The Roof That Started It All

The Gingerbread Diaries

It’s gone, y’all! And replaced with spiffy new shingles all since last week’s update (apparently our contractor decided to fast-track it and I don’t blame him–more on why in a minute).

First things first: no video this update since we didn’t actually go up to the Dollhouse last weekend. We had friends coming over at 2pm on Saturday so it would have meant doing what we could up there Friday night and hustling it back down here first thing in the morning: not exactly a good payoff for the time spent there and back. It was awfully nice to sleep in on Saturday morning, though, not to mention have a nice, relaxed date night on Friday, too!

Bye-bye old shingles and tin! (Todd was nice enough to go snap pictures of each day's progress, this was just Day 1)

Bye-bye old shingles and tin! (Todd was nice enough to go snap pictures of each day’s progress, this was just Day 1)

And since they started replacing the roof on Wednesday, it was just as well we opted not to go up since there were building materials and debris in various places: no sense tripping over all that just for a couple hours work (on the #$%^&* hot water heater).

To refresh your memory (or explain for those of you not with us from the beginning):

  • The roof was the first thing that tipped us over into Renovation Loan territory;
  • In part because under the deteriorating shingles/tin (different parts of the house) were the original (?) wood shake/shingles;
  • Which meant that in addition to pulling all that up to begin with they were going to have to re-deck the entire roof before they could put new shingles on!
  • The extra work and supplies that entailed pretty much doubled the cost of what a roof in that area would cost under normal circumstances.

Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg as far as this house’s issues went, but it still represents half the total renovation costs that were worked into our mortgage. Because of the various twists and turns we traveled through during the loan process that ended up with us going the standard 203(k) route, that meant our contractor couldn’t get any funds up front, only once work had been completed. As part of our 203(k) structure there are a total of 3 disbursements (i.e. draws against the renovation escrow account) factored in: 2 mid-project and 1 at the end. Each of these draws can only be made on the work that’s completed (not even for supplies purchased: they have to be installed on the house to count). And then the bank keeps back 10% of each draw until the final inspection is complete and they verify that no liens have been placed upon the property before paying out that final bit. So, you know, the contractor is motivated to get. stuff. done!

So yesterday they put in for the first draw based on the roof work. This meant that our HUD Consultant had to ride up there (and, yes, mileage fees are tacked onto the inspection fees by the HUD-C, and all that’s figured into the total cost of renovation) to verify the work being drawn upon was complete and take pictures to show the bank as proof, etc. Well, the roof wasn’t quite finished when Mr. A got there, so he adjusted the draw form to be 95% of the total roof quote, even though they probably would have it finished by the end of the day, it only counts if he sees it at his appointment. One draw down, 2 more (and another 5 weeks or so of work, though maybe not even that long if they can keep up this pace) to go!

Now, just because we didn’t go up to the Dollhouse last weekend doesn’t mean we did nothing as far as the house went: I was doing research!

(What, doesn’t everyone find that exclamation point-exciting?)

Unfortunately Georgia is still working on digitizing their property records–they’ve only got as far back as 1992 on file and since the K’s bought the Dollhouse back in 1994, I can only see who they bought it from, but not any previous transactions unless I go and camp out in the records room of the courthouse for untold hours and sift through the deed books myself! Since that will require a day off that coincides with them being open (aka not a holiday) it might be a while before that happens!

1920 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Thomasville, GA (population--including suburbs--10,000!)

1920 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Thomasville, GA (population–including suburbs–10,000!)

In the mean time, I’ve been trolling the South Georgia Newspaper archives for any mention of our street address, trying to find some history on the place. After exhausting the free archives (that end in 1922) I even paid for a membership to just to stay on the trail. The other resource I found was the Sanborn Fire Maps. Unfortunately the 1912 map stopped the block before ours, but the 1920 map clearly shows the Dollhouse in pretty much it’s current configuration! The only things added since then were the 2 bathrooms and, possibly, the extended back porch/utility room area (which we pretty much figured from the beginning, though the Realtor suggested the kitchen wasn’t originally attached, and that seems unlikely, now).

