The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Living in Filth

I received the following comment from Carol in regard to this post last week:

“It will take you WAY longer to finish than you expect. Try and spread out the flow of capital and get parts of it livable, then finish the rest as needed. Do not make decisions too fast. Try and live in it. You will succeed if you give yourself enough time.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I’d love to live in the Queen’s filth. However, our financial situation conspires against. Now, if we’d simply bought the Queen without adding the extra step of moving her, we’d already have a mortgage and the basic amenities like running water, sewer, and electricity. Living there might have been dirty and inconvenient in many regards, but we would have managed. Best of all, we could have worked at our own pace and “spread out the flow of capital.”

As it is, we’ve combined the worst of new construction with a complete renovation. After three years we sort of have electricity, we almost have water, and we have no heating or cooling. My wife and I are not adverse to roughing it (ask us about our first apartment or our first house if you don’t believe us), but we have to draw the line somewhere. Neither of us wants to bathe in the creek or shit in a hole in the woods. And, since we now have a two year old, we need to get all the old, painted surfaces dealt with before we move him in with us.

Another problem is the bank. Since we had to take out a construction loan to move the Queen and take care of the new construction aspects of the project, we have to have a certain “finished” product to show them to get a mortgage. Until we achieve that finished product, we will be paying them over $2000 every six months in interest. No principle is included in that figure. We still owe just as much on that loan as we did the day we signed the papers in 2003.

Between the interest payments, our current mortgage, taxes, construction costs, et cetera, we desperately need to hurry things whether we want to or not. Our current situation can not continue indefinitely. As it is, I can’t believe that we’ve managed to hang in there as long as we have.

While foregoing the fireplace was a real disappointment, most of the Queen has progressed more or less like we expected it to (except that it has taken longer to make it livable than we ever imagined). Sure, we would have loved to have had $6000 kitchen counter top, but there is nothing saying that we still can’t have one. It just won’t be anytime soon. And, for anyone interested in marble tile countertops (Home Improvement Ninja), we bought all our tile and materials for about $150. I believe that this is about $50 cheaper than formica, the reigning champion of low-end counter tops, would have cost.

I’m sure there are going to be things that we’ll find that we don’t like once we move in, but this whole project has been nothing if not a giant learning experience. We went into this project knowing that it wouldn't be perfect no matter how much we wanted it to be. I’m sure that our families will cringe to hear it, but we’ve already been talking about what we’ve learned in regards to our next house. Don’t worry, the first item on the things-you-should-never-do list is MOVE A HOUSE (unless you’re obscenely rich, which this project has gone a long way to ensure that we won’t be).

As for the last bit, “You will succeed if you give yourself enough time,” I believe she is right. If we stay and work on the Queen, the outcome will probably be better. And, if not, I have a backup plan. I can become a bitter, sexually frustrated, alcoholic living in the stench of his own misery. Failure is nothing if not a sure indication that you’ve set your goals too high. It’s comforting (motivating?) to know that the least desirable outcome is always within reach.

Really though, as bad as it’s been, I’m gratifully that it has gone as well as it has. I could have been (still could be) much, much worse, but, at this point, I actual think we’re going to pull the damn thing off. Knock on wood and keep your fingers crossed.


Anonymous Carol said...

Well, the ball is in the bank's court then- what are the exact criteria that they consider "finished"????? Does it have to be clean, too? Does it have to conform to the bank's appraiser's interpretation of what is 'livable'? Are they going to penalize you guys for the future permanent mortgage because it would be difficult for you to change banks at this point? I am assuming here that the permanent future mortgage is just the construction loan plus house moving, since you already had purchased the land (and the house). I am predicting the bank could set you over the edge, but don't let that happen. They need you more than you need them- the mortgage industry is getting desperate for interest paying clientele.
I will continue to take interest in your case. Stay away from the hard stuff.
BTW; had no idea marble was cheaper than formica- I need to get out more!

6:27 AM  
Blogger John said...

The bank has not been too hard-assed on their definition of "finished" thus far.

Basically, they want 1) an enclosed crawlspace, 2)100% funtional electric, water, sewer, and heating & cooling systems, 3)a coat of paint on the exterior, 4) working bathrooms, 5)working kitchen, 6) a weather proofed exterior (siding, roof, etc, ie the basics) and 7) finished walls, floors, and ceilings (this means paint for the floors and ceilings, and refinished wood floors).

Technically, it doesn't have to be clean, but it is in our best interests to have it so for appraisal purposes. We want the appraised value to more than what we owe so we can pay off all our debts.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Brenda from Brooklyn said...

We are very very big fans of people who encourage us to "give ourselves enough time." It's gonna be 20 years this September, and people still ask wonderingly, "When did you move into this place?" (The broken stained-glass window lights on the front door probably trigger the assumption that the answer will be phrased in months, not years.) After the first decade or so, we have found that time, true to Einstein's theory, actually bends.
The notion of "moving a house" has always inspired terror in Jiminy Glick says, "I think you're very *brave*...Good luck with the next phase!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Yokel said...

Failure is nothing if not a sure indication that you’ve set your goals too high.

Well said! I'm sure you're a big fan of!


4:44 AM  

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