Lucking out in Roland Park

DREAM HOME

Break: They couldn't afford the place they loved, a place made for them. But then fortune smiled.

October 28, 2001|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Everyone knew that the Roland Park home was perfect for Trip and Noel Burch.

Their real estate agent saw the place and immediately called the couple and said, "This place is, `You.' "

The two loved the house when they first saw it from the street. They loved it even more the minute they stepped inside the door.

Even the previous owners of the house wanted the Burches to buy the home. They called the couple's real estate agent to say that of all the prospective buyers, the Burches loved the home the most.

"It's an interesting story how we got here," Trip Burch said.

The couple began their house hunting three years ago. The Burches had been married two years and were living in a house in Homeland that he owned before they tied the knot.

The house was not the typical bachelor pad, he said. "Noel made it look really nice when she moved in," he said, but the place wasn't "theirs."

Working with their agent, an old high school friend of his, the couple started driving around Roland Park looking at homes, "mostly for fun," he said.

The couple knew they wanted to live in that neighborhood and that they also wanted an older home. The problem was there wasn't much on the market.

But as luck would have it, the parents of a woman who worked at their real estate agent's office were thinking of selling their Roland Park home.

The agent jumped at the chance to show the home to the Burches before it was listed. The home was out of the couple's price range by a lot, they say, but the agent insisted they see the place.

The owners of the home held a low-key open house, the couple said, and since the house was not yet officially on the market, only seven other families viewed the place. "The house was just what we wanted. It had such potential. We knew it the minute we saw it," he recalled.

Still, the Burches didn't hold out much hope, because the home - listed for $375,000 - was beyond their budget.

"You have to understand that this was the time of serious bidding wars in Roland Park," she said. "Homes were selling in a day, before they even went on the market, and for more money than what the owners were asking."

But there was something about the Burches that the owners liked.

While other prospective homebuyers were looking in closets and inspecting the woodwork, Noel Burch stopped to talk with the owners and look at some old photos of the home's 75-year-old azaleas.

"She was the only person to do that," her husband said. "They wanted someone to buy the house that was going to take care of the garden and take care of the house."

"They wanted someone who would love it like they did," his wife added.

Best of all, the owners were willing to negotiate on the price. "It took a little haggling," he said.

"Just a little," his wife emphasized, but the sellers were willing to come down on their $375,000 asking price.

The Burches paid more than $300,000 for the home, a fair price they say considering the age and condition of the house. .

The house was structurally solid but needed some cosmetic work and modern updates. The Burches also agreed to let the previous owners live in the house until they found a new place to live. Since the couple's house in Homeland sold fairly quickly, this meant they had to spend five months living in an apartment.

When they finally moved in, the couple got right to work.

The first thing they needed to do was take care of the outside of the place. Trees, bushes and ivy had taken over the yard. "You couldn't see the place from the street," he said.

A stone walkway was refurbished, and a crumbling stone wall was restored. There was so much stone lying around the yard that they had enough left over to construct a small patio on the side of the house.

The home's cedar shingles were refurbished and the slate roof repaired. Trip found the home's original shutters in the basement and had them repaired, painted and placed back on the house.

All of the inside walls were repainted.

"Then the plumber came and said that the plumbing was bad and he had to knock holes in the walls," she said. "Then the electrician came and said that the wiring was bad and he would have to put holes in the ceiling."

Then there was the plumbing system leaking nasty stuff inside the walls. That meant more holes in those beautiful, freshly painted walls.

It was soon evident that there was more work to do than the Burches had planned.

"We had no idea what we were getting into," she said. "It was like a sweater where you pull one thread and everything starts to unravel."

The work and constant presence of workmen day and night were overwhelming. The couple also planned to have children. And so it made sense for her to quit her job to stay home and act as the home-based site manager.

"I quickly learned what makes workmen happy," she said. "Cash. Always cash. Donuts, lunch, pizza, beer, whatever they want or need to get the job done."

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