Earlier this year, I helped a young investor make the jump from buying two-families to purchasing his first three-unit building. While that may not sound like an impressive feat, if you’ve spent time touring these types of properties you quickly notice the stark difference in caliber and quality as you move up in size.
Coined the “Spectacular Wedding Cake Henry M Brooks Cottage” by historian John Goff, 260 Lafayette St in Salem is nothing short of amazing. A stunning example of Gothic Revival Architecture, the building is simply one of a kind. High ceilings, paneled walls, gorgeous hardwood floors, diamond-paned windows, coffered ceilings, two fireplaces, and beautiful moldings are some of the original detail throughout.
Home buying can be scary! Especially when your first purchase is a 150-year-old fixer upper located in Salem, the Halloween capital of the country. Did I mention that it’s a multi-family?
The idea of becoming a first time home owner AND a first time lanlord is enough to send some people running for the hills faster than you can say hocus pocus. My cousin, Evan, and his wife, Meg, were ready for the challenge and enlisted me as their trusted realtor.
After contemplating a few towns in the greater Boston area, they decided that Salem made perfect sense for their commutes, lifestyle, and budget. The couple had more ties to the Witch City than you can shake a broom at. Meg had graduated from Salem State University and the couple married at a historic Salem venue last fall.
They were quick to whip up an offer on an adorable two-family in the incredibly charming Pickering Wharf neighborhood. The property overlooks the House of Seven Gables, a tourist hotspot, and is just a short stroll to the ocean, shops, and restaurants. The home hit the major items on their wish list being in walking distance to the commuter rail and having a good-sized yard for the dog. Not only did the property include a turnkey rental unit on the first floor, it also offered expansion potential into the attic with peaks of the ocean!
After a grueling multi-bid situation (which they won by the skin of their teeth using a strategic escalation clause and thoughtful note to the owner) Evan and Meg were under agreement.
Now is about the time when most buyers start to get a bit overwhelmed. House hunting and submitting offers is mere child’s play. Once there is an accepted offer on the table, things get serious. There’s no shortage of what-if games and second-guessing only to be followed up with moments of clarity and validation.
As to be expected, the due diligence process on an old two family home is intense. The mantra for the home inspection week was “double, double toil and trouble”. Evan and Meg had multiple contractors look at the house. We even had a plumber shoot a camera down the waste line to make sure it was up to snuff. They made friends with everyone at the building department and interviewed the neighbors. While it’s impossible to learn every detail about a house built over a century ago, it doesn’t hurt to do some basic research. No matter what property you buy, you want to go in with eyes wide open to understand the risks and potential pitfalls. But, at some point, you have to take a leap of faith.
Ultimately, the home had been lovingly maintained and the pride in ownership showed. It was time to move forward with the purchase and not look back.
Buying a multi-family property has some extra complexity. Signing up for homeownership is one thing, becoming a landlord is an entirely different ball game. As an extra service, I help clients strategize on the financials of investing as well as providing basic resources for being a successful property manager. To make sure the pair got off on the right foot, we sat down to discuss marketing the rental and vetting prospective tenants.
October is always a busy time in Salem, thanks to seasonal festivities. It’s been especially busy for Evan and Meg. Since closing, they have been hard at work on some sweat equity projects to get their house in tip-top shape while simultaneously securing a tenant for the rental unit.
Happy Halloween to these new homeowners!
A big thanks to my cousins on this review of our work together:
“We were so impressed by Dana’s knowledge and expertise when we finally decided to leap into home ownership. Because of her background she is able to connect with you, as the buyer, on many different levels. Throughout the process, Dana kept us informed, answered our countless questions, and shared her previous experiences both as a buyer, seller, and a realtor. Even when we got cold feet and sent a late-night email with a laundry list of questions and worries, she helped us to understand both the upside and pitfalls to buying an old two-family property. We often said that Dana was not only our realtor but also a source of emotional support with her pep talks. Dana’s work ethic, drive, and knowledge are unparalleled. She not only works hard to make sure the process stays on track but also to make sure you understand what is happening, when it is happening, how it is happening and why it is happening. Going above and beyond to help you get your home is just how she operates. She is truly an amazing realtor to work with.”
Once upon a time, Dusty and Marcela reached out to me about a rental ad in Salem. What, that’s not how most fairy tales start? Well, at least that’s were this story begins. The couple had recently moved to the area from Colorado and they were excited to be on a new adventure. In need of a landing spot to get their bearings, the newlyweds ended up renting out one of my apartments for about a year. Like most, they were quickly charmed by Salem’s history and incredible downtown and wanted to make the quirky city a permanent residence. I was thrilled when they contacted me to discuss buying.
We got to work quickly and identified a mix of single-family homes and condos within their price range. They were looking for something special, as they wanted the real “Salem experience”.
One home in particular stole the show.
We were all blown away by 270 Lafayette St #3, a penthouse condo in an 1880 Victorian that looks like it belongs in a fantasy world. The whimsical space is filled to the brim with character, including wide pine flooring, stained glass, built-in window seats, and an incredible turret. Yes, you read that right, a turret! A turret is a prominent architectural detail in a Victorian home that acts as a lookout tower. Complete with peaks of the ocean, this condo’s turret is reminiscent of Rapunzel’s purple castle.
Owning a slice of history comes with some serious perks, but it’s important to do some extra due diligence in order to understand the maintenance and pitfalls of owning an older home. During the inspection, we discussed ways to care for a home with historic integrity such as preserving a slate roof and choosing the right color schemes. As a fellow homeowner and property manager in Salem, I have an extensive vendor list of professionals who specialize in historic buildings and I am always happy to make an introduction for a client.
While I was sad to see two of my best tenants go, it was incredibly rewarding to help them land an enchanting piece of Salem real estate. Congrats Dusty and Marcela on your happily ever after and thank you for this fantastic review of the home buying experience.
“While this was not the first time my wife and I purchased a home, it was our first time purchasing a home in Massachusetts. Little did we know the breadth of knowledge we lacked in purchasing a home in the New England market. Fortunately, Dana has immense expertise in this area. From strategizing on offers to educating my wife and me on the inspection process, historical aspects of homes, etc. Dana was an invaluable resource in each phase of our buying experience. Without Dana, finding our new home would have been an arduous process. Dana’s knowledge, diligence, and responsiveness are unmatched.”
Are you looking to make a purchase in Boston or on the North Shore? I’m currently taking on a limited number of clients, please contact me if you would like to discuss working together.
Transaction Team Members
Lender: Adam Moore, Academy Mortgage Network
Attorney: Josh Karas, Karas Law Associates
Inspector: RJ Inspections