If You’re Going to Flip a House…

There was a time when venerable old homes were lovingly maintained by owners. Then they got to be too much for today’s smaller families. Sometimes people just wanted the convenience of newer homes in different places. Many beauties were unceremoniously cleared off of their lots.

The preservation movement of the later 20th century, slowed the seek and destroy process down some. And the Modern era, with its “if it ain’t new, it’s crap” mentality is now comfortably sitting alongside a Postmodern sensibility that values lessons learned from the past.

So why am I not happy with house flippers? Don’t they slow the tide of history’s destruction?

Well, I am happy with some of them. We live in neighborhood where old homes are flipped a lot. Some are done well and sell quickly. But some flippers seem bound and determined to make things worse – Broken front door? Put the cheapest one you can find on it. Odd sized windows? Just board the window up until it’s a standard size. Hellbent on getting rich as quick as they can, they create eyesores that probably send them into the poor house just a little quicker.

If it weren’t rainy and cold outside, I would go snap a photo of the offending house I’m thinking of now. Instead, I’ll post a photo of a book I feel all home flippers should be required to read: Virginia and Lee McAlester’s classic A Field Guide to American Houses.

Field Guide To American Houses

If you love old houses at all, you might want to consider buying it. It’s like an American home family tree. It’s not huge, but you will still learn the roots of everything from the New England Salt Box to Ozark Dog Trots to “Traditional,” whatever that may mean now. The maps of where things show up are interesting, too and reflect migration patterns over time.

Even if you are designing a new house, it can come in handy. When John and I built our house we used the Field Guide to keep from getting too far off course. We didn’t want some Disney idea of home, but we did want a house that matched who we are as people. Aesthetics and our geographic roots are an important part of that, so proportion, scale, eaves depth all ended up playing a role.

We are no experts and our house probably shows it, but if we weren’t keyed into history, things would have turned out badly for us. I have to believe that if some of these people who are flipping older homes paid a little more attention, they would be getting a MUCH bigger return on their investment.


4 Responses to “If You’re Going to Flip a House…”

  1. May 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    WHAT you built this house??
    Did I miss this post?
    Hot damn Troy.

  2. May 25, 2008 at 1:26 am

    We designed it and had a local company build it. John probably could have though. I most assuredly could not.

  3. 3 George
    May 25, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Bless you. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see an old home with shrunken windows, a cheap front door with that god-awful gold-trimmed leaded glass, and bad vinyl siding. Keep preaching the word!

  4. June 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    My family has always lived in old homes but they have all been remodeled down to the last detail to be exact with the way it should be…I love them all. This post makes me want to leave right now and return to Charleston South Carolina so I can be in my old home heaven.

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