Open Houses: Our Guilty Pleasure

I like to go to open houses. It’s easy because I pass at least one every Sunday on the way home from church. Sometimes the Pumpkin and Frank join me. I try not to talk to the agent too much because we’re only crashing and are totally not buying a new home. I do like to keep abreast of the market so I can gauge the value of our house and there is no better way to get practical design ideas for our row house. Local houses are 100 times better than House Beautiful because they’re real. Lastly, I’m always trying to get more material for my row house blog. So there is some logic behind my being nosy.

Philly real estate is always surprising, especially in the older neighborhoods. You have what looks like fairly straightforward row houses from first glance. But, the blocks here are really big and there is more lurking out of sight. Often, you have an entire block within a block. The first house we saw today was built on to the back of a street facing house. The house faces a courtyard which means it’s quiet and no one would know there is even a house there from the street. We’ve been here six years and I never knew that house was back there and I’ve walked right by it on the way to another open house.  Very incognito. Inside, it’s a roomy two-bedroom house with very high ceilings. I’ll call it the surprise house. Like, you think I’m the back of another house because I have no exterior architectural anything, but surprise! I’m an entire house.

Queen Village row houses.The second house, a lovely early 19th Century Federal I’ve actually taken pictures of as an example of house to update your row house without ruining it (I was going to be lazy but went and got the photo from the row house blog). Originally a Federal, like ours, previous owners decided to make it Greek Revival-ish probably during the mid- to late 1800s. It’s the house with the green shutters in the photo.

Inside, it looks like it was updated in the 1970s but thankfully they did a sort of farmhouse minimalist approach and it works. It’s a very nice house. Personally, I like my historic homes more historic but I think this would have more appeal to a wider audience. The kitchen is really neat – totally professional grade and not in the I-brought-professional-appliances way but rather it looks like someone transplanted a restaurant kitchen into this house. Through the kitchen was a nice patio and then Frank got very excited. Very, very excited…

This house, listed for $600,000-ish, not only comes with the two bathroom, three bedroom house but it also comes with a smaller house (a two-fer!) that has a garage on the main floor, kitchenette and bathroom on the second floor, and bedroom on the top floor. The garage has a high enough ceiling for a lift. It’s in pretty bad shape but it’s got so much potential and you do have the main house to live in.

Needless to say, this would be a perfect arrangement; his and hers. I would restore the two and a half floors to historic goodness, leave the basement for modern things, and Frank could outfit the little house for a dream garage for Ziggy with man cave-ish stuff above. All we need to do is win the lotto…

Anyway, back to reality. Seeing so many of these Federal row houses that have been updated makes me very thankful we were able to find a home that is more or less original-ish, since I really do like that sort of thing.

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