to sell at a major downturn. Lost our shirts. I feel your pain.

    1. That’s tough to hear. Coincidently I tripped across a house nearby Essex I looked at seriously years ago when it was asking close to $3m. It’s for sale still today at $1.3. Yikes.
      We love Essex and its vibe but I’ve heard houses can sit a long time. Lots of oldsters in town and not as many young families looking to buy into. Big problem. Where did you go?

      1. Ready for this? We moved into the city. Bought a new build 2b 2b condo. Underground parking. Same block as a good grocery store and corner Starbucks. #6 stop two blocks away. We are very happy. No lawn to mow. Superintendent is a button away. Hardly ever use car. I’m more fit than I’ve ever been walking everywhere. Seeing all the plays and movies. It’s the best move we’ve made and wish we had done it straight from Darien.

        1. We have several Bedford friends who have done that. They also keep a house somewhere though, south.
          I could live in the city but Mr. EOS would never consider it a viable option. So it’s off the table.
          So glad you hear you’re happy. Congrats.

        2. We did the reverse. I loved living in a city, walking everywhere, restaurants a plenty, museums, theatre. It was great but I had done all that and wanted to simplify my life by moving to the small coastal town where we already had a small house ready to renovate. No regrets. Sometimes a change is just what we need.

  8. You are getting good comments and you will figure out what is best for your situation, but I’ll add my two cents having sold my Riverside house in the last year.

    The first floor master suite is an absolute deal killer. We had that and young families just will not consider it. Even though it was pointed out that of the 3 upstairs bedrooms, one of these did have its own bathroom and two big walk in closets such that it could be used as a master, and the first floor master could be for guests.

    A first floor master was a drawback for us as well when we moved in with young children, but so much else of the whole situation worked so well; big enough house, great backyard, walk to train, close to schools, shops, beach, etc. It worked better as our kids aged and was great when they left and we could shut off the second floor except when they or guests were there. But as it was, the only people who would seriously consider our house were those looking for a first floor master because either the husband or wife could not take the stairs. Talk about limiting your buyer pool!

    The other thing I learned is that (a) people looking at houses these days have absolutely no imagination at all, which is what has driven this whole staging craze, to show them how the house could look and (b) for some reason, people looking at a house priced close to land value expect a fully renovated move in condition house (with updated bathrooms), as no one wants to do any work mostly because they don’t have a clue on how to get from here to there.

    Fortunately for us, we had a low cost basis having been there for a long time, so even though the house didn’t sell for what we hoped, or what it would have sold for just a few years ago when the timing wasn’t right for us, we were okay financially. I suspect if we had to sell the same house today, it would go for even less, given SALT elimination, and the continued decline of CT. As it was, it sold to a builder who is giving the market what it wants, and I’m sure he is building the house we would have rather had, but at a price we couldn’t afford. And no, it doesn’t bother my wife or I in the least is that the house we raised our family in was torn down, though my daughter who grew up there is still somewhat distressed at this.

    Do not put any money into renovating your upstairs unless you plan to stay, as you will not recoup that money from your buyer, whoever that may be.

    For you, mainly I think it is figuring out how you want to live. We had planned to keep the Riverside house and do summers and falls there, but decided for a number of reasons, we really wanted to have just one house and it should be our house in Florida. We are now here a year and have no regrets.

  9. Some points to consider:

    It is a great old house.

    You really, really like it!

    You just have to face the major flaw of your house, that it is below grade.

    Not to mention the new HGTV crimes like lovely historic ceilings…etc.

    If your house was moved to the Bedford Flats, or nearby the Green it would sell pronto!

    Taxes way too high for a minimally occupied domicile, sans mom+dad+kids everyday.
    Annual costs must exceed 45K, simply stupid without a family occupation.

    Since you have a generator, I think it might be your best selling point.

    Previously it was your own private pool and tennis court. I still like those sports.

    Also it might be easily rented out to peeps like me who aspire/admire Fox Lane High School (GO FOXES!) Alumnis include Susan Dey, Ari Fleischer, and John Schneider of Dukes of Hazzard TV series.

    Put it on the market, see what happens. Previously Dawg would have persuaded all takers to go away.

    Best of luck. Sooner or later there will be a carriage house. Maybe that could be a birthday present?

  10. Well, that wasn’t too hard. Now, I’m legal on here (I hope) and FWIW.
    As far as the house is concerned, can’t say I got anything new to offer except I don’t think you’ve found your forever place yet, so, the hunt continues. Would your oldest not take the house without getting help with upgrades?

    1. Are you going full Holden here so my non-FWIW readers know you are formerly Caelestis? Or will you maintain both IDs? Either way is fine, just askin’! 😀😀😀😀

      As for son, he would take house as is but it wouldn’t be fair to him. He’d have to take on major repairs sooner than later.

      1. Yeah, full Holden (Catcher in the Rye, don’cha know). After awhile Caelestis seemed too uppity and trying to remember the spelling was a pain. I don’t need two IDs here ‘cuz I can shitpost anonymously 🙃
        You know, if indeed your eldest is serious about the house, I’d do the remodel you outlined because you’d benefit and the effort wouldn’t be lost because it stays in the family – my two cents.

        1. You can shitpost here anyway you like. It’s always welcome.
          In hindsight, we were dumb not to do upstairs renovations at the time we did downstairs. I’m shooting myself that I was the one who decided downstairs was enough disruption. Anyone who has ever lived through a renovation knows what I mean. It’s hell.
          The house isn’t special enough (IMHO) to fret about keeping in the family. There are far better houses out there for the money.

  11. Sell. You made money on your prior house, so maybe it balances off. Real estate doesn’t always go up, despite what some brokers want you to believe. My sister-in-law has one of those charming, old houses. Put it on the market 6 1/2 years ago, and turned down the first offer. Now she wishes she could get anything even near that number. And if it hasn’t sold in that time, what will attract a buyer? Nothing, except a dramatic price-reduction, which she refuses to make. So, the house sits, as she makes it presentable to non-appearing buyers on a daily basis.

    Me? I escaped the land of crazy real estate and income taxes and moved to Florida. Take the plunge.

    1. Depends on what day you ask me. Some reasoning is what CosHarbour said- living in a house that we barely use a quarter of while paying for the upkeep of it all. Most of my old friends have long since moved away so my network of good buddies is diminished. On the other side of the coin, the house, if we renovated upstairs, would be perfect to grow old(er) in with RI for the spring and summer.

      1. The grass is not always greener on the other side. You’ve got thirty years in Bedford. Why move? Fix the upstairs. Live in it until you drop. Leave it to one of your kids.

  12. I am having a hard time seeing what the actual problem is. You lived in a place you loved , have made money twice on real estate (and presumable invested it well) and now it is time to move on. End of discussion.

    1. The discussion is more “do we move on” or “do we stay”. We aren’t in agreement. If we bag moving to NC or Florida, we’ll fix it up and stay til we’re carried out in an urn. If we bail on NY, we don’t fix it up.

        1. Not really other than the blog posts I put up during the downstairs renovation two years ago. Walls were open. New master bedroom and bath. New front door etc. New source of heat and a/c in that wing. It’s the floor we live on.

    1. As a regular and thorough reader of the WSJ, we both saw that article, paused, said to each other almost simultaneously, wow, RDW moved to the right place at the right time. Kudos!!

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