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Older Buffalo homes can be diamonds in the rough

Buffalo’s neighborhoods are being rebuilt , one house at a time.

J-M Reed, a Realtor and architect, and wife Claire Schneider, former associate curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, acquired a classic turn-of-the-century Victorian at 151 Baynes Ave. in November 2013. They spent six months resolving legal issues on the two-story property, beginning work in June 2014 after acquiring it for about $100,000 in liens.

The couple had rehabbed four other houses, including another on Baynes now occupied by BreadHive bakery. But this Baynes Street property – “the real problem house on the street,” Reed said – posed the greatest challenge.

The house was in a shambles.

“It was certainly uninhabitable,” Reed said. “The furnace didn’t work, the plumbing haphazardly worked – it was rigged together with essentially garden hoses, because the plumbing had been stripped out – and there was recent electric work, but everything started sparking. I thought the house was going to burn down.”

It took 10 dumpsters to cart away the household trash, including the dropped first-floor ceiling and layers of carpeting and linoleum.

“Once we started pulling off the layers of stuff put up in the last 30 or 40 years, we were able to uncover the house,” Reed said. “We found the hardwood floors that could be restored and the stairwell that had been partially covered,” Reed said.

Among the finds: A brick triangle in the middle of the house wall covered up by drywall.

The finishing work took eight months, and the final details for the 2,000-square-foot house are nearing completion.

The three-bedroom house, with 2½ baths, received four offers after being recently listed for $299,000.

The biggest challenge, Reed said, wasn’t the physical work, but the financial risk of taking on debt exceeding the property’s value. It was a risk the couple are now quite glad to have assumed.

Len Sciolino, a local broker, bought a vacant wood-framed Victorian house at 131 Summit Ave. in 2015 with his brother, Kevin.

The house, which they paid $115,000 for, was in terrible condition.

“Quite honestly, it was falling down, as was the carriage house,” Sciolino said. “The roof was wide open, and the second-floor master bedroom had a six-foot maple tree growing out of the floor.

But the structure – which was built as a single in the 1880s, and converted into a double in the 1950s – also had a desirable location: It faces the Martin House Complex.

The brothers, who had done three other home rehabs, set about returning the house to a single, doing some of the work themselves and hiring contractors for the bigger jobs, including a new roof, new electrical, new plumbing and drywall.

A sprinkler system was installed, and the carriage house rebuilt.

In the end, $250,000 was spent to bring the house back, with only a final painting and the last of the millwork left to be done.

The house, with three second-floor bedrooms, 2½ baths and a grand third floor with vaulted ceilings, is going on the market for $474,000.

“It’s literally a new old house,” he said, “with the original charm and character.”


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