Meeting the Fleishman House - A Love Story in 4 Acts

Act One

As any romance writer knows, every budding love story needs a "Meet Cute". That's the scene in which one person meets the other in an unusual way that's a bit odd, a but funny, a bit awkward, and a bit off-putting (so that love has to work at it to get the parties together.

David here. This is the story of how Rebecca and I met the Fleishman House one fine-weathered day.

I had been searching for a possible rental property to buy for our nascent business. I saw an advert for a mid-century modern home near where we lived. It sounded interesting!

Not for a rental property, mind you! They wanted crazy-high money for the house, but it was a lovely day, so off we went to take a look. We didn't involve a realtor simply because he had zero intention of buying the place and it's polite not to waste a realtor's time.

We pulled up to the address and were surprised by this view. I drove this road to and from work and hadn't really noticed it before! (The lack of caffeine kicking in that early in the morning was most of the reason, plus it's quite a ways back and up from the street.

As we walked closer to the house we could tell at a glance it was empty and it needed some solid repairs. But it had a classic mid-century modern look to it so we went up to peer into the windows. There was a handyman inside doing a bit of cleaning up and he gave us permission to look thru the house from the inside. Score!

Well, there were problems with the house, for sure. First, we had to navigate thru the trash and garbage on the floor, carefully avoiding broken glass, needles, or just general nastiness. Luckily the handyman had made some narrow "game trails" thru the house!

Aside from the problems due to neglect and an obvious squatter or three, the house had "good bones" and a real sense of style. We were excited.

Now, there was no way we would pay the price the property was listed at even if the house was in great shape. But Rebecca and I agreed that if they let it go for a low price based upon the condition it was in, we could fix it up in our spare time over several years, then move in and sell our old house. We had just decided how much to offer as we stepped out of the house into the carport. We were excited at the possibilities!  We could do this!

That's when we noticed a fellow standing next to a fancy-schmancy car in the driveway behind our car. He had pulled into the driveway after we entered the home.  He pointed his finger directly at my wife's face and exclaimed, "You people need to go! I have a buyer coming in 15 minutes." More finger pointing at our faces, "You need to be gone!"

That's the moment when I thought to myself, "That SOB will never make a dime off of me."

We assumed he was the realtor listing the property, so we left.

The property didn't sell. We're sure it couldn't be for lack of charm on the part of the realtor...

A year went by and we met some really nice folks at NC Modernist Houses. We told them the story and they got us in touch with a realtor who had been in touch with the owners. We went by the house and took some more photos to send to the owners so they could see the house was in terrible shape. We also said we were interested in buying the house at an appropriate price but refused to deal with the current (same) selling agent.

About that time we found another mid-century modernist home for sale nearby and moved into it.

Act Two

Tony and Penny Here. 

Our neighborhood is great for a family walk-about or an exercise run.   There's a good mix of hills and flat spaces and lots of lovely trees and interesting homes.

We both run on a frequent basis and noticed an abandoned house way back from the street.  There was something about it's clean lines and the up-swept portion of its roof that called to us.   We walked up to the house to get a better look at it.   The inside was a real mess and the outside needed a fair bit of work.   But we could tell it was something special.

Either by coincidence or fate, the house was ideally situated for us to take a short breather before continuing our excercise run.   We found ourselves checking out the house off and on over a period of several years.   Stopping by to take a look was always a bittersweet visit because we could see the house deteriorating over time.   The roof had started leaking.   Vandals and squatters would visit.  Animals were getting in the broken open doors and windows.   The house was undergoing a slow death.

About a year ago our new neighbors, the Wendelkens, moved two houses down from us.   We shared a lot of interests, including mid-century modern art and architecture and became friends.

Act Three

David here.

A new member of the NC Modernist Homes organization mentioned to me that the Fleishman House was coming on the market again but this time at a price that reflected its true condition.  It was to be put up for auction.  The highest offer at or over the reserve price would be accepted.   We were still interested in fixing up the house but not to live in.  (Our new home wasn't quite as cool, but it was even better suited to us.)   We decided to look into it and see if we could make restoring the house work.  That would entail making sure we didn't lose our shirt, got the house restored and put on the various historic registers and easements to protect it from land developers whose only motivation is profit.

We contacted our electrician, plumber, roofer and hvac specialists.  Plus we pulled in several companies that specialized in mildew or mold remediation.
Then it was time to run the numbers.  Could we pay the cash costs to buy the house and pay those workmen, plus buy the materials we would need for the work that we would be doing ourselves?

It looked possible but it was going to be a whole lot of work.   Rebecca and I are pretty healthy but we're no spring chickens.  We would need extra manpower to fix this house up.   The problem is that manpower costs money.  That would greatly reduce our chance of not losing money restoring the house.   We're not rich enough that we can go around the city buying houses and fixing them up without needing to give a thought to finances!   We need ot be pretty darn sure we can get our money back out of the house when we sell it, otherwise our retirement years are going to be a lot leaner than we would like.

I knew that we could not compete on money with a developer who wanted to tear down the property and build a bunch of condos or apartments on it.   If one of them sank their teeth into the property the house was a goner.  

I had mentioned to Tony that Rebecca and I had a small side business of buying distressed houses, fixing them up and offering them for rent.  He was interested in learning more.   So he wasn't surprised when one Saturday morning I stopped by his house and said, "Hey, I have a house I want to show you.  We're thinking of fixing it up and flipping it."

Tony said, as he opened my car door, "Sure!  But how far is it?  I have to go to work soon."

"Oh, it's just down the road a couple of blocks," I replied.

"Ok."  Tony got half way into the car and stopped.  He got that expression on his face that shows up with he's hit with a flash of intuition.  "Is this that house up on Morganton that's up on the hill?"

"Sure is!"

"Let's go!  We LOVE that house!"  As we rode over to the property Tony told me about how he and Penny had discovered the house.

We spent awhile looking around the house and noting all the things that are (or are likely to be) wrong with it.   Our families got together over dinner a week later and came to an agreement on how we could do business together, if Rebecca and I won the bid.

So we put in an early, pre-auction date bid that was over the reserve price by a bit.  And then we waited.  And waited.

Act Four

And won the bid!   Act Four has yet to be written, so we're going to present it as it happens, much like players do in an improv theatre!

Closing date is scheduled for Monday, December 5th, 2016.

We'll blog what we're up to as we go along.  We'll start off with a photo exploration of the house as it looked when we first came upon it three years ago.  After that we'll use photos and a 360 degree video camera to document its current condition so you know what we're in for.
We'll lay out our plans and show the progress as it goes along.  You'll get a good laugh or seven as our plans get a punch in the gut from reality.   (We'll try to stay good sports about those incidents.)

We've got a few surprises for you, too!   And more stories!   So check out our Rehab Adventures!