08 Jul If the walls could talk by Cincinnati Real Estate Agent
As a second year real estate professional, with a (self diagnosed) case of wanderlust, I have to say I love my job. I’ve always had a fascination with houses; even from a young age. This could have been brought on by the fact that a few of my family members rehabbed homes. Every once in a while I got to see the before and after product. I always thought to myself that I wanted to do that when I grew up. In fact, I’d still like to do that when I grow up. To bring a home back to all of its glory with a little bit, okay a lot, of hard work is something magical.
On a weekly basis I get to walk through the doors of some beautiful and not so beautiful homes. Each interior revealing much about the life that it has lived. Some tell stories of love and care, you can imagine the memories the home has seen made. Others tell stories of neglect and abandonment. It is very rare that you get the opportunity to hear any of the actual stories that the home as been a part of. It’s mostly left up to what you can deduct from the appearance of the home. Sure, we do inspections and we can tell the age of the mechanics but it rarely goes further than that. So imagine the surprise of one of TREO’s employees, Sara Benagh, when she and her fiance got a knock on the door of their home from a woman named Pauline Zink, who had lived in the home back in the 1940s.
Sara Benagh, and her fiancé Matt recently purchased an old farmhouse that was a foreclosure with intentions to renovate. Old farm houses are one of my favorite things on this earth. So I was really excited (and extremely jealous, lets be honest) to look at pictures and see updates as the renovations were taking place. In every renovation project there are surprises, but the previous owner reaching out to them was definitely of the unexpected sort. I wanted to relive the experience through Sara so I did the only thing I could think of to learn more, I pestered her with a million questions. Here is a little bit of what I learned.
Was the first meeting awkward?
Sara: We first ‘learned’ about Pauline before we met her in person. My fiance’ had been up at the house working on renovations and a woman who happened to go to church with Pauline walked inside unannounced looking for the owner. She said Pauline was 91 years young and lived in the independent retirement community right down the road. She saw that the For Sale sign disappeared and wanted to meet the new owner. We brokered a time to meet Pauline for a brief visit.
What were some of the most interesting things that she told you?
Sara: One of the most interesting things was that the original home was built in the 1800’s but was torn down and rebuilt by a member of the Crosley family in the 1940’s (yes, as in “Crosley Field,” former home of the Reds). We always assumed that the house was the original home but it turns out that the only part that was “original” to the home was the kitchen. Another thing we thought was pretty interesting was that she got married right in front of the fireplace when she was 19 years old. She actually brought her wedding photo with her so I had her stand in front of the fireplace. She definitely enjoyed having someone take her picture! After her husband passed away, she made the home a bed and breakfast just to keep her busy. She housed a lot of Miami University parents that came to visit their children while they were in school or graduating. She said she never had anyone famous stay there though!
I know you already loved the house before all of this new information presented itself, but how did your new knowledge of the home’s history affect your view of the home?
Sara: It makes me appreciate the home a lot more knowing who lived there and the memories she’s made there. I am grateful she has shared so much so that we can pass along all of the stories to others. You can typically tell when a home was loved and cherished by its previous owners. But, you don’t normally get to meet those people and learn of the reason why they loved and cherished it or hear any of the memories made there. You have first hand knowledge of this now, do you feel you’ll treat the home any different or cherish it any more? Sara: Absolutely. Ever since we went under contract, I always had the intentions of keeping the character true to the house with the exception of renovating the bathrooms and some minor cosmetic touch ups. I was honestly was a bit worried about her coming up because I didn’t want to offend her with any of the renovations we’d already made. She didn’t seem very upset other than the fact that we replaced the slate roof that was beyond repair and took down the wall paper (she has the same wallpaper in her entry at her condo with a matching chair).
Just curious, do you think if you had this knowledge prior to the purchase that it would have changed your negotiating process at all? Do you think the home would have had more value in your eyes?
Sara: I think so! Besides the fact that we’ve put quite a bit of money in renovations, Pauline mentioned that she had gone to find some of the documents for the home. So I’d like to make it a point to do the same so if we chose to sell later on down the road so that future buyer’s could appreciate the history.
Think you will ever see Pauline again?
Sara: We have become friends with Pauline since we’ve recently met her. We actually stopped by the day after to plant some of the flowers she had planted years ago at the house. We’ve visited a couple of more times since then to take her out to dinner and I must say her stories of her life at the house and her travels abroad always seem to get better. This is just one example of the rich history behind every home in Cincinnati. It’s easy to get caught up in paint colors or granite countertops, and completely forget that a house is more than wood and concrete. A home can hold the heart of a person or family who has grown old inside of its walls.
Real Estate websites like Zillow are growing at an incredible pace linking new information to properties every day. Perhaps one day they will figure out how to tie family history to these homes as well, so stories like that of Pauline are remembered forever.