Veteran homebuilder Matthew Forrest has been constructing new houses for investors for nearly a decade but recently decided to try his hand at buying a two-story fixer-upper in Polish Town.
Months into the job, he’s torn the interior walls apart, rooted out an unpleasant surprise and is still several weeks away from completion. The 30-year-old Hampton Bays native agreed to share his thoughts on the process with others looking to fix up an old house, whether they plan to flip it or live in it.
Q: How did you find this house on Marcy Avenue?
A: My real estate agent originally [showed it to me]. I saw the potential. I kind of knew in the long run it would be worth it to me. The good thing about it was that it fit my budget [$135,000]. The house is a decent layout. You get a husband and wife with a couple of children and they can make this a cozy home. And it’s in a nice neighborhood. The staircase in the middle of the house — it is what it is. It’s strange but you work with it.
Q: You knew this house needed work when you purchased it last December. Have you encountered any unsavory surprises?
A: These floors were just stained with [dog] urine marks. It was so bad that right here, in the ceiling, there was like a watermark in the sheetrock. It wasn’t water. So when that happened it leaked down and came inside this wall and when I took the sheetrock off it was stained, with streaks coming down the side of it. I had no idea when I bought the house. The urine was under the sills of the walls. There was no getting it without going to the root.
Q: None of the reports you got about the house showed the problem?
A: You can prepare to an extent, but there’s an extent to which you really can’t prepare. With the engineer’s report, we were unable to see that there was a urine infestation.
Q: That sounds like a pretty big hassle.
A: [It’s] one of the risks you assume, but you also have to keep your eyes on the long term and the opportunities that owning a house gives you as to borrowing power, building equity, rental income. You need to be able to see the big picture and not just the front line but the back line. That’s really where I’m keeping my focus.
Q: What are some things homebuyers should be looking out for if they’re searching for a good fixer-upper?
A: For me the biggest thing has definitely been the neighborhood. The two factors that came into play were the neighborhood and the layout of the house … That’s a really special factor for me, having a neighborhood that’s homey.
Q: Fixing up a house is a big undertaking. Would you recommend this as something people should look into?
A: I would suggest anybody, especially now, especially younger people, get into owning their first home at a young age. Just go out and make offers. I have a couple of friends, investors that we build for, they’re just always making offers. They consistently have five offers on the table … Start the process. Speak to a mortgage broker, speak to a bank and see what you’re going to need. You’re not paying the rent, you’re not paying someone else’s mortgage, you’re paying your mortgage. And especially now with the [mortgage] rates, it’s crazy.