The Journey of the Ice House:
The Ice House, named by the good folks at Fort Worth Magazine, was a 5 year journey for Melissa and I. I have worked on 25 houses in my short career as a home renovator, but the Ice House was my biggest challenge. It was my "Moby Dick" so to speak. It has and always will be my dream home, but it took me 3 years to figure out a way to buy it and then when I finally did it was a BEAST of a project.
The house is 4,240 sq ft with 6 bed rooms, 3 bath rooms, & a huge unfinished basement. Yep, that's right it has a basement! I didn't even know they had basements in Texas. It was built in September of 1920 for $22,000 by Joe Schwartz and it is located in the historic district of Fort Worth. The neighborhood is up the road from BREWED and is Fort Worth's own mini version of Austin. I am not gonna lie, our neighborhood is fun and unique. We have hipsters, a community garden, people have chickens in their backyard, everyone rides bikes, and folks are way into recycling and protecting feral cats. It is the "funky" side of Fort Worth.
I did some research and was able to track down the original deed card. Pretty cool right??
To make a long story short the house sat empty and abandoned for almost 6 years. The previous owners ran into some financial troubles and had 4 different liens against the house that added up to WAY more than the house was worth. As a result, they were unable to sell it. At the same time due to the type of liens that were on it and because of how many there were, the banks were unable to foreclose on the property. So the owners just abandoned the house and left it to rot. It had leaks in the roof, so every time it rained it would cause damage to the sheetrock and floors. To make it worse, all of the windows were busted out, so homeless people and raccoons used it as a temporary home. It sat in "house purgatory" for 6 years. Progressively it got worse and worse and it fell victim to vandalism and the elements.
Melissa and I lived right down the street and would often take walks down to this house. One time we snuck in through the broken back door and walked around it, dreaming about what it would be like to one day live in it and bring it back to life. The house was across the street from Jimmy & Waverlee (our best friends), it went to a great school, was close to BREWED, and had a big office downstair that Melissa could use for the Net. This was our dream home!
It wasn't on the market and no one lived in it, so in 2012 I did some digging and I was able to get a hold of the previous owner who verbally agreed to sign over the notes to the house (a short sale). We got really excited thinking we would get to buy our dream home, but things got complicated and the owner eventually disappeared and stopped answering my phone calls and emails. Two years went by and Mel and I would still go on walks by the house, dream & pray about the house and I would try to call the owner once every few months. I also started calling the bank that held the main loan against the house, to see if and when they would eventually foreclose on it or could sell it to me. But each time it was always a dead end.
In 2013, I got wind that the house might finally be going up for auction. When a house is foreclosed in Tarrant County they will auction it off in front of the Court House steps in downtown Fort Worth on the first Tuesday of the month. It was scheduled for auction 7 times. Each time I went hoping it would be sold, but because of the crazy liens it was pulled from auction every time and I would have to wait 3-4 months for the next time it was "scheduled" for auction. We prayed about the house a ton and would often ride by it. We would get super excited thinking we would have a chance to buy it, because every few months it would be scheduled for auction again. I would always go down there, and each time it was pulled from auction last minute. It was an emotional roller coaster.
Fast forward to June 2014, while on vacation in Mexico with our friends Jimmy & Waverlee (our friends who live across the street from the Ice House), I decided to list our current house (that I just finished remodeling) on Zillow to see if anyone would bite (not thinking it would really sell). Well, while in Mexico without anyone even seeing it beyond the pictures online, we got 2 offers for what I was asking. Melissa was not happy with me that I listed our house and did not want to move. But when we landed back in the states I got a notification on my phone that the 6th ave house was once again scheduled for Auction. I thought maybe it was a sign! We went down to the auction the next week and this time the house was actually on the schedule. Not a single person bid on the house (because it was in such rough shape), so I bid "$1 more" than their asking price .....and Won! I couldn't believe it, we just purchased OUR house......and it was a mess!
For almost 3 years I had been trying to buy the house and we finally got it. Now that it was ours, it meant I also had to remodel a 4200 sq ft house that had been rotting for 6 years. This thing was a mess! It was filled with trash, had all sort of damage, the front porch was rotted and collapsing, it needed foundation work, it was infested with fleas, and needed a complete makeover! I immediately got busy and it took me and my guys 5 months of insanely hard work to get it in livable shape. But it was worth every bit of blood sweat and tears!
I rebuilt the entire balcony, salvaged the 100 year old pine floors, re-floated every wall in the entire house with a smooth hand sanded finish, dug 12 feet under the foundation to add new piers, new cabinets, new tile, new marble counters, made an island countertop out of 1950's boxcar flooring, updated the HVAC, replaced a ton of plumbing (it flooded my basement every day for a week when we finally turned on the water), all new fixtures (except for the original chandelier in the dining room), new landscaping and grass, and lots and lots of paint, caulk, and sanding! We have officially been in the house for almost 2 years now and we have loved every minute. I still have a To Do list a mile long of things I want to eventually do with the house (I am already planning my next kitchen renovation & basement conversion), but it's our dream home and we plan on staying here for years to come.