To some people, homes that are a century old are just that – old, broken down and in need of repair. Many homebuyers skip these places and, instead, opt for a move-in ready modern home, which looks just like their neighbor’s.
Candis and Andy Meredith, authors of “Old Home Love” (Gibbs Smith, 2017), think differently. The husband-and-wife construction team from Utah has a passion for buying, remodeling and selling homes that date back to the 1800s and they work hard at educating homebuyers about the importance of these old homes.
“There’s a huge misconception that these old houses are poorly made or falling apart,” Candis says. “In reality, these old houses are made from old growth timbers and from wood that we can’t even produce and harvest anymore. They really were built better. It’s so important that we save what we can because not only does it take fewer resources to restore versus build new, but also we just can’t make them anymore. That legacy matters and the building materials matter.”
Candis’ love for old homes began when she was a little girl. “When I was two, my Grandpa built me a cute little old playhouse and I remember watching him build it and loved that we could create that,” she says. “When I was 11, my grandma sold her historic home and I told her I was going to buy it back one day.”
At 21, Candis knocked on the door of her grandma’s former home and asked the current owners if she could buy it.
With a background in aerospace engineering, Candis hadn’t remodeled a home before, but she was eager to learn. “It was definitely an ‘If somebody can do it, I can do it, too!’ type of mentality,” she said. “I just remember thinking that I would ask the guys at the flooring store how to put the flooring down and they’ll tell me, and just learn as I go. You just kind of figure out how to solve that problem. Most things in homes are fairly straightforward.”
When Candis and Andy married, they each had three boys under the age of 10. Four years later, Andy quit his tech job to help Candis in the business of buying, remodeling and selling homes from the 1800s.
“I was working my sales job at the time,” Andy says. “The first year we were married she bought seven houses. She’d work all day, I’d come home and then we’d play with the kids, and then she’d go work at night and I’d go work at night. It was really kind of stressful trying to fit a full-time housing job in on the side.”
One day, the couple decided it was time for Andy to come on board so that Candis could turn over the houses faster. “I got him a gold watch and said, ‘You’re retired. It’s time to work for me,’” Candis says with a laugh.
Today, Andy and Candis live in an adobe-brick home, built in 1859. “Five years ago this was the worst house in the neighborhood because it had been run down and neglected,” Andy says. “We did new windows, new plumbing, new electrical – all the core systems of the house. What you’re left with is these amazing historic bones and structure with all new practical systems. You’re also left with this amazing house that’s now the nicest one in the neighborhood.”
The love between these two is palpable and Andy is a supportive husband who helps with whatever Candis needs for the business. “Candis has the capacity to do all of it, but we’re so busy now that I’m helping her with more creative projects,” he says. “Honestly, I have no pretenses or airs about my position. I’m just here to help with whatever she needs. I have no problem saying that.”
Their goal is to find a homebuyer who realizes what they are getting for their money. “We want them to think, ‘I could build this starter home that’s just like the 30 homes on the street, or for the same price I can get this 120-year-old house that has all new systems and all this character,’” says Candis, who says they will never, ever rip out historic baseboards, moldings or doors.
Their love of old homes extends to the property that the home is on as well, including the century-old trees that you can often find on them. “Some homebuyers don’t want the trees on the property,” Candis says. “If you can’t take two hours every season and clean up some leaves and a tree, you don’t deserve that house. You don’t deserve that tree. Give it to someone who deserves it. Trees help [lower] our gas bill; they help our heating and cooling around our houses. They really, really are important, especially when they are old.”
Their book, “Old Home Love” is an ode to why they believe old houses are beautiful. “We think that they’re totally adaptable to almost any type of family situation,” Andy says. “We joke about having a grandma style, but I love that I have the same taste as my grandma.”
The couple has since added a baby girl to the family and they work really hard at making their family life and their business life successful. “We work really, really hard when the kids are at school,” Candis says. “We pick them up from school and that’s when work stops until they go to bed. Then the laptops come out and we do all the planning for the next day.”
You can see Andy and Candis in several episodes of their show, Old Home Love, which appeared on HGTV. You can also visit their website at oldhomelove.com.