Edwardsville IL Homes for Sale and Real Estate : Will You Own the House? Or Will the House Own You?

Will You Own the House? Or Will the House Own You?

Today I helped some first time buyers explore a historic home that has fallen on hard times. You might call it a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor.

These buyers had been thinking about this property for a long time and they had big stars in their eyes.  And who could blame them when each room offered so much potential, from the classic double parlors, pocket doors and original hardwood floors to craftsman-embellished fireplaces, clawfoot tubs and grand staircases.

I hate to be the buzz killer in these situations, but this type of house, in this kind of condition, is not for someone who is struggling to come up with 3.5 percent for an FHA downpayment, let alone a conventional buyer.

And the chance of a house in this condition qualifying for FHA is located somewhere in the neighborhood of slim and none.

You'll be dealing with replacement of the electrical system (goodbye knob and tube wiring); adding HVAC (that charming boiler will have to go); repairing the animal-attacked roof;shivering through winter with single-pane windows; refinishing floors; stripping wallpaper; adding an entire kitchen to that large room where you found an original farmhouse sink but nothing else; installing plumbing to code; repairing crumbling plaster and so much more.

Who should buy an historic home in disrepair?  Someone with a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of patience. (Refer to the underrated Tom Hanks move, "The Money Pit" for an excellent example.)

Much like the Lorelei whose beautiful siren song caused sailors to wreck their ships on the ancient shoals, homes like this one call out to nice people and cause them to make decisions that are not always in their best interest."Fix me. Make me beautiful again," she winks. "I know you can do it. It won't take much. Really. Would I lie?" 

The moral?  If you're determined to rescue an historic home, and you have plenty of funds to sink into the project, call me. We can find a good candidate that will give you a lot of satisfaction and a possible return on your investment.  If you have very little money, let's talk instead about finding a nice house that will require less rehab, less ongoing maintenance and will help you stay within your realistic budget.

After all, the goal is for you to own a house -- not for a house to own you.

Enjoy life in the (618) area code in Southwestern Illinois, St. Louis' Illinois suburbs. SEARCH FOR HOMES HERE.



I help good people buy and sell good homes in St. Louis' Illinois suburbs, with special emphasis on the Metro East communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Collinsville, Troy and surrounding areas in Madison County, Illinois.

Are you a teacher, firefighter, law enforcement officer, medical professional or active duty or retired military? Then ask me about Homes for Heroes, offering substantial savings on home purchases. Learn more at Homes For Heroes.

For more information or to search for homes, visit my sites at NancyMilton.com618Life.com, or GoshenRealtyGroup.com or send an email to me at Nancy@GoshenRealtyGroup.com. Text or call Nancy Milton Holtzscher, your Edwardsville Realtor, at 618-791-8007 any time.

REMAX Preferred Partners is located at One 157 Center, Edwardsville, IL 62025, 618-791-8007 (direct) 618-655-1188 (office). We're easy to find on IL-157 in Edwardsville between Pasta House Co. and Shenanigans. Each office is independently owned and operated.

Comment balloon 31 commentsNancy Milton Holtzscher • October 08 2011 10:24PM


Good Evening nancy

Thanks for the post. Have a great day

Posted by Patrick White, Driven to bring New Yorkers home (Home Driven Realty, Inc) almost 8 years ago

Nancy - I love love love this post! Old homes are wonderful but you described them well ... a money pit. Old homes are not for those who do not have the means to take care of them.

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA almost 8 years ago

Sometimes it seems that our possessions do own us especially when they are so demanding both time wise and money wise.  

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 8 years ago

Thanks, Patrick!

Cynthia -- you've got it. They are not for people with a light wallet.


Posted by Nancy Milton Holtzscher, Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR (RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs) almost 8 years ago

Hey, Judi -- sometimes I think I'd like to live in a white room, but there probably would be padded walls!


