Into Detroit … again

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had an update here. Admittedly, a lot of it has to do with the slowdown on actual renovations of the Sullivan House; looking back, we did so much work so quickly that it becomes a blur. We accomplished an amazing amount of renovation in a very short time, and most of that was driven by necessity. However, once you no longer have an urgent need, momentum drops quickly. There hasn’t been much going on, therefore there hasn’t been much to write about.

We do, however, have some pretty big news for 2018.

For those who have come along on the journey of the renovation of this house from the beginning with us, the living situation makes perfect sense… but for those who may have come along later to this community and joined us along the way, it may be a little confusing. A brief bit of history, therefore, might serve as a handy refresher.

Lincoln moved in with me in 2007 as a business partner in our joint venture, Icrontic. As it turns out, we make really good housemates, and we continued living together through lots of major (and minor) life events. Lincoln had lived with me for five years when he bought the Sullivan house, started this site, and began renovations. During those five years, each of us met our future spouses (Nicole and I got married in 2013; Lincoln married Aaron in 2017), and the four of us moved into the Sullivan House and renovated it and made this community to document our journey along the way.

During the six years in the Sullivan house, Nicole and I have been content but it’s never been “our” place. It is Lincoln and Aaron’s house and we are tenants. Maybe we’re far more invested than “normal” roommates would be since we also poured blood, sweat, tears, and money into this place, but there’s still a point that comes when you look around and just feel like… you’re living in someone else’s house. It was easier to stay put and be content while my kids finished their teenage years out and grew up (and moved out), and while Nicole got her business going and I established myself in a new career field, but—as all good things must—eventually it had to come to an end.

We started searching for houses casually in the “if something jumps out at us, we’ll do something” sense, but really it was a commercial property that kick-started our search for the next phase of our lives.

A building went up for sale down the street from us: a two-story former muffler shop that was weird and a terrible mess. We ended up putting in an offer on the place with a dream of living above a space we would rent out (we were the “Woodbridge couple” mentioned in that article), but since Detroit commercial real estate is in a wild place right now, we got outbid by a pretty significant amount of money, and went back to just “thinking” about looking for a place.

In November, after Lincoln and Aaron’s wedding, it felt like time to start the search for real. I reached out to my old friend Jon Zemke and asked him if he had a realtor recommendation, and he immediately recommended Nika Jusufi as a Detroit real estate expert. Jon knows as well as anybody that when you need to deal with real estate in Detroit, it’s a weird and unique animal and you need an expert to help you navigate the weirdness. Nika was that expert.

She started off by meeting with Nicole and I and getting to know us. After getting to know a little bit about our quirks, she began sending us listings she thought we would be interested in. By the middle of December, Nicole had come across a listing that intrigued her and she told me she wanted to look at it. In the ice and snow, we went to look at the house, located on Lothrop St. in a neighborhood called LaSalle Gardens.

The immediate thing that drew her to the house was the awesome woodwork on the interior (some of it in the Arts & Crafts style), and the weird black picket fence and dark grey pebble exterior. Pulling up to the house, we could see that the neighborhood was really fascinating, with huge houses, lots of space between them, big old trees, and tons of interesting and unique architecture. The house itself was on the smaller side of things compared to some of the mansions around it, but it oozed individuality, and we were drawn to it.

House in LaSalle Gardens, Detroit, Michigan 2018

The initial inspection was, in some ways, better than we had anticipated and in some ways worse. The house needed a lot of work. It needed new windows, a new roof, and lots of updates inside. There were some structural issues, and some questionable prior renovations. But there were also some absolutely priceless features, such as intact original French doors in the main room, original hardwood floors in decent condition, lots of original decorative woodwork, prior conversion from radiators to forced air (and central air conditioning!), a partially finished basement with updated glass block windows, some fantastic original decorative plaster work (particularly in the dining room), and tons and tons of potential.

We brought our trusted friend Andy (from Handy Andy Services) to come out and give us his opinion. He had some grunts, groans, shrugs, some hmmms and wows, some smiles, but mostly he trusted that we understood what we would be getting ourselves into with this house… again. We were no novices to this level of renovation after all, and besides—this house was in far better condition than the Sullivan house was when Lincoln bought it.

We sat on it for a bit. We looked at a different house, but ended up coming back to this one. Finally we put in an offer and after some negotiations we agreed on a price we were comfortable with.

Now, we are post-inspection, the title search is complete (and clean), and we have a closing date: February 7th, 2018. In six days, Nicole and I will close on this house and begin a brand new renovation project in a new neighborhood. My son Kyle will be living there as a caretaker during renovations and we hope to have the house in at least livable condition by June. We’re looking forward to starting a new chapter of our lives, meeting new neighbors, making new friends, and getting to know yet another awesome part of Detroit.

We’re going to miss Woodbridge deeply. It’s a fantastic neighborhood filled with amazing people and lots of great stories. The Sullivan house is certainly not going anywhere and we were privileged to be a small part of its long and glorious history. Lincoln and Aaron are still going to be renovating, and now this site will have two projects to discuss as we continue our adventures in Detroit.

You can keep up with the renovation log in the discussion forums.