01 August 2009

106 Victoria Street

Although I have been writing (for my children's - principally, I think, my sons' - sake) about my childhood and youth - what I have named with the grandiose title of 'Memoirs' - life is now. And now involves very actively the house we live in.

As I said some time back - late last year or early this year, I think - there is a possibility of our moving to Patumahoe, to keep an eye on the house next to the 'Rural Retreat' (as those who are planning it call it). If this happens - still quite uncertain, I should say - it will take place probably early in 2010. In that case we will either rent out our existing house, or sell it.

As my children can testify, it is - or at least has been - scarcely in rentable or salable condition. We moved in in September, 1984. The house itself was probably built in the late 1920s, variously modified since then, and prettied up a little bit (very little) before we bought it. At that time the carpets were pretty old, I think; the wallpaper new (some of it); the paintwork mostly not very new. Since then, until early 2009, Sue and I have done the minimum necessary. We have had it painted (the outside) once in those almost-25 years (and that was probably ten years ago); had new iron on the roof (the old had really had it); fixed one thing and another: not much.

So this year we borrowed some money from our friendly local branch of the Bank of New Zealand (they really are very good people, and know us well), and made a plan.

That plan could be summarised in one word: Susan.

Susan has done all the work so far, and will certainly be doing all that remains. Well, to be completely accurate, the work has been done by Susan and friends - principally Gail. Gail has been pretty amazing. She has been doing house renovations for years as a sort of paid hobby. She loves doing it and is a wonderful worker. And because of her experience, she knows what to do, where to get needed materials, what not to touch, and so forth.

Susan and Gail picked out wallpaper - and bought it at half price. Gail and Susan have so far wallpapered the dining room and hallway along the back bedrooms (there are two in the back of the house and one in the front); removed the wallpaper in the rearmost bedroom - the one I had been using, so I have been banished to the 'sleepout' room that has served as bedroom for each of our children at different times.

Oh, well, not only Gail! Elise, my very close friend at work, got her cousin's husband Paul to sell us a houseful of carpet for NZ$1,000. We will get it put down for another $2,000. The numbers might, perhaps, sound high to an American, I wouldn't know, but it is very cheap for here.

There is much more to be done. The three bedrooms and the living room must be papered. The linoleum in the kitchen, laundry, and toilet needs to be redone. We are getting insulation in the attic and perhaps under the floor - the NZ government has just started a programme offering up to $1,300 (or one third, whichever is less) towards insulation, so we will do that. If we can somehow manage it, we will get some kind of dry heating.

And Susan has got a mixing tap for the kitchen sink! That has been a marvel. All our sinks have separate hot and cold.

Sue is now falling so much in love with her tarted-up house that she won't want to leave, if it turns out that we are to do so :-)

Don't know about the outside - paint and such like. If I had the money I would tear out all the gib (what I am told Americans call 'drywall board' - one of those brand names that, like 'kleenex' in the States, or 'biro' in New Zealand, have come to be generic), put all new wiring in - we will probably be burned to death one night by our ancient fabric-insulated wiring - and in-wall insulation, new plumbing, the lot. I haven't and what sells, or rents, houses is, I suppose, the carpeting and wallpaper, not the underlying fabric. So we do what we can, and what will pay off. But it is a bit like eating peanuts: the more you do, the more you want.


Anonymous said...

You are lucky that you don't have codes like we do, or you would be required to replace all the wiring before being able to sell. We would have to replace all the plumbing pipes also, and they are now requiring a minimum "R" value in the insulation also. I have to get a new roof and will have to replace it from the decking on out to come up to code and my house is only 29 years old and I have lived in it for 27. When I replace the siding I will also have to replace it from the decking on out to come up to code.

Annie in Minnesota

John from Canada said...

