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'How I Bought My 120-Year-Old House From Facebook Marketplace'

It's a known fact that today's soaring house prices have made the dream of ever owning property unattainable for many. With home ownership off of the cards, the majority of us are left renting, living with parents or relocating outside of cities. But there might just be another solution: purchasing a home off of Facebook marketplace.

It's exactly what Claire Zinnecker managed to do. The Austin, Texas-based interior designer had a dream of moving away from the bustling life of New York City and owning a home located on a large area of land where her nieces and nephews (and future children) could enjoy the outdoors. At the end of 2019, she ended up putting all her money into purchasing an empty plot in Georgetown, Texas, and planned to save up for the actual home.

But six months later she received news from her Aunt about a house located in Austin she had seen listed on Facebook Marketplace for just USD$15,000 (AUD$20,400). Zinnecker went to inspect the 1899 Folk Victorian home built by Swedish immigrants Gus and Ida Anderson, and as soon as she stepped foot inside, she knew she needed it.

Since purchasing the home, which she's named Ida (and has dedicated an Instagram page to it, @savingidahouse), Zinnecker has had to relocate it from Austin to her land in Georgetown and somehow renovate the piece of history into a place she can one day call home.

Here, Bed Threads Journal sat down with the talented interior designer to find out how she managed to find (and buy) a house through an online marketplace, the process of relocating and renovating it, and her best advice on purchasing anything through Facebook marketplace.

Hi Claire! What inspired you to purchase your home, Ida?

When I saw the Facebook marketplace listing for her I was definitely intrigued but it wasn't until I walked inside for the first time that I knew she was mine. She was in disrepair, dirty and had laminate floors, dropped ceilings and badly sheet rocked walls, but I could see glimpses underneath and realised she still had her original bones. She was just waiting for me to save her.

How much did you purchase it for?

I purchased her for $15k, so she was definitely worth the price. The most expensive part of her was the moving process, which set me back $34k, and the concrete piers for the foundation ($45k). I'm located in a flood plain so the piers had to be tall and ended up being very costly. But in my opinion, it was all worth it!

Can you take us through the process of relocating the home?

The seller recommended Junior, a local house mover. I spoke with a few friends who had relocated homes before and all of them said this company was the best so I knew I was in good hands.

The moving process itself was short and simple. We moved her most of the way overnight and had to have a police escort to help close down the busy downtown street. They parked her under a bridge and then moved her the rest of the way in the moving. I decided her exact angle and placement and they put her back together!

The disassembling process was actually the longest part of the job. It took over a week just to delicately take her apart: removing the roof, rafters and cutting her in half. Then, they had to place steel beams underneath to support her during the journey. It was all very nerve-racking.

What has been the biggest challenge of the process so far?

All of it comes with the challenge of learning and understanding an old house. A lot of contractors aren’t used to preserving the old so explaining to them what I want has been difficult.

What has been the most memorable part of the process so far?

Oh gosh, so many great things! I think discovering the old newspapers dating as far back as 1920 preserved underneath the laminate was pretty incredible.

Do you have any special decor pieces you’re looking to add?

There are places in the house I knew I wanted certain pieces and had to hunt for a while to find them (for example, a kitchen island and wardrobe). I'm still on a hunt for our bed — finding a vintage or vintage style bed in a King size is not easy.

When do you think you’ll finish the project?

This is truly the age-old question! I think it will never be fully finished because an old house is a constant project but we are hoping it's “finished” by end of this year.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to purchase through online marketplaces?

If you like something, you have to be quick to contact the seller. Especially since Covid, I think good items are selling quicker. In saying this, don’t rush to buy; make sure to look at it in person first. If it isn’t exactly right then pass on it because there will be other opportunities.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when purchasing homewares (or homes!) through an online marketplace?

Buying the first thing you find! There will always be more of whatever you are looking for so make sure it’s the perfect one before you spend your money, especially since you can’t return on Facebook marketplace (trust me, I’ve made some purchases I’ve regretted!). But sometimes you see something and you just know it's what you've been looking for. If that happens, don’t wait because things sell fast.

What are your top tips for a well-styled home?

Edit, edit, edit! A collected room doesn’t mean a cluttered room. Pick pieces that mean something, pieces that you love. If something isn’t speaking to you, sell it or give it away. Your home should reflect you and no one else.

Lead image: Photography by Madeline Harper.

For more from Claire, follow her on Instagram @clairezinnecker and @savingidahouse.

Liked this? Here's how one couple are building a house with $0. Yes, really.

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