House Lust: A Gorgeous DIY Renovation in North Kingstown

The recovering fixer-upper is back on the market and looking better than ever -- and without losing a drop of its charm.

Last year, in an installment of Rhode Island Monthly‘s “Save This Old House,” I waxed on about an 1800s farmhouse on Tower Hill Road in North Kingstown’s Allenton neighborhood. The house needed updating but was priced accordingly and had plenty of the good stuff, too. Mechanicals come and go, but clapboard, pretty front porches and heart-of-pine flooring last a lifetime — or two; this house is estimated to be 170 years old.

Since then, the property went under contract twice, but nothing stuck. So the homeowners — a couple with school-age kids — decided to take the place off the market and get ahead of the work themselves. The roof, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the flooring, the intimidating plaster repairs: They tackled it all. They were saving this old house themselves. Then, the coronavirus struck Rhode Island.

“There is still finish work to be done,” says real estate agent Karen Wilder of Mott and Chace Sotheby’s, who admittedly has a soft spot for the place. “The property desperately needs landscaping, the outbuilding has a new roof but remains in need of siding, and the house itself could probably use a fresh coat of exterior paint in the next couple of years. These were all things my sellers had hoped to do, but COVID-19 changed their daily life drastically.”

According to Wilder, the husband — who bought the house as a bachelor and has been chipping away at it for nearly a decade — is a front-line worker in the medical field. His wife has taken on the difficult task of homeschooling their three children.

“They just don’t have the time to do things they planned to do themselves, and we’ve not been able to get contractors to fill the gap,” says Wilder. “In any event, what we need is a buyer who loves antique homes, is grateful that all the ‘big’ stuff has been upgraded, and is excited about adding their own personal finishing touches.”

The home was listed on March 18, ten days before Governor Gina Raimondo announced the state’s stay-at-home order. Wilder says she’s seen a steady stream of inquiries and hosted some showings. No serious offers, though.

“I know all too well that many buyers today want a professionally staged home that looks like the ‘after’ reveal on an HGTV show,” she says. “If need be, my sellers will keep chipping away at tasks until we reach that point, and then we’ll adjust the price accordingly. But I feel there has to be a serious buyer out there who sees the value in a solid home that just needs a little cosmetic elbow grease.”

The new price is well below comparable properties on the market, a reflection of the work to be done and the sellers’ overall motivation. Wilder adds, “This old house would be grateful for the love.”

Here’s your before/after House Lust: