July 15, 2009

The Money Pit

We went to look at the little yellow house the other day. The neighbourhood was incredible with a real feel of community. There were three little houses sitting in a row and the yellow one was on the end. We learned that the house was built in 1892 for labourer Edward Fallon and was originally 350 square feet with no indoor plumbing or electrical (this meant no kitchen, no bathroom). The lot was 28 feet by 76 feet, not big but big enough for me, the boyfriend and our DLD (dandy little dog). Entering the house, we were treated to this:

The wood gleamed, the kitchen sparkled (even without the Christmas lights). It was adorable. There was a tiny laundry room, and the washroom still had the clawfoot tub, completely resurfaced. The bedroom on the other had was, well, impossible. At 15' by 6'11" we'd be lucky to fit our queen-size bed in. And a few months ago I had put my foot down that we were upgrading to a king-size bed (the boyfriend likes to sleep diagonally). Also, horror of all horrors, the one and only closet would be perfect for, oh say a broom, but not much more. I don't have rooms filled with clothes and shoes (but what girl doesn't dream), but a decent closet would be appreciated.

We pondered and decided that we might be able to do something because the place was just so damned cute. And as we headed out the back door, onto the fabulous deck (begging for a BBQ), down the stairs to the charming, low maintenance back yard, we had visions of summer entertaining while the DLD frollicked unleashed, to her heart's content. Wow, what a spot!

Back inside we headed upstairs. The top of the house was converted attic space. The owner had actually knocked walls down (of the former second bedroom) and built a beautiful staircase up to the new addition. But once we got up the stairs the love affair came to a smashing halt. I whacked my head on some weird protrusion the owner had created (I think it was part of a new dormer) and as we walked, bent over, into the first "bedroom" then the second "bedroom" we realized that there was something seriously wrong. These rooms couldn't be legal.

Back downstairs we were confronted by the realtor with the hard, cold facts.

Now, I don't expect you to read these, but have a peek at the very official looking letterhead and know that it's not good news. it would appear that the owner had done some naughty things and pissed off the City of New Westminster. Apparently there are zoning by-laws which state that a dwelling's square footage can be no more than 50% of the lot's square footage. This lot was just over 2000 square feet and with the renovations of the attic, the house now came in at a whopping 1250 square feet. But this wasn't the most outrageous thing the owner did. The thing that really pissed the City off was that they had told her to stop working on the property as she didn't have the proper building permits -- and she IGNORED them! The gaul, the conceit, the misplaced sense of self-importance. So they slapped a Section 57 on her and forced her to abandon the property and flee the country (she is now hiding out in Los Angeles somewhere).

And what the Section 57 means is that we would have to remove the dormers she installed, seal up the attic and live in 750 square feet. It would mean extensive re-renovations and a tiny house.  It would mean entering into a bidding war through the courts, in the hopes of winning. What it means is that we won't be buying the cute, little, yellow house. I'm saddened by this as I feel the little house needs loving. It has such a long history, and it could have a bright future. The current owner has applied for a demolition permit. The City of New Westminster is assessing its historical value. Let's hope it's enough to spare it the wrecking ball. And that someone with a lot more money that us can save it .

Our search continues....


Dan Johnson said...

Neat place. You'd think since the work was already completed they could let it slide but what do I know of such things?

It's funny, my Nana and Grandpa Bill lived in a small yellow house that couldn't have been more than 350 sq ft--did have a bathroom though..and a pantry..

Lianne said...

Was it in New West? Maybe it was the same house as some renos were done to this one in 1910 (just interior stuff -- the size remained the same until sometime in the 50s)

Kelly L said...

I loved the floors - beautiful.. and get the king size bed - after 20 years of marriage we finally did and I kick myself for not getting it sooner! Good luck on your quest for the perfect home.


Sharon McPherson said...

I like a house with history too ... but not that kinda history!!!


Next ...

gh said...

Good luck, Lianne in your house hunting. Sounds charming but too small for possibly. btw, the money pit was and still is one of my favorite movies.
Best to you in your search.