Hmm, building, electrical, etc.codes are generally grandfathered (certainly in Canada, I believe in the US too, and I would guess also in NZ), i.e. so long as it was to code when it was built, if you don't rebuild it, you (or a buyer) are not forced to upgrade it to the current code just because the house is changing hands. Painting/wallpapering is not considered rebuilding. However, the buyer may be reluctant to buy something too old, and it's sometimes the case that insurers will be reluctant to insure a newly bought house if the wiring is too old.
Note that something is not necessarily unsafe solely because it is old and built according to a former rather than a current code. What's most likely to be unsafe is do-it-yourself renovations (esp. electrical wiring) that were not done to code in the first place. John, if you have any of this in your house (whether done by you or by a previous owner), it should be addressed.
Ripping out and replacing the drywall (gib?) is very messy, and significant work. I recommend simply patching what you have.
It is true that home renovations can suffer from "project creep", where you end up replacing more and more. Resist this as much as possible, unless you are certain either that the house you are renovating is one you intend to live in for a long time, or you are confident that your renovation expenses will more than be reimbursed by an increase in the sale value of your home. An expert in buying/selling houses can help you figure out what sort of renovations matter most in increasing the value of a house to a potential buyer.

John Thayer Jensen said...

"Anonymous Annie" may well be right. We do definitely have building codes, and fairly Draconian ones, at that. The house has a garage that I have used a sort of office-cum-storeroom for years. It has a roller door that I would like to get rid of and just wall up. But the garage is too close to the footpath for modern codes and I am certain that I couldn't get approval for the modification without moving it (impossible - it's a brick structure with no framing).

I hadn't thought of the implications of selling it possibly requiring rewiring or -plumbing. It is even possible I might have to do the same in order to rent it.

Perhaps Sue and I will just have to die inside the house and let them bulldoze it ;-)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, my house was really not built to code at the time it was built. At that time it should have had tar paper under the siding, on the decking and it doesn't. Therefore, because it was sided with masonite, the under decking has gotten wet in spots due to a woodpecker.

One thing I noted at the time we built it, when they were finishing off the basement for us, if you looked at the 2x4's in the ceiling, before they closed them off, the guy with the staple gun went backwards crooked, so the nails initially were holding the decking to the 2x4's, but then started running along side the 2x4's slightly angled away from them. Now my floors upstairs creak.

Annie in Minnesota

John Thayer Jensen said...

We have friends - the same whose cousin sold us the carpet - who wanted to sell their house but again the siding wasn't ok with the Council - they have had to do heaps of expensive work, just in order to get another mortgage (I presume they got a mortgage to do the work itself :-))

John from Canada said...

As far as I'm aware, in most places in Canada, the US and the UK, typically one can sell the house in whatever condition it is -- even if the house is pecked by woodpeckers or the garage is too close to the walk (though in the latter case there may be easement issues). However, a would-be buyer may require a home inspection, and based on the results of that, may request a discount on the price on account of work needing to be done, or even request that the work be done by the seller before agreeing to the sale. However, there is no strict obligation on the part of the seller to agree. Of course if the seller does not agree, the buyer may not agree to the sale. Some buyers will insist, and may walk away if agreement is not reached, but others might not; in fact, a buyer may intend to gut the house, or even knock it down and rebuild it entirely. In the end, it is all a matter of negotiation.

If considering selling your house, I would be very careful of attempting major renovations. To do so, you will need to get a building permit, and such will be granted only if you show plans that follow all the codes. And an inspection (or more than one) will be expected, and you will be obligated to make right anything in the renovation project that the inspector points out as not meeting current codes. If intending to sell, it is generally best to restrict oneself to cosmetic changes that do not require permits (painting, wallpapering, fixtures), then attempt a sale. If it will not sell at an acceptable price, and would-be buyers indicate that the lack of some significant renovation is holding them back, then you might consider it.

To Annie in Minnesota, if you want to sell your house, I see no intrinsic reason why you cannot sell it even with its current wiring, plumbing, woodpecker damage, and creaky floors. Of course these drawbacks will not help you make the sale, but you may be able to find a buyer none the less. In fact, you may be fortunate enough to find a buyer who intends to make extensive changes anyway, and would see the issues as being relatively unimportant.

In both Annie and John's case, if considering a sale, I'd advise a conversation with an estate agent with experience buying/selling houses in the local area.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Yeah, John, I really don't know what the deal is. We may not even be moving; still to be decided.

But there is no fear of our doing any structural or other major changes. I am just hoping that the money we have borrowed - we are not going to be able to borrow any more! - will stretch to those cosmetic changes.