It may be a good idea to grab a cup of coffee before getting too far into this. Really.
My time at The Acres began 20 years ago. My mother-in-law had her own residential cleaning business and cleaned a few of the homes there for a good 40 years. My wife took over when she retired but scaled it back and only cleaned for Mrs. Weisblat. Fast forward a few years (long before I was a realtor) and Mrs Weisblat was in need of an assistant, I was able to do so and I am very glad that I did. She was sharp for her age and she told me a great many things about The Acres, Frank, the trees and flowers that she planted and also about some of the other original owners. It was interesting indeed and I am glad to have been a small, brief part of her life.
It was thru my contact with Mrs.Weisblat that led me to meeting Terry, the then owner of the Meyer house. He sold it and moved on after a few years there and I would not see him again until after I had become a realtor. He had purchased the Fonken house almost a year ago and had a lot of work put into it. He somehow heard that I had become a realtor and called me up to chat. He mentioned that he had decided to sell and move on and asked if I could help sell the home. So, I took the listing and after a few months it sold. I came so close to purchasing it myself on more than one occasion. The price was more than right but the timing was off. During the time that it was listed I would get calls and have people come to the open houses simply because they thought it was a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Many were disappointed when they learned it was not and hey would always ask about the other homes, none of which were for sale. At that time I had a particular client that loved Frank Lloyd Wright homes but did not want the Fonken house as it did not fit exactly what she wanted. She liked the Eppstein residence and asked me to inquire about it, so, I did. I showed her the house and I must say that even though I had been in the home before I had not realized just how bad it was. We talked about it and had some estimates put together. Every estimate was $150,000 to $200,000 to make it move in ready. She was like whoa! That isn't going to happen! I talked with the owner and a price came up that matched the higher of the estimates. As in he would let it go for that much. But with it needing $200,000 worth of work it was a dream that would not come true. She moved on to other homes.
That conversation got the wheels turning though and once the Fonken house sold I had a couple of more talks with the owner of the Eppstein residence. Then began the research. About 6 months or so before this a Frank Lloyd Wright came up for sale in Parkwyn and it sold for $500,000 in less than a month. It was in very good shape and needed very little work. This happened during a bad time in the market too. The research, at that time, indicated that with the Eppstein residence completely restored that it should sell between $550,000 and $650,000 but could be more. The market for Wright homes, at that time, started at $800,000. So with the work done and the home listed for $550,000 that would make it the best deal on the market, After all, it does come with access to 70 acres.
It is a long sordid affair that I have with the Eppstein residence. It is a home that, the more time you spend in it, the more you like it. First impressions can be that the home looks dismal, cold, "like a prison", "like a gym locker room", well.... you get the point. It is a home to be experienced and no photos, regardless of the level of said professional taking them, will ever show the home properly. Therefore many areas of the home had photos excluded. You simply could not get a photo to show it in a good light.
Being in the home as often as I have been for well over 2 years now, I get a little offended by some of the comments. The home does need a little more work, BUT, it does not need a "ton of work". It is a Usonian style home. One of only 60 that Frank Lloyd Wright designed. Fallingwater, Robie house, Alcott house and many other referenced homes are NOT Usonian homes. One cannot compare one to the other as it is like comparing a row boat to a sailboat. Usonian homes are a much simpler home and they were designed that way.
So let us progress on and please allow me to give you the explanation as to why the home has set for so long without an offer and also what is happening today.
In April of a certain year there was a meeting wherein the restoration was discussed and was set to start. There was a Frank Loyd Wright tour coming in October so the plan was to be done before the tour. Well..... for reasons I will not detail here, the work did not start until after the tour. We had already determined to list the home in October, for a certain amount based upon the work that was to be completed. So the work started and then we went into one of the worst winters we have ever had. The snow started in November and the very first flakes that stuck ended up under several feet of snow that did not melt until spring. The restoration company worked as they could and spent a lot of time under tarps with heaters blowing. Springtime came and the home looked worse than it had when they started. Simply because it was being de-roofed and all of the exterior mahogany facia was off. The ceiling in the general purpose room (back living room) was gone, the side terrace had the ugly aluminum clad windows and framing torn out and so on. Thru the summer they came and went doing work. Of course that is when, it was listed for over 500k and looked like a shambles, we had the majority of showings. Now the rumors are out that the home in not livable. I had suggested that with it listed during this phase that it could be shown to people that the restoration work was being done and was under contract. Well, I failed to realize that most people cannot envision the finished product. All I heard and all I would hear for the next year was"it needs too much work". Regardless of how many ways I said that "the owner is doing the work and will do more work" it fell on deaf ears. Winter came.... it was just a smidgeon behind the severity of the year before. Good grief. More tarps, more heaters. Spring comes again and the exterior is complete with the exception of the blocks which would be finished early summer. At this point the price is reduced.
The interior is a mess still at this point. No ceiling in the general purpose room, kitchen and one bathroom. Plaster cracks in the ceiling in various places throughout and in the master bedroom a large area where the surface coat had separated and fallen off. Basement is a mess with moisture and a lot of wood that came from the house stored in it that had become damp and had mildew on it. In the general purpose room the lights were removed along with the wiring when they pulled the ceiling down and 4 windows had lost their seal so they appeared "fogged over". Some areas of woodwork around the interior of the corner windows was severely peeling. Add to all this that there was still a musty smell present. It was far milder than it had ever been, but it was there.
