The Test

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19 Indian Head Road, $5.2M and an absolute bargain! Listing broker Heather Platt.

This place is the test, or maybe it’s the answer. Should you bother to renovate an older home, and will anyone buy it when you’re done?

19 Indian Head Road in Riverside came on the market eleven days ago for $5,200,000. It’s simply one of the best renovation/expansions I’ve seen and if it doesn’t get  a quick deal, I’ll be amazed and also alarmed.

Listing broker is Heather Platt, and I haven’t checked in with her lately, so it’s possible she already has a deal. I’ll find out tomorrow and update this post.

But holy [cow]! What if it hasn’t sold? What would that mean for the idea of preserving older houses? Because right now, Riverside’s got a slightly swollen inventory of beautifully renovated (or at least, preserved, in one case) antique homes, all with high ceilings, all in great locations, and there they sit, unloved.

Meanwhile, a spec house next door goes up, gets staged, and sells. Not good news for the oldies.

Just a few examples:

Every one of these Riverside beauties is spectacularly renovated (and/or preserved), yet there they sit. But show the market a shiny new spec house, with no character, no charm, no history, and bing! it’s gone in 60 seconds.

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24 thoughts on “The Test

  1. Hello, just seeing this reminds me of the home I grew up in down the street that was recently torn down. But I must say, does NOT take away the wonderful memories!! Fabulous place to grow up and WONDERFUL memories. I think Gideon you must have been to a few parties at 5 Indian Head Road.!!? .Anyway only hoping the best for Riverside and these beautiful older homes!! Ann Peard Wyatt

    • Ann:
      Hey, great to hear from you! I keep forgetting these posts are getting re-routed to &@%#-ing FaceBook! So anyway, yes, I was sorry to see good old 5 Indian Head get torn down. At this moment, it’s replacement is a vast expanse of plywood, maybe the finished product will look a bit better.

  2. I agree, these homes are all beautiful. I think buyers today are more apt to buy new construction as they don’t have to worry about the residual/terminal value as much as they do with an older home. A house is good for about 2 owners or said another way 60-years; after that you are really rolling the dice as it may become functionally obsolete. When that happens value of the structure goes to zero and you end up selling the asset for land value; it’s a surefire way to destroy wealth. I also think people are keenly aware that you can no longer bet on inflation to bail you out over time from all your poor investment decisions (sins) as the US has been stagnant for about the last 10 to 15 yrs and it is uncertain when or if it will accelerate again. In my opinion, this partially explains why new construction inventory turns over faster than the older renovated houses that have “character”. Plus new homes tend to be better insulated, have the latest an greatest in terms of mechanicals, pipes/electrical, etc which can make them cheaper to operate & maintain over time which is another important consideration. No one wants to inherit someone elses problems.

  3. Once you deal with the maintenance and challenges (eg drafty) of a historic house, the charm wears off. It is great when a friend buys one and has you over for a glass of wine. But living in one can be a full time job. Then again, putting life into a spec house isn’t easy, but once conquered it is over. And the that old house still has issues.

  4. If the renovation included “down to the studs” then the house would have the same life as new construction. Gut the place. But then why not just demo? What exactly is worth saving? The floor plan? Facade? Plaster walls?(ha) ghosts from the past?
    This is America we do not preserve since we started building too late to win that contest.

  5. Any interior pictures of those other homes?

    Agree with anon that a proper renovation requires gutting the house, and then you are at a price point that you might as well have started from scratch. Renovations often don’t renovate everything. You could be left with old plaster walls, old insulation, old rusting pipes that weren’t “worth” replacing, inefficient old windows, floors that aren’t perfectly level, etc.

    The floor plans are always awkward in certain places when adapting to an open layout. Although I’ve seen several new spec homes where the architect seems to have had brain farts on layout.

  6. some of those houses listed were previously owned by people that are now building new houses for themselves in Riverside…

      • I guess $5.2mm is a tricky price point even for new construction? Usually takes more than 2 weeks? Interesting times.

      • Some:
        Er…not to be, well, disrespectful, you understand, but I believe you haven’t quite gathered the “drift” of my post. You see, this house at 19 Indian Head Road was built in 1912, and completely modernized in 2005, but my point was to underscore the disparity between new construction and renovated older homes. The new stuff sells!

      • Hi, it is an interesting discussion. I get your drift entirely, just saying that even new construction north of $5mm isn’t flying out of the door in a month. Not doubting that there is a preference for new construction either. I suspect a 1912 house well renovated in 2005 priced at $3.5mm would move.

      • Anony:
        This particular place is a LOT of house, with four floors of living space, on one of Riverside’s most expensive streets. I think your $3.5M estimate is low.

      • Last reply from me. I like the house very much I don’t think it should go for $3.5mm, much higher. All I am trying to say (unsuccessfully) is that the obstacle to its sale is its price point more than new vs renovated construction. A renovated house or a new house at $3.5mm will sell faster than a new house at $5.2mm.

      • Anons:
        Of course. As the price rises, there are fewer and fewer potential buyers. If you’re asking $90M in the Hamptons, your buyer pool is probably a few dozen, at best. Here in Greenwich, there’s probably a very large difference between the number of potential buyers at $3.5M vs. $5.5M.

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