Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Next Vacay /Possible Retirement Destination Contender? The New England Countryside

(PS added)

(Stowe, Vermont)

So, as mentioned, we've been looking at places to live when Mark retires, in a few years, and we know we want mountains nearby.  Our dream choice is, of course, Montana, but good luck getting anything there for less than a million (and we are most certainly not millionaires).

North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountain area is our most likely candidate, and we love the landscape (see the second video down in the side bar), but the real estate market is overheated, right now, plus the only "blue" areas are Boone (which is overly expensive right now) and Asheville itself, which has a housing shortage and is especially overpriced.

But after being called "communists" and "low-class liberals" in Blowing Rock for wearing masks indoors, we definitely do not want to jump out of the Trump/crazy-conspiracists frying pan and into the fire, by moving from Kentucky to living anywhere where that could happen on a regular basis.   We could live in a cabin way off the grid, I guess, but it's not a good idea when you're getting older, and we want like-minded people around us.

Thus, our third choice is the mountainous regions of Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York, and Massachusetts.  Well, Massachusetts isn't that mountainous, but it's close to just about anywhere you'd want to go - ski in Vermont or NH or upstate NY, visit Boston, NYC, or Philly on a weekend, or to the beach.

Plus, the historical architecture is just inspired - well, when someone hasn't overly-modern renovated it (those examples are featured in the second part of this post :/)

We'd also like a little bit of land for our horse, rather than boarding him, if possible, but that's a tall order - but and we were surprised at the land actually being cheaper in this area, but there's just one catch - the property taxes are higher, so it works out about the same as North Carolina, in the end.

First, I'm going to show you the "yes, please" type of homes we'd consider in our price range -  meaning the owners have respected the integrity of the design, keeping key elements, even if I didn't particularly care for the decor - and though renovations or additions have been made, they're respectful of the design and make sense, and nothing has been done that can't be undone (unlike the next list following these)

This first one wins the prize as our favorite thus far - an early Federal colonial in Hardwick, Massachusetts, which was built in 1775, sits on 0.8 acres, but has a barn and surrounding pastures, and is only $339,000 ... 

If the interior reminds you of Shaker, remember that the Shakers were fond of simplicity, and therefore preferred the Georgian/Federal colonial look, only even more simplistic.

The surrounding town of Hardwick ... 

Hardwick Town Commons ...

The Ware-Hardwick covered bridge  ...

And the catch?  

In addition to the aforementioned higher property taxes, based only on what we can see on the website, there's no A/C, despite hotter summers in the NE, these days, oil and fireplace heated, no central heat.  Also, though there's a local country market, it's 20 miles to the nearest full grocery store - but we're okay with that.  

Other houses in our price range, in the area, that get it/have done it right, even respecting the design integrity with additions and renovations  ... 

Sutton, NH, 0.8 acres, Federal Colonial, built in 1789 (with additions)  - $375,000  ... 

Original home ... 

Additions ... 

Walpole, NH, 4 acres, Georgian Colonial, built in 1770 - $399,000 ...

Original home ... 

Acworth, NH, 4 acres, Georgian Cape Cod, built in 1700 (with additions)  - $349,000 ...

Original home (additions not pictured below) ... 

Bow, NH, 3 acres, American Folk/Georgian Colonial, built in 1729 - $329,000 ...

*Note - this is how to convert the home to a more open floor plan without disturbing the structural integrity (unlike some you'll see later in this post).

Chelsea, VT, 0.3 acres, late Federal Colonial, built in 1830 (with additions)  - $219,000 ... 

Original home ... 

Additions ... 

Salem, New York, 39 acres, American Folk/Colonial hall-and-parlor cabin, built in  1790 - $385,000 ...

This one needs a new roof and perhaps new siding, but it's more interior and the property than the exterior ... 

Barre, Massachusetts, 0.3 acres, Late Federal Colonial/Early Greek Revival mix - $275,000 ...

Just a bonus, the Town Commons in Barre, Massachusetts is one of the prettiest in the Northeast ...

Now, as I've mentioned, only two things I'm snobby/judgmental about (well, three, if you count loud/belligerent-type Trump supporters) - architecture and film - because I figure if you have the money to do either, do it right - don't just be throwing crap up in our faces and expecting us to pay a high price ;)  

Having said that, I do NOT mean people who have fallen on hard times and can't afford the upkeep, or even older people on a fixed income - I mean people who obvious have money (and you can usually tell, by just the photos), who have so over-renovated, modernized and changed the structural integrity of the home, that it can't be undone  :/

Now, with these next homes - starting with the least offensive to the worst  - it's not that the interior design/decorating is necessarily bad (though in some cases, that, too).

No, the problem is, they're charging more money, despite the fact that they've removed all, or nearly all, of the best elements of the original design (exposed wood beams, wood-paneled walls, fireplaces).  

In other words, the interior does not match the exterior, and they've been so modernized and genericized that the home cannot be period-identified from the interior.

For example, would you ever know that THIS ... 

Actually looked like THIS on the outside - an 1803 Federal Colonial in Salem, MA? 

Oh, and by the way, the house has been split into two townhomes, so it's only half the house -  and it only costs $679,000?!?

Or would you ever know that THIS ... 

