While I was in Vegas covering CES for a week, Lincoln and Nicole went house hunting. From my perch out in the desert, I followed along with their adventures via text message and phone calls.
They kept mentioning “The one in Woodbridge”. From where I was sitting, nothing really got me excited, so I was a bit aloof. I looked at the MLS listing, and it said “one bathroom”. I looked at pictures and it looked like it was falling apart. I wasn’t excited, and I couldn’t understand why they kept talking about it.
This is the “one in Woodbridge”:
It’s.. Well, it’s a mansion. It’s under $50,000. It needs a genuinely astonishing amount of work. As you can see, from my vantage point, it didn’t seem that compelling.
But Nicole said that “Lincoln seems kinda stuck on this one”, so I figured there must be a charm that I was missing from a distance.
When I got home, Lincoln and I talked about the increasing need to accelerate the housing search. We got into the car and decided to take a bit more systematic approach to our search. We identified neighborhoods we want to be in (Corktown, Woodbridge, Midtown), and decided to drive around street-by-street to get an even better feel for the neighborhoods on a more intimate level.
“Don’t get too excited about the Woodbridge house”, I sagely told Lincoln. “Getting excited about any house when you’re shopping is a bad idea.” I stroked my metaphorical beard, like an old wise man who has been there, done that.
We stopped at the Woodbridge house. My cynical eye-rolling stopped. Lincoln’s grin upon seeing my expression said it all. “Told you so,” he may as well have said.
The house is tremendous. It’s 107 years old, and it just oozes class.
We scheduled a viewing inside. The realtor was, well… you could tell he was tired. This is mostly likely a home that has been shown over and over again. He rattled off the speech in the freezing cold as we stood on the front porch: “This house is as-is, cash-only. What you see is what you get. I’m tired of freezing, so I’ll be in my car.”
We walked in.
We started off in the basement, looking for foundational issues, broken concrete, flooding evidence, evidence of rodents or mold, cracked beams… things we called “dealbreakers”. While the basement was filthy (well, let’s face it, the whole house is filthy and filled with other peoples’ trash), it was foundationally solid. Dry, no evidence of flooding, only one area where there was a slight crack in the floor. The brickwork and core hardwood were all rock solid. Very well-built.
The basement showed some of the house’s heritage: There was an area with a small pile of coal near one wall. The wiring is straight out of the 1920s or 1930s and needs to be completely replaced. The house is just straight-up old.
Next we scoped out the two main floors. The house is enormous, with four bedrooms, a parlor, a dining room, a living room, and a giant kitchen with 12-foot ceilings. Of course, we were both looking at what it could be, not what it currently was:
The attic is like a cathedral. 20 foot ceiling at the peak, giant windows, a rock-solid floor… it’s truly astonishing.
This is a house that could fulfill all of our needs: A bedroom for everybody, studio space for Nicole, office space for Icrontic, enough space to let all of our friends crash, a giant kitchen, a backyard for the dogs, and a huge (two story!) garage.
It’s a house that’s been waiting for exactly what we can do: bring a ton of love and pour our hearts and souls into making Detroit our home.
We left the house in a bit of a daze. Did we realize it was a longshot? Yes. Did we understand what a massive renovation we would have to undertake? Yes. Did we talk about the large amount of money it would take to make this happen? Yes.
We were hungry and a bit disoriented. We stopped by Woodbridge Pub to check it out. Lincoln had always said that one of the things he was dying for was a small neighborhood pub within walking distance of our house; a place we could be regulars at and that served top-shelf bourbon and scotch as well as microbrews on draft, and had a colorful cast of characters—our own “Cheers”.
The moment we walked into the Woodbridge Pub, I saw a light come over his face. I knew then and there that more than anything else, this pub had just sold the house for him.
I said, “You look like a rootbulb. You have these tendrils peeking sheepishly out of you and they’re saying, ‘I want to set down roots'”.