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Private Purchases Bring New Homeowners to Stephen Hunt and Richardson Homes

By Marsha Shyer, Owner, Brandes House

Sometimes there is only one house in the entire world that is the right house for a person. Almost like the right partner, one can search obsessively, flirt with others, almost give up, vow it is over, and then, at the brink of disappointment, the “right one” comes along.

Talk to Todd Levin and you will feel like you are hearing this genre of romantic story—a story that does not conclude with the dramatic finding of a mate, but with the dramatic finding of the right house: the Wright-designed Richardson House (1941) in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

Levin’s lifelong fascination with Wright began when he was just 8 years old and his mother took him on a tour of Oak Park, Illinois. Since that time, he studied Wright’s work, placed Wright objects with his clients, and worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy on multiple occasions.

The Richardson House was not the first Frank Lloyd Wright House that Todd, Director of Levin Art Group, had considered. Todd had been following Wright on the Market regularly. “I looked at the Christie House first,” he explains. “I always discounted purchasing a second house—whether located in the Hamptons, upstate along the Hudson River, or elsewhere—due to the commute time as well as the feeling that I would not get enough value out of a second home to make the expense and effort a sensible proposition. But after viewing and reviewing the Christie House on the Savewright.org website for three months, I finally said to myself, ‘I can’t stand this anymore,’ and decided that I just had to take a look in person.”

The Christie House, located in Bernardsville, New Jersey, ticked off several of Todd’s boxes. He was interested in the home’s classic Usonian design, but the commute made it too inconvenient and he abandoned his flirtation with this house.

“One day I was poking around on Wright On the Market and a new listing for the Richardson House appeared,” he says. “The owners, Pamela Inbasekaran and Dan Maurer, had created a very professional website. I was already quite familiar with the house, and knew it was a particularly impressive example of Wright’s Usonian concept.”

At that point, Pam and Dan had set up several open houses. Attendance at the first of these was so large that they changed viewings to “by appointment only.”

“Before the first open house, I wanted to focus carefully during the walk-through viewing, so I did not want to attend when other prospective buyers were present. I asked if I could view the house privately the day prior to the open house, and they were gracious and allowed me to do so.”

Todd realized that the commute to Midtown Manhattan was less than an hour, making the Richardson House ideally located for his needs. While it appeared rural to him, everything was within walking distance.

“I walked through the door and knew it was my house.”

But, as in all good romantic stories, the process was not an easy one. Todd put in a bid, but so did four other people. After vetting the bids, Pam and Dan decided that they would do a “last and final” round. “Pam and Dan were very professional organizing this component of their sale,” notes Todd.

Realizing that this house was his one and only, Todd stepped up. He won the bidding war and has not looked back since. Today, Todd does not think of the Richardson House as a second home and calls his new living arrangement “seamless living.” He spends half of his time living in a classic New York co-op apartment, and the other half in his Wright dream home.

Cue the happy ending. It’s obvious that dreams can come true with a little help from Wright on the Market!

Timing is Everything
Kelly Radandt and Scott Huiras know about biding their time, or perhaps they just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The couple shares a passion for architecture exemplified by the historic William J. Wagstaff home—a beautiful Queen Ann Victorian built in 1898 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin—which they have owned for more than 20 years.

As it happens, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stephen Hunt House, a 1917 Prairie-style house, was located just five doors away. Kelly and Scott knew the owner, Harold Buchholz, and had always admired the simple lines, one-level floor plan and many distinctive windows in his Wright home. As neighbors do, they often ran into Harold at neighborhood functions or when out walking their dogs.

Kelly and Scott anticipated that the Victorian’s many levels of stairs could become an issue as they aged. They loved their current neighborhood and wanted to stay, but they knew they would have to plant a seed if Harold were ever to consider them as potential buyers. Time passed and those dog walks turned into longer, more interesting conversations, often indoors over a friendly glass of wine. Eventually the time was right, and a private sale was arranged. However, sadly, Harold suddenly passed away. “Harold loved that home so much. We like to think that he chose us because he knew we’d love it and be good stewards of it,” stated Kelly as we talked about their story.

Kelly and Scott had already faced restoration issues in their lovely Victorian and were therefore unfazed with the basics of historic home renovations. The smaller size of the Stephen Hunt house fit their lifestyle as empty nesters. In addition, they hired a qualified historic design professional to work with them on some of the larger renovation projects, such as the kitchen. Although their Victorian home is currently on the market, they are in no rush as the work is proceeding on their Wright house just down the street.

While this appears to be a perfect match, it was really was the result of the couple’s foresight and development of a relationship that benefited both Harold—who trusted that his beloved home would be well cared for—and Kelly and Scott, who will soon be living in a renewed Wright home that will carry on Harold’s legacy. We welcome them to our Wright neighborhood!

Considering a Private Home Sale?
On the surface, the sales of the Richardson House in New Jersey and the Hunt House in Wisconsin could not appear more different. The Hunt House sale was done between friends while the Richardson House sale was done in a very open manner that attracted publicity and crowds. What both sales have in common is that they were done under the category of a “Private Home Sale.”

A Private Home Sale is done without a real estate agent and offers sellers and buyers some interesting benefits. These include:
• The opportunity to consider creative forms of sales. In the case of the Richardson House, the sellers used Wright on the Market, as well as online tools like websites and real estate platforms that are not broker-based. Through these means, it has become possible to open the market for Wright houses to a wider audience of potential buyers.
• Personal and closely vetted sales. In the case of the Stephen Hunt House, mutual friends were able to come to an agreement, with discussions that went on over years. In addition, the final wishes of a long-term homeowner were honored. In the case of the Richardson House, the previous owners were able to get to know a group of prospective purchasers and choose the best one.
• Direct contact by private parties allows homeowners to pass along the vital history of the house, answering important historic questions of care and providing names of the tradespeople who have helped to maintain the home.
• Financial savings on real estate transaction fees.

While a Private Home Sale may dispense with a real estate professional, the Conservancy recommends that each transaction should include a thorough home inspection and qualified lawyers representing both parties during the sale.

Posted on December 5, 2019

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