For a lot of people living in a historic home is a dream come true. Brian and Lila Moeller recently moved here from Maryland, they found their dream home in downtown Wilmington. But the house they bought is not exactly what they thought they were getting. It's a 111-year-old home on North Sixth Street, built by Horrace Bagg, who served as chair of the New Hanover County Commissioners about a century ago. After a major renovation last year contractors Tim O'Callaghan and Tom O'Conner won a preservation award for their amazing facelift of the Bagg house. That was one of the factors that helped convince Brian and Lila Moeller this was the home for them. Brian Moeller said, "My wife fell in love with it. It was basically a 15 minute decision, it had this parlor that she liked, and it had a carriage stone." But the home's new owner says in this case, the beauty is only skin deep. Among the home's many structural problems Mr. Moeller sites a leaking roof, extensive termite damage to the framing of the house and entire portions of the home with absolutely no insulation. The Moellers paid almost $600,000 for the house, only to learn it needed thousands more on much needed repairs. "It's been traumatic," Mr. Moeller said, "to be perfectly honest with you. It's had an extremely negative effect on both my physical and mental health." Real estate broker and historic home specialist Doug Ramsey says maintenance costs are often to be expected for folks buying homes in the historic district. He says when it comes to charm, there's no comparison to a historic home. But with many homes in downtown Wilmington at least 100 years old, they've been through a lot over the years, and sometimes, the repairs prior owners have made leave a lot to be desired. Ramsey said, "These old houses, they don't lend themselves to doing it the right way, so often shortcuts are taken." Ramsey recommends having a licensed home inspector go through the home before you purchase it so you know exactly what you're getting into. In Mr. Moeller's case he did just that. But by the time he got the report back, which uncovered many of the problems, he says the moving trucks were already packed and they were ready to move in. Experts say be willing to pull the plug on the home sale if your inspection doesn't align with your dream. Some homes in the historic district have been completely gutted, with new plumbing, roofing, heating and air. But making these improvements in addition to cosmetic upgrades can be cost prohibitive. So buyers beware. In some cases, like this one, contractors just focus on a facelift, rather than a complete structural renovation.
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