Play by Play: Buying Back the Family Home

Our Play by Play series gives you a glimpse into what real people experience when dealing with real estate. This week, we talked to Patty Kelly, who bought her grandmother's home after it was owned by someone else for 15 years. Do you have a real estate story to share? Email us!

When Patty Kelly's grandmother sold her Roslindale, Massachusetts home in 1994, Patty never expected she'd be the one to bring the home back to the family. 

But 15 years later, the couple ran into a family friend who mentioned the house was for sale, so they decided they'd just take a peek even though they weren't in the market.  

That peek quickly piqued their interest when her husband saw the Colonial's four bedrooms, walk-up attic, and big backyard (by city standards) that screamed potential for the young family. And for Patty, the memories and sentimentality were priceless. Not to mention they were expecting their first child and knew they'd need to upgrade from their tiny bungalow eventually. 

The pair had already planned a short trip to California and decided to have their Realtor put their house on the market and have an open house while they were away. Not only did it sell. It sold for cash after one open house. 

"I still remember getting the call in California," Patty said. "We somehow sold our house and managed to buy the one on the Parkway. It was like it was meant to be."

The house has seen a lot over the years. And thanks to the interim owner, Bea, they have a written history. When Bea was buying the house she was interested in the history of the house, so Patty's oldest aunt wrote a history of the house starting when it was built by Patty's great-grandfather in the early 1920s. Bea kept that history while she owned the home and eventually passed it, along with some old photos, on to Patty, who has learned a lot about her home. 

"I had no idea how many people were waked in front of my fireplace," Patty said. 

The interim owners didn't change much about the house. Patty's grandmother had treated the gumwood trim in the house with linseed oil, which had caused it to darken overtime. They had that stripped and restained, which was one of the things that really stood out to Patty when she first looked at the house. They also added a small back porch and changed some of the landscaping. 

Over the years the Kellys have made quite a few changes to modernize the property and make it work for their family. 

"My husband and I are busy bodies," Patty said. "We started on projects as soon as we got in the house. I was up on a ladder painting while I was nine months pregnant and he was re-running wires and siding the house."

They also gutted a three-season porch to get rid of the lead paint that was in it, demoed and moved the garage that had been falling down since Patty was 12, gutted the kitchens and baths, and are about to started opening up the kitchen into the dining area. 

The house has taken on a new shape, but they've tried to maintain the historical integrity--and a few pieces of childhood nostalgia for the family.

"Every Easter my Grandmother would set up her "Easter Table" in the dining room, which included a ridiculous amount of candy hiding on a table filled with mounds of the fake plastic Easter grass. There were baskets filled with more candy, including your own giant chocolate bunny, for every grandchild - there were over 30 grandchildren! We would eat as much candy as we could, hiding in the attic so the adults wouldn't stop us. The attic was sponge painted silver and mint green some time in the 60's by my aunts - it has remained untouched thus far so it looks just how we all remembered it."

Thinking of buying your grandparents' home? Read more →

7 Things to Remember Before Buying Your Childhood Home

5 Questions to Ask Before Renovating Your Historic Home