Posted by Nancy Milton Holtzscher, Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR (RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs) almost 8 years ago
What a good caution to those who see and appreciate charm....but don't see - and can't afford - the lengthy list of essential rehab work that will be necessary.
Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA almost 8 years ago

Yes, you pretty much have to have a ton of cash and either be a contractor or know some good ones.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) almost 8 years ago

Nancy -- It's hard to give people a harsh dose of reality, but it's better for them in the long run. Thanks!

Chuck -- Good points. Even just being "handy" won't cut it if you can't afford the new systems.

Posted by Nancy Milton Holtzscher, Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR (RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs) almost 8 years ago


Great perspective; the charm of "historic" can be a pleasant reality for the real informed buyer with the right temperament.


Posted by Steve, Joel & Steve A. Chain (Chain Real Estate Investments & Mortgage, Steve & Joel Chain) almost 8 years ago

Nancy, I was one of them. You know...with the stars in your eyes knowing the potential? Potential costs a lot of money these days. Great Post.


Diary of a Realtor!


Posted by Deb Brooks (Brooks Prime Properties Wichita Falls Texas) almost 8 years ago

So true. And folks who have never done remodeling or rehabbing have no clue about what they're getting into. It all LOOKS so easy...

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) almost 8 years ago

Well said and I love your photos in this blog!

Posted by Blatt + Cutino, Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today* (Keller Williams Coastal Estates) almost 8 years ago

Good post. This should be read by all buyers looking to buy an old house.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Nancy, on the surface it sounds like a great idea, but in reality it can be a costly enterprise. Good Post!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 8 years ago

Nancy, I had a situation like this 2 years ago.  A young couple I was working with wanted an older home due to the charm they have.  We looked at a few and they found one they loved.  It was an FHA loan and some things needed to be done to bring it up to FHA standards.  I tried to get the buyers to see the problems even after the seller fixed the FHA issues.  They wanted to hear nothing about it.  So we had the seller fix the "punch list" of needed repairs and closed the deal.  Now the are "house broke" and can not afford to do anything due to the single pane windows, a furnace that is older than me (I'm 39)-I don't know how FHA passed it, a kitchen that they wanted/needed to tear out and redo, etc....
I tried to talk them out of buying the house due to those issues and they were alittle upset with me when doing so.  About a year later when I stopped over when I was in the area, we talked alittle and they are completely "house broke" and at first they said I should have never let them buy that house. After going down memory lane with them, they came to realize that they pushed me into going through with the purchase of the house for them.  They said as soon as they fix it up--it's going to take a few years, they are going to sell it and buy a younger newer house.

Posted by Steve Warrene, Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists (Your Town Realty) almost 8 years ago

Great post!  There have been a few times when I felt like my 96 year old home owned me - LOL!

Posted by Kerry Lucasse, Your Nest Atlanta Real Estate Consultant (eXp Realty - Nest Atlanta Team) almost 8 years ago

It sneaks up on you old or not....Money going into a house can be cosmetic, functional or necessary. There is no end  to the house requesting $$$ to make it fit like a glove...whoa

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 8 years ago

Any house requires reserves.  You never know when something will happen ESPECIALLY with older homes.  The odds of issues coming up is much greater.  I recently bought a 38 year old house....love it, but things pop up all the time that I didn't expect.  

Posted by Susan Lehmkuhl, Associate Broker (Buy and Sell Smart Realty, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Steve -- Yep, charm is great when you have your head screwed on properly about the costs. Thanks!

Deb -- Many, many thanks for the feature!

Marte -- You're right. Looks are so deceiving.

Angelica -- Thank you. Photos are from a rights-free clip art CD I bought at Fryes, which has been great for illustrating blogs.

Gita -- Thank you. I hope it can save someone some grief.

Michael -- Thanks, costly in so many ways as I can just picture them headed straight for foreclosure.

Steve -- Good for you for not letting them blame you for it. Some days I want to make everyone sign an "I told you so" document.

Kerry -- You're a brave woman!