Actually looks like THIS on the outside -  an early Federal Colonial built in 1799, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire? 

No, you would not. 

Well, at least they kept the fireplaces and one wood crossbeam, in this photo -  I guess that's cause for celebration ...

Except when I tell you that IT COSTS $1 MILLION DOLLARS?!

Now - what do you think this late-federal, gable-front colonial built in 1820, in Newburyport, Massachusetts might look like inside, hmm?

Oh - like THIS,  of course, duh! ;)

Now, again, with the above home, it's not that the design/decor is bad, it's actually designed ... okay, though somewhat generic.  

The problem is they've either covered or removed everything from the interior of the home that identified it as an original colonial, and if they were going to decorate it with entirely modern Pottery-Barn generics, why not buy a modern home or build one, if you have that kind of money?

Obviously, they do because the above renovation wasn't cheap - and the price for the home is now $1.25 MILLION (and would take another million for you to uncover everything you covered up under that drywall, expose the beams again, and restore it to it's original design, if you even can)  :/

And another one from Newburyport, a late-Federal/early Greek Revival mix - what do you think it looks like inside? 

Yeah - erm - like THIS ... 

So ... what exactly went on here?  You thought if you put an ugly brown couch in front of the fireplace, nobody will know it's there or-?


This one also costs $1.25 million, and I don't even know if anything other than the original fireplace in the parlor is even still be found  within in it.

Now, this one, from the outside, it's a lovely 1803 Federal in Salisbury, MA  ... 

Would you ever think it'd look like THIS on the inside?!?

What the ... ???

And it sits on a half-acre and sells for the sweet price of $569,000!


Now, this next one in Norfolk, CT, is just ... sad.  

It's sad because it's been so structurally changed on the inside that it can never be undone/recovered.

Now on the outside,  it looks like this, a beautiful small 3-story late-Federal/Greek Revival ... 

Then you walk inside and - SURPRISE! 


I guess someone decided they wanted an open concept, so they ripped out all of the walls, put in ugly half-fake-stone pillars for support, an industrial ceiling with office spotlighting, and their grandmother's sheer orange curtains from K-Mart circa 1972.

Okay, I get wanting a more open concept, but there are ways of doing that without irrevocably destroying the design integrity of the home (see the 1729 Bow, NH house above), and then charging $359,000 for a house you can never convert back, it's been irrevocably converted :/ 

And this next one, a gable-front Federal, in Wallingford, VT - the violet color is already bad enough ... 

Then tack on whatever this is, going on inside ... 

Okay, now, I'm getting mad lol ;)

Because what the BLEEP did you people do?  

We're you mad at your house or-?  

Because that's just  ... mean.

I don't even know where to start. 

Yes, I do  - once again, gutted out the interior way too far to achieve an overly open concept, to the degree it doesn't remotely match the exterior.   

Also, it looks like it was perhaps designed and decorated by a color-blind parrot, who thought the home was actually a double-wide in a trailer park in Florida!

AND it sits on a 0.25-acre lot - but you want to charge us $450,000?

Wow, what a sweet deal :/

No, thanks - I'll pay less for one of the first few homes with more land, to boot ;)

And this next one, an early Greek Revival, built in1835, in Fitzsimmons, NH?

Lovely on the outside, right? 

Then you walk inside ... 

Ouch - my eyes! 

I ... don't even know what to say.  There are no words, for whatever is going on in this house ... 


The one positive I can say is that they kept at least a few of the original elements in a few of the rooms, but mostly, nothing that has been done to the rest of interior, especially the kitchen, can ever be undone, and doesn't make any sense at all   ... 

Okay, now I'm definitely mad, and I don't want to discuss it any further, and no one can do anything about it ;)

Sigh again. 


I beg of you lol - if you have the money -  do NOT remove or cover up the original architectural/design components of your early American home with drywall, if you can help it, like exposed beams, wood framing around doors and windows, fireplaces, etc.  Replace what you must, paint what you must, but do NOT remove these elements.

Other homes likes yours that did do tend to sell in the multi-millions versus ... whatever that is that you've done lol.


PS - And here's a "maybe" consideration, though it'd be stretching our budget.

Manchester, VT, 10 acres, gable-front Federal/Greek Revival mix, built in 1834 - $420,000

Besides the higher price, the other reason it's a maybe is because though the exterior and the acreage and mountain view are  amazing, but the interior is, well?

Did Barbie sneak in, in the middle of the night, and paint and put up that wallpaper or-?

The rest is okay, with a few necessary updates required ... 

Obviously, these are older people, likely on a fixed income, so let's not be too hard on them - and yet Pepto-Bismol pink paint was an extremely odd choice to pain that old wood, if they want to sell.

However,  they did keep many of the original elements (despite painting and wallpapering them odd choices). 

Painting over that Pepto-Bismol pink and removing the wallpaper is a quick, easy, relatively inexpensive fix that their real estate agent may want to talk to them about before a sell?

It's an easy fix, yes, but it's not move in ready, so tack on those extra expenses (I'd probably strip the pink paint completely and stain the wood instead), and perhaps updating the heating and cooling systems, and we're way over our budget.

If someone with more money than we've got came in and restored this home right, 10 acres in Vermont with this sort of view, in an historical home, could sell for well over a million.

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