Dear Diary, as I’ve described in detail over the last few weeks entries in your pages, with the selection of The Heights neighborhood and choice of a particular house on Overlook Place checked off on my Rowhouse bucketlist, the next important step as I continued my journey to “row-nership” (yes diary I just made that word up), was to schedule an overall property inspection. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely committed to understanding that with the affordable price point I’m paying for the house and the fact that it was built in the late 1800’s, I needed to keep an open mind and remain realistic in my expectations with what would surface during this process.
With a sense of confidence, the inspector that I utilized, Tim McGovern of AmeriSpec Home Inspections was someone I was extremely comfortable with (and that is definitely key) as I had utilized his services over the years for a number of other properties. Plus, note to diary… any inspector that would take in excess of a 2.5 hour trip on very short notice to meet this deadline for me, will always be a total keeper!!
The plus side of a brick row house…needy or not is that you are dealing with a structure that tends to have withstood the test of time, more than a free standing frame home (of similar age). And, the other obvious is that your focus then is on only two sides vs four of a free standing house. Of course there is a flat roof to contend with, but as with anyone that has purchased a house with that type of roof, that almost becomes an inevitable journey of upkeep. In this case I was assured by the realtor that the roof was attended to with some major TLC in the last few years (a copy of the work order for that project by the current owner is still en-route to me), which was a good thing. Also due to the time of year, being it had snowed, roof access and site of surface, was almost impossible. And even if it was possible, the best ladder access would have been the top landing of the outer backyard stairs off of the second floor apartment. But alas, that was rotted and could not safely support the ladder or the inspector’s weight. Hence, cha-ching, project one. Build a supportive surface to that landing. Of course to get to that landing you had to walk thru a door and that was in nasty shape and totally off it’s hinges. Cha-ching…starting to get the picture diary?
A word to the wise fellow Newburgh pioneers, always use an inspector that has two important pieces of equipment. 1). An electronic moisture sensor. 2). A CO 2 monitor. These were helpful to see that anywhere I thought there may have been moisture intrusion, roof, under baths, by the second floor apt small skylight, all proved to be free of moisture. Another tip, always remember where there is moisture…there can be mold. So when everything proved to be dry….it was a “woooohooo” moment. And in checking the boiler, hot water heaters and gas stove, the CO 2 monitor showed that there was no harmful levels of carbon monoxide emition anywhere. A health and safety “woooooohoooo for sure!
Probably the biggest concern with any old home is the condition of the electric service, and to be honest diary, I have dealt with enough properties to know this may have been one to need attention. Starting with the outside entrance cable, though currently functioning, it will need a licensed electrician’s attention in the Spring. Also the needy rowhouse was updated to breaker boxes (vs fuses) over its lifetime, however the current breaker set up affords limited consumption. This is very common in older homes and though adequate in say the 1960’s, needs to be enhanced for todays more electric hungry lifestyles, and in making these upgrades the logical step will also be to have the electrician place the meters on the exterior of the house vs in the basement. At this point diary, if you could talk, you’d interrupt me with…CHA-CHING!
On the plus side, the boiler and the hot water heaters proved to be somewhat newer and in serviceable condition (though needing general maintenance and upkeep and some remedial attention). The plumbing was basically copper and flowing as intended (a great thing) albeit a very minor drip needing attention soon. Also the needy rowhouse is fueled by oil and the tank in the basement seemed solid and free of any rust (an important factor). In fact my inspector pointed to an old document on the wall, which seemed like it had been posted there for decades, upon decades…UPON DECADES. He proceeded to say that if there was moisture in this basement (to cause rust), there would be mold on the old document. And diary, I am happy to report the parchment was mold free and though yellowed from age, dry as a bone. Also a good thing is that there was NO evidence of termites or carpenter ants that may have made dinner reservations there over the decades either. (again another woooohooo moment)
The common areas, and the two apartments of the needy rowhouse proved to need (of course) a fair share of cosmetic attention (absolutely no surprise to myself) and many small to moderate DIY fixes. Kitchens needed updating but currently functioning for tenancy. Now diary I’m going into this with a very sensible budget in place that I must maintain (if I am to maintain my sanity along the way too), these in time, will be projects that I will remedy, refurbish and enhance along the way. Some things will begin next month (when I close on the property) and others will be done in a historically gradual pace (yeah I like that terminology).
In closing diary…I asked the inspector his overall feeling of the 1890’s structure and he sat down on the back of his vehicle (noticeably a bit tired after the 3 hour process), looked at it…looked at me (smiled) and said, it is a very solid house that will probably outlast both of our lifetimes, but needy of attention. “Wow”, I thought to myself “I needed an inspector to tell me that?” I paused a moment (smiled also) and said to myself “well hell YEAH…I needed an inspector to tell me that!!” Till the next time diary (probably no new entries till after I take ownership). I “HEART” Newburgh!