Erica -- Right you are. And "over your head" comes so very quickly, doesn't it?

Richie -- Yes, it's almost as if the house is actually speaking. "I need a new roof!"

Susan -- Absolutely! I tell everyone I work with that they have to expect this as a normal part of home ownership. Thanks!

Posted by Nancy Milton Holtzscher, Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR (RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs) almost 8 years ago

We almost fell into that trap when we were a lot younger and more idealistic (read: unrealistic). Luckily, my husband is an architect and he knew the costs involved. Once we had contemplated the very long list of repairs and replacements, we had to let that particular dream go and look for a home more in line with our finances. I still drive by occasionally to admire what the owners have done to the home to fix it up.

Posted by Sonsie Conroy, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Knowledgeable Realtor (I serve buyers and sellers everywhere in San Luis Obispo County) almost 8 years ago

Many historic homes, even in good condition, will require continuos maintenance.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 8 years ago


Excellent point.  We've had a number of buyers in the last three to four years go for the best maintained property, as no one is really looking for the major re-do.  Why not get the one that has been well maintainted at just a marginally higher price than the dismally maintained foreclosure.  The devil is in the details and it's amazing how the maintenance cost of those details can add up.

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) almost 8 years ago

I am a sucker for a restoration project...but then I realize I have no time.  I try to walk people through that thought process when they are captivated by a project that is beyond their ability and means.  They sigh with regret, but when they see how much work just owning a home is, they usually are glad they made a choice that was within the budget of their time/$/ability.

Posted by Margo Otey (REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) almost 8 years ago

Nancy - Buying an old home is a daunting proposition if it's not in great condition.  It's something that should be carefully considered.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 8 years ago

I showed a buyer couple a wonderful Victorian house a few weeks ago. The house was very impressive. The owners had renewed it and preserved it. They had decorated it with period furniture, wall hangings and other decorations. The buyers were really taken with the house. They went home and then arranged to visit it again with a friend whose advice they valued.

In the end, they decide that the house was too “special” for them. The house would own them and they knew it. They did not make an offer.

The house is still on the market.

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) almost 8 years ago

I am afraid we are all owned a bit by our possessions.  I try not to allow the inanimate belongings to assume ownership of my time and $$ to an excessive degree.  The animate ones do better!  They own me lock, stock and barrel.

Posted by Marge Piwowarski, Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC (Phoenix AZ Horse Property) almost 8 years ago

Nancy with all of the foreclosures i noticed a trend of alot of older houses hitting the market, becuase you can not get a fha loan, they are priced incredibly low. We used a 203k loan for 1 buyer and the other came up with cash as the repairs were just too much for even 203k. i can not wait until they are restored and see the results

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) almost 8 years ago

My all time favorite - all we really need to do is paint and put in 6 panel doors, they are easy to install....

Maybe in new construction but in 100 yr old houses that lean and have crooked doorways, not really, and once you start tearing into walls it is amazing what those pesky termites and carpenter bees can do over time.

I love old/historic homes and have been tempted on more than one ocassion to buy one but then I remember the Money Pit!

Posted by Denise Tower, Your Neighborhood Realtor (Coldwell Banker Gundaker) almost 8 years ago

This would have to be a long-term love affair in our market.  It may take a lifetime to get your money back out of a major restoration.  Think of it as a marriage until death do us part!

Posted by Barb Merrill, GRI, Associate Broker (Cactus Mountain Properties, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Nancy - Great information for buyers!  One thing that has happened locally, that hasn't been mentioned, is that if you are going to buy an older house like this, you might want to review the codes for historical buildings - as you might not be able to change from single pane wood framed windows to the vinyl dual pane you want.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 8 years ago

Thanks for sharing, it is hard to remind buyers they need a reserve for a home like this, and probably a large one at that!

Posted by Jenifer Lower, Your Dream. Our Passion. (Bozeman Montana Real Estate .net) almost 8 years ago

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