BEND, OREGON – In many ways, the space in which we choose to reside often defines us. Yes, we decorate our humble abodes in ways which reflect our personal style and translate our personality through furnishings, art and color. But, in what one ultimately views as a literal money pit with the only solution being serious demolition, others are able to visualize the inner beauty of unlimited potential.
There’s a special something about the inherent charm of something man-made, which wears its age well, like a distinguished old soul with stories to tell. Whether it be an old school house, barn, fire house, or even an old silo or water tower, these unique structures have history, unique features, and spark the imagination. They may be fun to visit and tour, but they’re even more intriguing to live in.
Many people have renovated old, often abandoned structures into new lives as homes. Most projects retain as much history as possible, keeping the charm and old functional appeal of the structure intact. And often, the unusual designs of the structure lead to interesting living spaces, such as completely round silo homes, church houses with choir lofts, and barns with wide open spaces and original rafters.
The mere idea of living every day in an elementary school classroom or abandoned church may seem like a bizarre nightmare, but in some cases, it’s a dream come true. What once were candidates for demolition, these nip and tuck dwellings now boast extremely eclectic interiors, plenty of old school charm and modern interiors worthy of HGTV.
Best of all, these all but forgotten, dilapidated properties, in most cases, may be purchased at significant savings, far below market value, and once restored, with more than a few major upgrades, these uniquely charming homes will net historic profit. Not your average flip, one brave renovator noted, “My favorite part of owning a schoolhouse has been saving this beautiful old building and giving it new life, while at the same time preserving its rich history.”
Beautiful old buildings with highly detailed, well-preserved architectural elements, like stained-glass windows, custom period hardware and authentic light fixtures create truly unique experiences for those able to see past decades of neglect. Wide open layout concepts, vaulted ceilings, original hardwood flooring, tile and handcrafted moldings contribute to the exquisitely curated interior design, complimented by fully renovated kitchens and baths with all the modern necessities.
Compared to the soaring rent prices and cost of living in more popular cities, there has been a revival in the interest to renovate your very own piece of nostalgia, as a primary residence, investment property or even a business. A rare opportunity awaits, to transform truly historic properties into a visionary residence, where outside the box thinking is a prerequisite when it comes to unique real estate opportunities.
Such an opportunity exists in a popular Northeast Portland neighborhood, in the midst of a development revival. Adorned with historic homes, tree-lined streets, city parks and walkable local businesses, 337 NE 47th Avenue offers the best of urban living. While close to downtown, the diverse Rose Quarter area feels well-insulated from the bustle of the city. Though, there is a catch – the property offered for sale is formerly a fully functioning congregational church, listed by broker Tiffany Shleifer of Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty.
Teeming with good karma, this former church showcases original design elements such as stained-glass windows, custom lighting fixtures, oak banisters and woodwork, as well as vaulted ceilings. Structurally sound, with infinite possibilities, the floorplan boasts large open rooms, which may easily be sub-divided into specialized or living spaces. The building includes an expansive social hall with stage and a spacious kitchen just waiting for your personal touches.
323 NE 47th Avenue is a detached 4-bedroom, 1 bath home, with 1,619 finished square feet and unfinished basement. Built in 1928, the residence building provides additional living or storage flexibility, as well as great potential for rental income. Totaling over a half acre, the lot also includes a large paved area for parking.
Another rare property is 110 Commercial Street in Adams, Oregon, listed by Broker Heather Osgood. A charming 1918 brick schoolhouse on nearly 2 acres of beautiful lawn and gardens. Fully remodeled from top to bottom in 2002, including wiring, plumbing, windows and new septic. The home boasts 7 bedrooms and 5.5 baths with a finished daylight basement and two full kitchens. It also has a 5000 sq ft ‘gym’ with a raised stage, sports court, laundry and more. This property presents amazing opportunity for weddings, events or a B&B.
Tips for Converting a Historic or Other Unique Structure into a Home
– Don’t expect it to be cheap: Some structures are old, abandoned, and have little value, so they can be picked up for bargain prices. But others may have significant real estate values, especially if they’re located in a central part of town that gives the structure land value. This may be the case with old banks, school houses, churches, and other structures.
– Plan to spend time and money on renovations: Most people wouldn’t expect a 19th century school house that’s been sitting vacant for 50 years to be move in ready, but it’s still important not to underestimate the amount of work you may be looking at. Electrical and plumbing systems may need serious updates, walls, fixtures, and kitchen and bathroom equipment may need to be brought in, and older structures may have unusual surprises that pop up in the renovation process.
– Heating: With such high ceiling and with some building having outdated heating systems; an important consideration is; financially, how much will it cost to efficiently heat the building? If new ceilings are installed and rooms are created to optimize heat circulation, this is less of a problem. Rooms are often big enough to feature stunning log burners and fireplaces. Another option is to choose which rooms to heat. Another possibility is underfloor heating, which allows for greater residual warmth. If you are unable to make alterations on the building in terms of the construction of new floors, it is worth seeking advice as to what your options are and which would be the most beneficial.
– Research zoning: Many repurposed homes are former commercial or industrial buildings. You may need to petition to change the zoning on the structure before you’re able to use it as a residence.
– Accept that the building isn’t like regular homes: Converted structures often have unusual shapes, such as completely round silos or even missile bunkers. Traditional furniture may not work, and you may have to build your own or hire someone to create custom pieces for you.
– Preserve the building’s historic charm: Part of what makes converted buildings so appealing is their history. Be careful not to bulldoze right through replacing original fixtures, ceiling tiles, or wood flooring unless it just can’t be salvaged.