Through my newspaper crawl I found out the following:

  • For much of the latter half of 1889, E.M. Mallette [an obvious bigwig in the real estate market back then] was marketing an “elegant residence lot” on our street with the same lot dimensions and referencing the cross-street next to us for a whopping $400; even if this wasn’t our exact lot (the Sanborn map shows the two lots next to ours to be of approximately the same dimensions) it’s a good bet he had the selling of the original lot.
  • In October & November 1914 there was an 8-room house for rent at our address [that would square with the number of rooms the house has, not counting the bathroom additions] by a Mr. Burch; this holds with the idea that the house was built in 1910 or so, until…
  • Continued searching actually found a listing for a Lost Dog by Mr. Burch at our address in 1904! So either there was a previous home built that was torn down and replaced by the Dollhouse or the Dollhouse is older than we thought!
  • Mr. Burch, a widower twice over by then, passed away after a nasty fall in the house in December, 1941.
  • They appear to have taken in a boarder at some point or rented the place out as there are ads for a Mr. Van Dore offering to repair or tune pianos and listing the Dollhouse as his address in April, 1948. He didn’t stick around long, though, as in June of that same year he posted an ad selling his light housekeeping wares as he was leaving town.
  • As of 1949 I can see references to Mr. Burch’s daughter (a local school teacher) hosting various church functions at the Dollhouse, so either she let rooms while living there are moved in after Mr. Van Dore vacated. Either way, she appears to have stayed in the house until her own passing in 1969.

And after there the trail has gone cold. I’ve yet to come across a mention of the address past 1969 in the local papers (people started getting cagey about posting their addresses so freely, I suppose). From the K purchase I had the names of the two sisters that sold the house in 1994, but at the time of Miss Burch’s demise, one was a musician and teacher at Wesleyan College in Macon, and the other is tied to a Grant St. address from what I’ve been able to find. So there’s still a 25-year gap to fill in; but I’ll get there!

One other tidbit of information was uncovered during my search, and helps explain how the perceived-to-be-original wood shake could have survived long enough (notwithstanding the hardiness of the old-grown wood used back then, of course) to be covered with asphalt shingles somewhere in the 1970s (again, guessing on the part of the Realtor).

It didn’t!

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Roof Fire Damages Burch Residence On C— Street—
A roof fire at the residence of Mr.  Burch on East C—street fanned by a gusty wind caused serious damage to the dwelling and contents yesterday afternoon. The whole building was deluged with water and the entire roof and second story practically gutted before the blaze was brought under control. The firemen worked two or three hours mopping up and clearing out debris and ashes making sure that no hidden fire remained but at four o’clock this morning the fire broke out again and the firemen were forced to fight fire again for an hour or two before retiring to their headquarters.
–Thomasville Times Enterprise, April 1, 1939[/box]

At then end of March, 1939, the roof of the Dollhouse caught fire and destroyed the upper floor of the house. By mid-May it had been rebuilt and renovated and the family was able to move back in. My guess, then, is that they used the wood shake at that point (similar to what would have been in place before the fire), and it lasting the 30 or so years until the asphalt shingles were laid down is a far more believable timeline that it being from the original 1910 (or earlier!) build. Of course, depending on just how much of the house had to be rebuilt, it does make me wonder if the house still counts as it’s original build date–whenever that may actually be!

Good thing we like puzzles, right?

For Want of A Nail…

The Gingerbread Diaries

Or, you know, a roof. Point is, tiny things like this have been proving big hurdles these last two weeks as we pursued our home ownership dream.

Things have been moving at quite a rapid clip on the home-front, since we decided to put in an offer on the pink Victorian the day we viewed it. By the end of that week (which included Christmas), we’d also gotten the offer approved without countering, and started calling around for quotes from inspectors as I’d seen anywhere from $400 to $1500 mentioned online. Thankfully, the prices were much more reasonable than expected and one inspector said he could even do it the next day. So on the 27th we met up with our inspector, hoping for good news. Or at least not-horrible news.

Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd: I admit, hearing it say "New Home is ahead on the right" was kind of cool!

Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd; I admit, hearing it say “New Home is ahead on the right” was kind of cool!

The roof was the big news. We’d been hoping that we might have a couple years before things were dire but, in the words of the inspector:

We don’t get much rain this time of year, you could probably wait til spring.

For the record we planned to close at the end of February, so spring wasn’t much of a grant. And after 2 weeks of calling 13 roofers and getting only 4 quotes, here’s what I’ve learned.

  • When a roofer says, for instance, 36-square or 55-square, that’s shorthand for hundred’s of square feet. A roofing “square” is 100 square feet. One guy tried to tell me his quote of 36 square was based on what I told him–how could I when I didn’t even know what it meant?! (Granted, that was the same roofer who quoted me based off Google Earth pictures and didn’t actually go out to the property.)
  • As asphalt shingles start to wear off, their surface can just wipe off in your hands and create a ball-bearing effect underfoot. Thankfully I didn’t learn that first-hand, but one roofer who did call me back emphatically said he was happy to be off that roof!
  • Old homes were commonly topped with wooden shingles or “shake.” Most older homes have had this old covering removed long ago and replaced with modern shingles. Notice I said most.
  • Wood shake was applied to 1-by-4s stretched out over the length of the roof and are (charmingly) know as “rat runners.” shudder
  • Modern shingles don’t work with those rat runners, and require the entire roof to be re-decked (i.e. covered with sheets of plywood).
  • The labor to remove the 2 layers of shingles, redeck, and install the new shingles drives the roofing cost out of the maybe-we-can-work-something-out range.

I never thought I’d say asbestos shingles would have been a walk in the park compared to what we found out!

Without many other options, I decided to ask the seller (despite her desire to sell as-is) if she’d be willing to replace the roof. Barring that, we’d want reduce our offer a bit, ask for closing costs to be paid, and seek to add the cost of the roof into our mortgage through a renovation loan. The seller wouldn’t budge on the price, nor were they willing to replace the roof. (You don’t know until you try, right?)

So we had two options: walk away or try to get the renovation loan for the offered price plus the cost of the roof. This meant financing more than we’d really wanted to, but not so much that we’d be overextending ourselves. After all, for such a big house, the price does reflect the state the house is in, and it’s far less than we’d pay for anything here in Tallahassee. The additional hoops and fees of the renovation loan does mean our up-front costs are higher than we’d originally planned (if you can call what we had any sort of plan), and that the few months of overlap between our current lease and taking possession of the new-old house will be quite, uh, “squeaky” as far our budget goes. 

It was a tough decision. Frankly, I hated the idea of wasting those 2 weeks spent researching and obsessing over the possibility of the house purchase more than the inspection and earnest money that we laid out. There were also some tears of disappointment, I fully admit. But I was willing to walk away if Todd thought we needed to. Even though (for reasons I might discuss some day, once it’s all cleared up) it would be my name on the documents, I’m not foolish enough to insist I get my way just because I want it. It wouldn’t be worth straining our marriage so early on.

Imagine my surprise when, Friday afternoon, just as I’d thought to myself that I was finally distancing myself emotionally from the house, Todd calls up and says we should go for it!

So that’s our next step. We have decided to try for the renovation loan, with its aforementioned hoops and fees, and its 45-60 day processing time. Our closing has been pushed back to mid-March at this point and I have no idea whether it’ll even be approved as it’s based on the homes appraisal. And I have to corral a bunch of paperwork from the contractor, as well, which makes me uneasy in that I’m-not-in-charge-here way. But we’re decided to see it through to whatever end it comes to. Either we’ll have the house and a new roof by mid-March, or we’ll sign our lease renewal by mid-April and stay put.

Either way, it’s an adventure!

(And if your curious about the inside of the house, I put up a Facebook album of the pictures I took while up there for the inspection.)