House Hunting in New Jersey: The House That Wasn't a House
house hunting

House Hunting in New Jersey: The House That Wasn’t a House

Are you having fun following along with our house hunting in New Jersey adventure?

Last week I shared the first house we made an offer on. I nicknamed it the sad house. Now, before the sad house was the house that wasn’t a house.

Oh. My. Goodness.

We fell HARD for this house that wasn’t a house. Hook, line and sinker.

So if it wasn’t a house in the traditional sense, what was it?

In a previous life this house was a diner and a gas station.

Is there a better combination than a place where you can get dinner and fill your car up with gas?

Yes, actually. I can think of 100 better combinations, but for whatever reason, that’s what this building had been and we were smitten.

It was located in a picturesque, rural area that reminded us of our childhood in Oregon. Imagine the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type of location.

The owners had remodeled the entire building and turned it into a gorgeous 4-bedroom home. It had wood floors, high ceilings, awesome architectural details. It even smelled good.

It was located on approximately an acre and a river ran through the back of the property. About a 1/4-mile away from the property was a trail that was built along an old railroad grade. The proximity to that trailhead was a big selling point for our running and biking needs.

House Hunting in New Jersey: The House That Wasn't a House

I’ve always wanted to remodel an old church or industrial building and turn it into a home. In this case, all the hard work had been done! It was perfect.

There was just one itty bitty problem.

Actually, it was a huge problem.

Since the property was the site of a former gas station, the owners had to pull the old gas tanks out of the ground and remediate the soil. If the soil test doesn’t pass environmental standards then they have to dig out more dirt and replace it until the soil test is clear.

The well on the property tested fine, but the soil where the tanks had been had not tested fine. The concern is that any gas or oil that leaked from the tanks can leech into the soil and potentially contaminate the ground water. Until all that soil remediation is complete, there’s no way a lender would loan on the property. I’m not even sure why they had it listed for sale other than they were hopeful the next test would come back clear.

The remediation would eventually be successful. There’s just no timeline for that process. And really, you want this to be done right not just for whomever lives there, but for the surrounding area too.

House Hunting in New Jersey: The House That Wasn't a House

However, in this real life story, WE had a timeline. Our lease is up at the end of June. Our landlord wanted to sell our rental. We needed to find another place to live. No pressure!

We talked about a rent-to-own scenario for this property, but that didn’t really help us with our goal of putting down roots and providing a sense of stability for our kids.

We were disappointed to pass on this property because it was so unique and awesome, but we did. However, I am so happy that there are people in the world who will take on the monumental headache and spend oodles of money to save old buildings. Maybe someday we will get our chance to join this club!

P.S. If you are curious about the challenges of redeveloping old service stations in North America, this article was interesting.

P.P.S. If you missed it, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of our house hunting in New Jersey saga.


Thanks for hanging out with me today! Here are some other posts you might enjoy. 

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2 Comments

  • Sandy Smith

    I can see why you like this house, diner, gas station. It is so nice and bright. However soil contamination is a big thing and very costly to remove. Hopefully you will find another place you like as well. Keep on sharing your “hunts”. It is fun to see what kind of home are back east compared to Oregon.

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