The master bathroom vanity top and sink were not in yet either. To top it off the door to the storage shed under the carport looked pretty bad and really needed to be sanded, refinished, re-hung and have new hardware installed. This really was one of the first impressions as you walked up to the front door.
So here we are into the summer and several showings had happened. There was just too much unfinished work and again, people could not see past it. This entire time the owner was looking to get an offer that would include a request to make some additional repairs. But alas, it did not come.
We had a long discussion and midsummer I was able to persuade the owner to have some interior work done which would include all of the ceilings being refinished, general purpose room rewired, new lights installed and a new ceiling, all woodwork in the house cleaned, 4 new windows in the general purpose room along with refinishing the interior woodwork for the corner windows. The bathroom vanity top, sink and faucet were then installed and the door to the shed under the carport was refinished, rehung and new hinges installed.
Moving Wright along..... price reduction. Several open houses bring a good amount of traffic. No showings aside from that. During the open houses I have at least 1 or 2 visitors at each one that hate the house and are arrogant enough to tell me all about why FLW was a fraud, con-artist and people that bought is homes were suckers. Also on a couple of occasions I was informed that he built terrible homes that were "cold feeling" and "not very energy efficient." You just want to tell someone.... "Frank did not build the homes, he designed them." My typical response (in my head, began as such) allow me to introduce myself.... I am Mr. Rebuttal. Verbally now.... "They should make a movie about Frank. He not only revolutionized home designs of the time but he also had a life full of drama and tragedy. He left his first wife to run off with a clients wife to Europe and the Orient. He has a home that caught fire more than once and there was even murder. That's right....murder! He had a servant that set fire to the house and as people came thru the door to get out he greeted them with a hatchet! On one occasion Mr. Wright was even so bold that when he testified in court, during being sworn in and asked to give his name he clearly stated "I am Frank Lloyd Wright, the worlds greatest architect." His then wife at the time had asked why he would do such a thing and it is reported that he said "I was under oath so I had to tell the truth"." Today that would be followed with a mic drop.
Today, the home is in the best condition it has been in a very, very long time. The basement is cleaned out (as of 3 days ago), the exterior is finished and the interior is 95% finished. What does remain? The home has 2 boilers. Boiler #1 heats the main part of the home and all of the bedrooms. Boiler #2 only heats the general purpose room. Boiler #2 is dead. It has not worked since before the current owner purchased the home almost 20 years ago. However, since no-one lives there it was never a priority. The general purpose room has a fireplace and the boiler is NOT heating in-floor radiant heat it is heating baseboard radiant heat. With the right offer the seller has no problem putting in a new boiler and we even have estimates. So why doesn't he just do it? Well, since there is no worry of anything going wrong as it is, with one installed, it would have to be run during the winter with no-one there. If I were buying the home I would rather have the option to choose the boiler I wanted and have it be brand spanking new with a warranty.
Boiler #1 runs all winter long at a low temp. It is better to have it running than it is to drain the water and shut it off.
What else does it need? Well, some woodwork could be addressed but it is nothing critical. The kitchen was completely gutted several years ago after the sky light had leaked and soaked everything. It is currently a slightly different layout than original but only slightly. It does need some minor re-adjusting to put it back to the original layout which would allow it to function properly.
The floors? Main living room, master bedroom and general purpose room are in good shape. The hallway and kids rooms need to be skim coated to fill cracks and then stained. Either that or you could have a self leveling epoxy put on that would take care of it just fine.
So, many may wonder that if the seller is willing to do more work with an offer then why doesn't he just do it now? That is simple actually. If a tree branch fell and hit your home you live in, then you would be on the phone immediately with an insurance company. If something happens at a house that does not have a full time resident then how long would it be before it was caught? A day? Three days? Perhaps 2 weeks? There are many variables and scenarios we could enact here. But the bottom line is, he wants someone to buy the home that will take care of it and maintain it. The home was not in great shape when it was purchased to begin with. Money has been put into the home over the years. Leaks happened, repairs were made, something else happened, it was repaired, etc. The problem was that anytime something happened it was often unnoticed for days, weeks and sometimes even months. This compounded everything.
The big push for the restoration work was to help get it sold sooner rather than later. The seller will not make money on this home and that was not the intent. The original plan was to fix it up and stay in it on weekends and summers. But work is work and running a business can come at a price. The owner moved out to the west coast from Indiana and time simply has not been a friend. As much as he tries to get out to the home it seems to always get interrupted. Within the last 7 months the homes current condition is the best it has been in for about 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately the owner has not seen it this way. He can only rely on photos and updates that I send. Some other realtors think I am crazy for putting so much time and effort into this home. I do not see it that way. The home deserves it. I may be the realtor but I am also the project manager and caretaker, for the most part. I mean after all, I was hired to market and sell the home right? I feel that just putting it on the MLS and having a few open houses is not what I was hired to do.
It will be bittersweet when the home does sell and I hope that the new owner will breath new life into this wonderful Usonian home.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
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