Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The "Heather House"

My first house. It was love at first sight. I was living in a small 1 bedroom apartment with a little dog and dreamed of a cute little "grandma house" with window boxes and flowers. I would stop into Real Estate offices and ask if there were any little "grandma houses" out in the sticks for around 50K that might be available. They laughed me all the way out the door. Keep in mind, this was 1989 and homes could still be purchased for under 100 thousand. My dreams were a little lofty.

I used to drive by this little house at an intersection and thought it was the cutest little house. I never saw anyone come or go. I looked a little closer, and realized the wires had been cut, and that it appeared vacant. One day, I went into the local title company and asked for some information on the property. It turned out the house had recently been sold to a company called "La Petit Academy", a large daycare company. I found the contact phone number on the information they gave me and called to inquire about the property. It turned out the man I spoke with in Kansas City Missouri was from this area and knew my parents! What a small world!!! I explained to him that I loved this little house, and wondered what the plans were. He told me they had plans to tear it down and build a daycare on the property, but that the plans were about a year out. I asked if it would be possible for me to go in, fix it up, and rent it for that year. He didn't see a problem with that, so we negotiated a fair rent amount. We decided I could take the first 2 months rent free to account for repairs needed to fix the place up (hook up water, power etc...) and then the rent would be $300.00 per month. Considering I was paying $450 for my 1 bedroom apartment, this was a great deal!

I climbed in the bedroom window (with the help of my mother) and took my first walk through the house. My mom walked around with her hands up, careful not to touch anything, and I on the other hand, was in love. I pulled a corner of the dirty, matted disgusting green/gold shag carpets and found some hardwood floors. I knew with a coat of paint, a good floor scrubbing and some throw rugs, this could be a really cute place.

First came the power, then the water, then the overhaul. There was a small cabinet in the kitchen, a moldy fridge in the corner, and a bathroom we won't even talk about. I sprayed the fridge down with Tilex, ripped out the existing kitchen cabinets and went to the wallpaper store. I purchased a few cabinets from "Ernst Hardware" (remember that place??) and started putting my little house together. Keep in mind, I was 23 and single at the time. My dream was to make this little house as "girly" as possible. I painted the exterior door pink, along with the window trim. With a little elbow grease, paint and love - my little house became a home.

A friend approached me after I had moved in, and asked if I was interested in renting the spare bedroom. I agreed and collected $150 in rent from her. I then was approached to board a horse on the property which brought in another $100.00. My rent was now just $50.00!!

Then the phone rang. It turned out the plans had been bumped up, and they were ready to demolish my little home. I was so sad. This was my little dream house. I had painted, wallpapered, put in a new kitchen and curtains. All of my hard work was going to be smashed into little pieces. That's when the lightbulb went on. I approached La Petit, and suggested a crazy idea. I said "If I can find a lot to move the house to, and take it off your hands - saving you thousands in demolition costs, can I take the house with me?" They agreed. I had exactly 1 MONTH to move the house, or they were bulldozing it. I grabbed a "Little Nickel Want Ads" news paper and started my search. Sure enough, there was a lot for sale. It turned out it was just a mile from where my home sat. I called the owners and arranged a meeting. Guess where I had to go? Across the street. They owned a rental property across the street, so I walked over and met with them. I told them all about the house and my plans for it. They were sweet senior citizens who loved the idea. My name became "sweetie". "Well, sweetie, here's what we need to do..." I had no idea how to tackle this beast, but with their help, I hired a mover, acquired the permits, dug for the foundation, moved the house, and then refinanced to pay them off.

Once on the ground (which took a bit longer than expected, but well worth the wait) I painted the house light blue, put heart shaped shutters on the windows, eventually planted flowers and put up a pickett fence, and my little "Heather House" became my first home.

My family shook their heads at my crazy dream. "Who does this??" they would ask. It was a changing point in my life. I educated myself in every aspect of home improvement and took pride in what I had done. I installed the kitchen, the roof, painted, wallpapered, plumbed, hauled, cleaned - you name it, I did it. When I got married, my husband rolled up his posters, packed his duffel bag, and moved in. Yes, it was a little "foofy" for this big, football player-type guy, but he married a gal with her own home. I later got my Real Estate license, and both my husband and I are in the business. We own many rental properties and multi-family properties. I am never without a toolbox, drill and plumbing kit in my BMW. I am the fix-it girl in my home. My neighbors call up and ask my husband "will you check with Heather to see if you have a hack saw?" I ask what kind of blade he needs.

This was my first home. I will always love this little house with it's heart shaped shutters. It will forever be "The Heather House".


  1. That is such a cute story. And you virtually got that sweet little 'grandma' house for free. It's so funny how attached we can become to inanimate objects though it seems to happen to everyone.

  2. We may be buying it back! We talked about it this morning - it's for sale again. I may have to overhaul it for this decade - goodbye blue paint and shutters :(

  3. Love this story!!
    (another 'girl with tools')

  4. I Love it!!!!!!!!!! I was so happy the other day that I too have my own tools, so that when I came home from work to find the baby colt hung in the fence, I could get my wire cutters and save him. My husband was 30 mins away. We all need our own tools. jearls

  5. What a lovely story!!! You were very entrepreneurial at 23! And I absolutely loved the fact you asked if there were any "grandma" houses!
    Oh I hope you get to buy it back! Keep us posted!
    -Sarah Marie aka Miss Mud

  6. What an incredible story! That seriously sounds like it could have come out of a novel. Your parents were right - What kind of 23 year old girl would ever think of doing what you did?! It's truly amazing, and inspiring.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story and linking up to my party!

  7. What a cool story! That is so awesome that you were able to do all of that at only 23. I just saw your comment about buying it back and I bet that would be so fun!

  8. Wow what an amazing story!! You should write a book about this!! It's an adorable little house, the memories it must hold :)

  9. What an adorable story. When I was that age there was a little pink abandoned cottage that sat empty for years and years...I wanted to live there so badly. I should have done what you did and searched about it. It was bought for commercial development but the development fell through and it sat there empty for like 15 years. I bet I could have worked a deal like you did if I'd been as smart as you were. Loved the story.