• Reem Hassaballa

Our decision to buy an older home.

Updated: Jan 3

The age ol' question-to build or to not build! Recently we sold our home in only 12 days and we have pondered this question for a while. We took the first offer, over 12% below asking price and we did not even bother to negotiate a counter offer because we were afraid of having the home sit on the market past the Spring-the best time to buy. We also sold our home after meeting with a builder who had promised us they can deliver what we had asked for. When we were sure of that, we proceeded to find a dream lot to built on right outside of the area we were in.


It was like a dream-too good to be true- our friends and other professionals in the field have told us. And, had we listened our guts and our hearts, that have always taught us if it is too good to be true, than it can't be, then we would not have been in the dilemma we soon found ourselves in. After seeing a few of this builder's homes, my heart sunk a bit. I thought the quality just was not there. I thought to myself; I can work around this by choosing higher end flooring, cabinets, etc. But, after visiting a home that was practically new, I knew immediately we had made a big mistake. However, I thought I can continue to work with this builder since the price was right for the square footage and they really were wonderful and seemed fun to work with.


Before we made any other rash decisions, we thought we should meet with a few other builders for cost comparison on a floorplan that we had decided on with the builder. When we met with one of the builders, they told us "we don't want to shoot Santa Claus in the head". I knew we were in trouble. They told us that there was just no way that this builder can do what he has promised us. We were worried. We thought we were on the right track because we were being assured every step of the way that we were ok and on budget.


After finally realizing that this project would not be feasible nor make sense for our family, we decided to throw in the towel. But, now what? We had sold our home and signed a leasing agreement for one year. We were stuck. I reached out to my realtor, and she said it would be a good idea to see some homes in our neighborhood, which we loved and really did not want to leave.


Our neighborhood is comprised of 4 elementary schools, all amazing and Blue Ribbon winners. The closer you are to "town" the more expensive the land. Everybody wants to hop onto the train and go to the city for work, or pleasure. It is such a huge convenience. The restaurants and shops are also a great perk of living walking distance to town. So, we knew we should look for something in the neighborhood.



Our old home built by Oakley Home Builders

Our realtor, Dawn McKenna, is so knowledgeable and we knew she would find us something. It took one day of home shopping to find our next home! My husband and I had built 3 homes so far and we only have liked investing in brand new homes. We loved the smell of walking into a newly built home. It was ours, nobody had ever lived there before.Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine what has happened to occur. We went and visited just two homes that day. One, brand new, by my former builder Oakley Home Builders. This home was an absolute dream. I wanted it so badly, but unfortunately, it was a bit out of our price range. Next, the realtor took us to an older home which has been rehabbed for the last 2 years. My husband looked at me as we were walking up to it and said "you know, I am humoring you...there is not way that I will ever buy an older home". We walked in and we immediately looked at each other and said in one breath "it reminds me of Paris". I know it sounds cliche', but we really did say that to each other. We had been to Paris twice and the flats have the same character found in this home. That basically sealed the deal. I could already imagine myself living in such a gem of a home. A home in this shape, with this much character, just does not come along often at all. It had everything we had been looking for. A giant yard (big enough for our future pool), and the square footage that we had been looking for. It also is on one of the most coveted streets in the neighborhood.


We found out that this older home was rehabbed by a local builder for the past 2 years. They worked with a designer and basically updated everything that needed to be updated. All 6 bathrooms are brand new and this was a huge selling point for me. The kitchen has new high-end appliances and new gorgeous quartzite counters. Not to mention the high-end light fixtures galore that are in each room of the house. And what really drew me to this home was the abundant, large scale windows bringing in a ton of natural light with lots of Southern and Western exposure. Natural light is a must in any home and this home does not lack natural light whatsoever. As soon as you enter the home, the grand scale foyer feels like a boutique hotel lobby in Paris, with it's own fireplace flanked in Ann Sacks tile. What was not to love?



1910 Prarie style-architect George Maher


what this home used to look like


We thought we should wait and think about this before making an offer. So, we looked at the house and went home. We first felt skeptical that this is the one. So, we decided to just wait and maybe go look at it again. The following weekend we went again. Every time I walked in, I just had this feeling. It was a cozy feeling. I knew we would have to eventually change the windows, but other than that, the home was really renovated really well. It was meticulously updated to today's standards. We knew that if we were ever to build a home, we would never be able to get this kind of square footage in this amazing location. And that is what really kept me from walking away. It was about 70% bigger than the home we sold, and for about the same price, and in town on one of the nicest streets ever! It had the closet of my dreams (as big as a bedroom). It was a no brainer to us and we made an offer. We talked and said that if there was anything that was completely scary on the inspection, we would walk away. The inspection came back so clean. As I started to ask around what people thought, I quickly realized what they were telling me to be true. You just cannot find character like this in a newer home. The door knobs, the hinges, the trim, the original fireplaces (which are outstanding).

Character that you just do not find in a new build



One of 7 fireplaces- the tile is 100% original


This Keeping Room houses my favorite original fireplace in the house-this Limestone beauty!

So, as you can see from just these photos, we fell in love. The floors are original and they have been sanded down and gorgeous quarter rift sawn white oak floors were found, which are so expensive nowadays. We have been debating whether to keep them or change them since they do creak a lot...a gentle reminder that the home is quite old. But, we are definitely keeping them, they are just stunning. The eight fireplaces are just stunning, each one in it's own way. It has a vintage sink in the butler's pantry, which looks so unique. In fact, everything in the house is unique and not cookie cutter.

So, today we closed on this home. It is official. Is this my forever home? I think it will be, but you never know what life's challenges will bring. We plan to be here for a very long time and we are super excited about making many many memories here. I cannot wait to walk down the street to the local elementary school. Make sure to follow along as I continue posting updates on how I will be personalizing this very old home of ours or as I like to say it- our vintage home! Thank you, "it's vintage"! Follow along with my journey @reems_design on Instagram.


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