by Shannon Lee
To lovers of old homes and fixer-uppers, Sandra Brown and her husband Bert are living the dream. In 2015, they stumbled upon a beautiful foursquare in the tiny town of Sparta, Georgia. Built in 1900, she had fallen into disrepair, and was in desperate need of someone who would see the beauty in her original wood trim, windows and doors, as well as the stunning six (count ‘em, six!) fireplaces throughout the over 3,000 square foot space.
At $25,000, the deal was too sweet to pass up. The Browns didn’t hesitate to sign on the dotted line. But that low price came with a bit of a cost; two months into their residency, they are still shoring up beams, using the bathtub to wash dishes, and getting a feel for the little quirks. But those little inconveniences are nothing compared to what’s to come. “Honestly, I am still at the point that when I pull in after a day at work I am still awed that she is ours,” Sandra said.
Sandra sat down with us to talk about how they came to own the gorgeous home – the one her granddaughter calls “the mansion.”
It’s amazing that you bought this house for $25,000! Tell us the story of how and why you chose this particular beauty.
My husband, Bert, and I love to spend weekends traveling the back roads and going through the smaller towns and basically staying far away from interstates. Over the years we have come through Sparta and have been awed in regards to the multitude of older homes here, many in need of restoration and many are for sale.
About 6 months ago I started job hunting to try and get away from the Atlanta commute I had been making. I took a local job and started house hunting. I wanted to find a house that we could pay cash for and get away from house payments. When I first found the house she was listed for almost $70,000 and that was beyond our cash budget, we still drove the 90 minutes to take a look at her and felt that, that was a great price for what we saw (through the windows). A few weeks later out of curiosity I checked online to see if she had sold yet. That day the seller had told the realtor to take it down to $25,000.
I had to work so I told my best friend to call and make me an appointment that weekend to see the house. The realtor stated that due to the interest it might not be available so I called Bert and he drove out that day to see it. He called me and told me to make an offer. We agreed to pay asking price, and what helped us was that I stated I would close in two weeks. The seller, George Deraney, accepted our offer since I also wrote in the offer letter we were looking to make it a family home once again. On December 18th we signed the papers.
One of my criteria for a home was a deep rocking chair porch and she definitely meets that. We were also intrigued with her switchback floating staircase and her 8 foot French doors (2 sets in the living room!) and the original claw foot tub.
What have you discovered so far about the history of your new home?
Her history has been a little difficult to discover so far since the courthouse burned down and all the deeds that were in the fire safe vault burned up (rumor has it the doors were open to the vault). What we do know is she was built in 1900. For the last 40 years the Deraney family owned her and due to that simple fact we have been lucky with having a lot of original items in the house. We are still trying to discover more about her and have placed ads on local websites asking for any information anyone may have regarding her history.
Tell us a bit about your favorite renovation or restoration so far.
So far we have been kept busy shoring up beams and floor joists. She was used as a rental property for about 20 years and that has taken a toll on her. We have shored up the floor of one of three backside additions. Torn out the entire kitchen down to the floor joists to replace several of those including an interior wall. We are now in the process of trying to save the original bead board from the kitchen walls. What has been a true eye opener for us has been the definite change in craftsmanship from the original build to the add-ons. We are also finding windows in places that lead us to really want to learn more before we get too far into the project. Windows behind siding, in closets, between rooms, gable windows hiding in the attic!
What work are you most looking forward to with this house?
For me it is the kitchen right now! We are using the downstairs bathroom as a kitchen sink, we have a hot plate, a microwave and a roaster to cook with and the majority of our meals are on paper plates. I know that it is months and months down the road as we made the decision that we would not take out loans to do the renovations but we also wanted to make sure that we did quality renovations worthy of the house so for us it is a slow moving project. Also I am looking forward to enclosing the attic for a photography studio!
Have an amazing hold house story to share with us? Send it our way! letters (at) circaoldhouses (dot) com
AUTHOR SHANNON LEE
Shannon Lee has a soft spot for fixer-uppers that need a helping hand. Over the past two decades she has written about home improvement challenges and victories in blogs, articles, books and more. Though she has loved her share of old houses, today she and her family are finally settled into their dream home deep in the Pennsylvania woods, a place they call Marvel Hill.