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, November 15, 2006

Long, Cold Winter

The posts have been in short supply lately. The last couple of weeks I’ve been so angry about the house that I didn’t have anything to say about it. And, to be honest, saying that much has been a real effort for me. Telling your grandparents that you’re a transvestite street walker with a disease and an addiction would probably be easier (since all my grandparents are dead, probably doubly so for me).

So, you might be wondering, what the hell is he mad about? It is a tangled web, but I’ll try to reduce it to its simplest form.

1) The bank wants to close our construction loan and give us a mortgage so they can sell it to the secondary market. We more or less promised them the house would be “finished” within six months.
2) We don’t have the time or skill to finish everything off on our own, so we’ll have to hire about 75% of it out.
3) We’ve pretty well spent every penny we have and maxed our credit out to make it this far. They only way we can afford to pay our monthly bills and pay folks to work on the Queen is by my wife working a full time job.
4) My wife recently quit her old job with the Russellville Courier/Post-Dispatch for reasons I won’t go into. No need to burn bridges, right? Let’s just say that even though it wasn’t the most convenient time for this, it was the right thing to do.
5) The only job she could find that pays the same or more in her field is two and a half hours away in Northwest Arkansas.

The situation this leaves us in is roughly this: my wife and I won’t see each other five days out of the week, my son will be spending a lot of time with his grandparents, and I will be spending a lot of time alone with the Devil Queen.

Or, to look at it another way, I’m pimping my wife out to a media conglomerate 150 miles away so I can afford to stay with my “mistress” and pay for her upkeep. You know, I use to joke about this the Devil Queen being “the other woman,” but, now that she is, I no longer see the humor in it. Who the fuck trades their wife for a house?

My anger really coalesced around an epiphany I had two weeks ago: our major life decisions are no longer being dictated by what we want for ourselves or our son; they are being dictated the Devil Queen. Granted, I was involved in making every decision that brought us here, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. In fact, it makes it worse.

So, starting in December, I will be coming home from work to a dark, empty house four or five nights a week. And, I will have the dubious pleasure of struggling like a drowning man as I try to finish the Devil Queen by the spring of 2007. You have no idea how thrilled I am about this.

Enthusiasm and hard work are not enough. I’ve always thought that our story was a cautionary tale, but even I never anticipated just how bad it would be. We’ve paid for this house with a lot more than money. Maybe, several years from now, I’ll change my mind about it, but I don’t think that it has been worth it.

I’ve been so disgusted with the Devil Queen that I considered just giving up on the whole blog, but I decided against it. More than a few people regularly read this blog and many of you have been for nearly two years. If you’ve followed our story that long, I feel like you deserve to know it ends no matter how bad it is.


Blogger Lenise said...

So sorry to hear it. What a terrible situation to be in! It's good that you have your son's grandparents to fall back on, but definitely far from the ideal situation for your family (like I have to tell you that). I don't suppose you can double the rent on Mr. Blue =-\

I'll pray for y'all.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Mei said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your life has gotten so hectic suddenly. I've read your blog for a while now, and I'm always interested in the Devil Queen, mostly because you've been able to maintain your sense of humor through the whole renovation ordeal. I hope things become easier very, very soon.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Is the deed in your name and do you have 20% equity in the house? If so, go to another bank, take out a home equity consolidation loan to pay off the first lien. Generally there are NO fees, no interior inspections for appraisals, you can lock in the interest rate and the loan is for 20 years and not 30. Don't I tell you this every 6 months or so when you go through one of these crisis moments?
Look at events like this as building character and as opportunities to do the necessary work. The house doesn't need to be finished, it needs to be livable to the banks standard which involves a huge origination fee and backend yield spread that pays the bank hefty dollars at your expense. Appraisers want to see solid walls, solid floors, a working kitchen,a working bathroom, a heating system and a solid roof. It doesn't need to be painted nor the wood finished. If I had quit, and there were times when I wanted to, we would have been in some serious financial doo-doo. You just have to keep plugging away with your mind focused on the end result and where you want to be in five years, ten years and 15 years. Do this and the NOW will take care of itself.
The funny thing about banks is when you really need to borrow money they don't want to talk to you and when you no longer need them, they want you to borrow more than you can afford to pay back.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Chris and Mandy said...

Everything I can think to say just looks disingenuous when written down, but I'll try anyway. All we can say is good luck and hold strong; things tend to work themselves out favourably when good people are involved.

