No 3 St Peter’s Avenue Phibsborough, Dublin 7 Asking Price: €595,000 Broker: Kelly Bradshaw Dalton (01) 804 0500
Couple buys old house. Couple moves into old house. Now this old house is beginning to gradually reveal its serious flaws. One after the other, after the other, after the other…until the money is gone.
This is the plot of The money pitthe iconic 1986 homebuyer disaster comedy starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as the unhappy couple who land a house that begins to fall apart as soon as they buy it, eating up all their money.
But it’s not so fun when you find yourself starring in your own version of this story, as Michael Fichtner and his partner discovered when they stamped their own early Victorian house on 3 St in 2004.
“We noticed right away on the first night that it rained that something was wrong. We woke up to find water running down the bedroom wall.” With their funds severely limited, the couple had pushed out the boat to purchase, with plans to refurbish it piece by piece. not how The money pit Owners, they had nothing left after the purchase.
But every time they got involved in restoring a part, they uncovered deeper and more serious problems.
“I think we were naive,” says Michael. “We ran an investigation, but these guys can’t dig in the walls or the attic to figure out what’s really wrong. We were told by the vendors that the roof was recently done. Not long after that we were sitting in the living room looking up at the sky through a hole in the ceiling above and another in the roof above in the floor. We could see through two floors.” It wasn’t just the roof that was a problem.
When the couple sanded and varnished the wooden floors, they found that they were completely rotten. “Everyone,” says Michael.
“We literally didn’t have a dime. The parents took pity on us when it rained and kindly wrote us a check to get the roof done.” But it was going to get worse again. “We had to have the sliding windows repaired. My dad knew this guy who was good enough to offer us his help. It turned out he was well into his eighties. He looked at the frames and said, ‘You can throw them in a container, they’re ready.’ He had this wonderful amount of seasoned pine that he had been storing for 30 years and offered to make us a new set.”
But due to his age, her rural window builder Samaritan needed a lot of time. “We had to live in the house without windows for 18 months. We couldn’t ask him to hurry because he did it for free. At that point, as we sat in the living room with sheets of plywood on the front windows, I really thought, “What have we done?!”
It was a difficult time for the couple, who had some arguments over it, but they stuck with it and eventually things took shape.
Your window builder kept his word and the beautiful new sliding windows were delivered and installed. Little by little they began to tackle the other issues. “We had to gut the interior walls. They had this old horse hair trim. There was literally nothing original that we could leave behind.”
With a new roof, new windows, new floors (broad boards salvaged from the period) and new interior walls, the apartment has been re-wired, re-laid and insulated. And next to the newly bought house, the area also began to revive.
“The records of the house indicate that it was built in 1837 and we believe they were semi-detached houses for railroad workers.” The house overlooked the site of Phibsborough’s old railway station when they bought the property, along with the abandoned Broadstone line.
But in the intervening years, the Luas has expanded and is now literally on their doorstep. St. Peter’s row of houses is reached via a raised ramp that runs down a planted, cobbled lane outside its door. Meanwhile, DIT began developing its new centralized college campus at nearby Grangegorman.
Alongside the new sash windows, they installed working shutters that double as blinds and winter insulators, as originally intended when they were first installed in these homes the year Queen Victoria ascended the throne.
“Most of the houses seemed to have a stairway to the attic, which must have been removed at some point on ours. So we restored ours and turned the top floor into a home office. I’m a graphic designer and it’s essentially my home studio. The internal appearance of the house has been organically achieved over the years. We didn’t really go out to buy stuff, we picked up stuff we liked along the way as we came across it.”
They installed new bathrooms and a modern kitchen. A nice touch is a backlit array of vintage top hats and assorted headpieces hanging from glass stems above the kitchen units.
“They’re actually sitting on martini glasses. We have a tradition that if we have a few people back for drinks and the music is on, everyone who’s dancing has to wear a hat.”
Another inspired choice is a giant seawater aquarium built into the main bathroom wall, from which the fish have been relocated according to relocation plans.
“We had lovely clownfish there and our fish are temporarily staying in the Temple Street Hospital tank pending sorting.”
Once the house had developed into a finished state, they could enjoy its location. “It was just perfect for working and socializing. You can walk into town and all the great restaurants, bars and clubs are within easy reach.” But now that the couple has come of age, living in the city center is no longer so appealing to them. “We are looking around the country for a quieter life. So now we’re selling. I’m guessing the new owners will likely be another couple in their 30s like we were when we first bought it.”
And so the house was put on the market via Kelly Bradshaw Dalton, who is asking €595,000.
From the cobbled avenue, walk up a short step into the hall with its hardwood floor and skylight with teardrop detail above the door. The living room has underfloor heating, an ornate fireplace, quality sash windows with shutters, wall paneling and high ceilings.
The custom-designed, hand-crafted modern kitchen features dark units set against an orange wall, exposed limestone and brick wall, and a coffee station.
There is a family room with 9 inch solid floorboards with a skylight, also with underfloor heating and access to the garden.
Upstairs, the master bedroom and second bedroom both have sash windows and under floor heating.
The bathroom has a stone tile floor and a rainwater shower, as well as some hidden storage spaces.
Upstairs is the attic room with enough space for a double bed, a work station and lots of shelves. The house overlooks the Luas Green Line station although it is a 20 minute walk to O’Connell Street and also within walking distance to Phoenix Park, Mater Hospital, DIT and Grangegorman.
So it worked out for Fichtner and his partner in the end. You were lucky.
The Makowsky family who bought the Real cost trap House from the film in Lattingtown, Long Island in 2002 for $2.12 million later reported, “We didn’t realize how bad it was.”
It cost them $6 million to fix everything and they ended up selling it for just $3.5 million three years ago.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/we-could-see-the-sky-through-a-hole-in-the-roof-from-downstairs-how-one-couple-fixed-up-victorian-home-42010570.html Phibsborough, Dublin property: ‘We could see the sky through a hole in the roof – from below’ – how a couple restored this stunning Victorian home