If Arkansas were closer I'd be happy to help on the weekends. Although my help might just add months on to your timeline, so it's probably for the best.

12:40 PM  
Anonymous wretched homeowner said...

I truly empathize with you. Our house needs much more work than we bargained for -- extensive water damage requires us to take every room down to the studs. In addition, our semi-detached row house is attached to a home whose inhabitants are directly descended from the Golden Horde (think 15 noisy, garbage-strewing people sharing a small rowhome). We've got an entrenched rat problem (from our neighbors)and more structural problems than our budget can absorb. We are on our second winter without central heat (detached the radiators to hang drywall). We bought in a transitional neighborhood at the market's peak; we're stuck with our casa de caca for some time.

We, like you, work constantly -- on the house, at our jobs -- just to make the place liveable and get out of debt. We, like you, will have to hold our noses and slog through this self-made swamp of doo-doo. Your blog is the most hilariously, hand-wringingly fatalistic of them all, and humor is the only palliative for my anxious mind. I relate more to your entries, at this point in our restoration, than to those of people whose original pocket doors or stained glass windows are turning out just as hoped for. I want to read about the human condition, dammit. As Buddha or CS Lewis or someone very wise once said, "life is suffering." Life in an old house, my friend, is suffering.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I take no pleasure in your plight, but it is encouraging to hear that there are others that must temper the dream of restoration with the reality of life. With the current arrangement, is there in fact hope that you will be able to satisfy the banks and finish the project adequately, or do you think you are prolonging a more inevitable end? All the best - waiting with bated breath for a positive outcome!

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never understood the complexities of the construction loan. City permits to occupy a home are also a mystery to me. Here, you can pretty much live in anything no matter what the condition. So long as it looks reasonable from the street, you just need running water and electricity. Everything else is optional.

How much must you do to satisfy the bank before you get a real mortgage? Does every room and the outside of the house need to be complete to satisfy them?

Greg - The Petch House

6:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...


I think there are some specialty loans that are run through the FHA--one being (I believe) a FHA 203(K) loan (it might be an FHA 203 b loan) that are designed for people in your (our) situation. They are run through regular mortgage companies--but like any of these loans you need to find someone within the company who knows what they are about...Something to look into anyway.

We are finally coming out of the phase where the house dictates our every move and control your life...I hope you join us on the otherside...

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Oh, that's shitty. Really. But hang in there. I just have this feeling that things are going to work out for you. You are resilient - I just know it. (And I am very new to this blog thing but I would be very sad if yours goes under. I read it diligently all the way from Marrakesh.)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Patricia W said...

And I thought I had a shitty day.

I just got a call tonight from my aunt in Texas; after finally getting rid of the last piece-of-poo realtor, I rented my house on November 1st and two weeks ago got my first rent check. I had $7600 worth of foundation work done to the house in May and she tells me tonight that on one side, where the two 'halves' of the brick come together on the garage side that they are now spread about 4.5" apart at the top. I'm completely broke and now, I'm a mental wreck. How am I supposed to sleep????????????

I really feel for you guys and the situation you're in. It makes my house splitting in half seem like not such a big deal (just kidding, I'm freakin' out). You will make it through this, one way or another and be glad you aren't going through it alone. That would seriously suck.

Oh yeah, and if anyone says that things like this happening to you only make you stronger, you have my permission to hit them. (just kidding).

8:44 PM  
Blogger John said...

First, thank you for all the comments, suggestions, and well-wishes.


Lenise, unfortunately, doubling the rent is not an option for our rental market. Thanks for the suggestion though.

Gary, see todays post for an answer of sorts.

Chris, I don't think there is anyway you could do a worse job than me. Have you considered buying a plane?

Wretched, Buddah said "life is suffering," though CS Lewsi might have had something to say on the topic too (been a while, can't remember), and wow. I think you definately have it worse than us. I can't imagine having neighbors like.

Michael, the current situation should work out, but it won't be any fun for us.

Greg, see the post I'm leaving for Gary as a partial answer to your question. And, I'll have an additional post to answer the rest in the next day or so.

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to take a look at those.

Wow. That is a mess. If you're broke it probably isn't much help, but anything you do to the house is now tax deductable since you have a renter.

8:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

Thank you for all the comments. I had a much bigger response that I was going to leave here, but blogger ate it. I'll try again in a little.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I've been off-blog and just now reading this. Sorry to hear of your troubles and that the house is taking over. I hope the scales tip back to balanced soon really.

5:38 PM  

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