When previous homeowners find your home reno blog

Guest post by Tabatha Muntzinger
Fuck you & your blog poster KritikalGraphics

When we bought our home in 2007, we were just two kids right out of college, getting married in a year, and unknowingly on the brink of parenthood. We just liked that the house was (a) old, (b) downtown, and (c) needed a crap ton of what we assumed was cosmetic work done on it. It had great bones, as they say, and many of the major elements like the roof and windows had been replaced recently. We figured we’d revamp the place, live there for a little while, then resell it when our careers and our family would lead us to bigger and better things.

Until we started actually working on our house, and what we thought would be just a few coats of paint and some decorative trim ended up being epic bouts of knocking down rotten plaster, rewiring dangerous junction boxes, and a whole lot of cursing not completely under our breaths.

Two years in, I started a home reno blog about our adventures in attempting to essentially flip our home in a failing housing market, and I was not shy in airing my frustrations with the previous homeowners and how they had gone about “caring” for the house we now called home.

My kitchen before and after.

Three years later, our little house blog has slowly gained a small following, and I’ve managed to net a couple of paying blogging gigs thanks to my effort both in our renovations and in my chronicling of them. Then, one day, an email appeared with the simple subject of “house blog.” I opened it, expecting one of the normal blog-related emails I receive, but it was a personal letter from a family member of the previous homeowners.

It began pleasantly enough, but quickly turned and became a verbal lashing concerning the way I’d expressed my angst with the previous homeowners — I was accused of being disrespectful and rude and was chided for not respecting the history that came with this house and the people who lived several lifetimes here. Shocked, I sent the email on to a couple of good friends for perspective.

A friend of mine who had recently moved assured me that I was perfectly within my right to complain about the previous homeowners, because every previous homeowner does something that the next one will hate. And I know I’m not exempt from that — it’ll take a special person to love my black master suite, for example. And the next people who own this home will find faults with how we did things and the choices we made. That comes with homeownership, especially in old houses — you have to deal with what’s been given to you, and you just have to hope the damage isn’t too deep.

After some time of walking on eggshells every time I posted something new, I realized that while the previous owners felt they had to defend their family’s honor, I still felt I had every right to vent my frustration with what was now my home. It wasn’t about decor choices or the pros and cons of our neighborhood — it came down to the fact that when this house was sold to us, so was their right to control the image of it and its inhabitants.

Since then, I’ve been slightly more judicious in how I talk about the “before” portions of the house and my presumptions about the people who lived here before us. On the other hand, I’m not going to let the fear of “what people may think” keep me from my honest emotions.

Learn a lesson from me, Homies — write about your homes, your pads, and your yurts with reckless abandon. But, remember, the internet can be like a small town, so brace yourself for when the previous occupants find your blog and hate you a little for it.

Has anyone else experienced this either on the internet or in real life? How did YOU handle the unhappy previous home owners?

Comments on When previous homeowners find your home reno blog

  1. We live in a neighborhood inhabited by the descendants of the people who settled here- about 180 years ago. We were the first non-family to move in and to top it off, we’re white. My husband is super white- blonde hair, blue eyes, blinding white. There is no HOA and we were stoked to make this place our own. I think the neighbors just hate us, like it’s our fault the previous owners sold outside of the family. It got bad when we painted our front door turquiose- we live in New Mexico, this is far from uncommon. But it pissed off the neighbors, they started calling the cops on us for really stupid things (like the baby crying, they said I was neglecting her… or the dogs barking, but the dogs would only bark after the neighbors would rile them up) and they started dumping all their empty beef cans over the fence into our yard (we made a lot of money recycling those cans, but it’s still not okay).

    How did it get handled? The same cop would come with every call. I’d always invite him inside and offer him food or drink, he’d always decline. I was always polite to him. One time one of our neighbors called a noise complaint on us, but it was actually a different neighbor having the party. We asked the cop to come out back, where he actually caught them dumping beer cans over the fence and had a chat with them. Basically explaining that all these calls were wasting police time and if they kept up over nothing, they’d get charged and he fined them for littering. After then, a single passive aggressive note, which we took to mean that they were upset that our trim and fence did not match our door, so we went ahead and painted everything. Haven’t heard a single thing since.

  2. When we first moved into our house, there were a lot of things that had to be fixed. One bathroom was almost completely destroyed (looked like someone took a crowbar to the tiles in the shower), the back gate was broken, and within the first year we had to replace the air conditioner, the water heater, and the garbage disposal. There is a difference between someone not liking your choices of paint or tile color, and the house being so uncared for that it isn’t safe to live in. You’d think if they’d lived there for generations, they’d take a little more pride in their home and do the necessary maintenance on it!

  3. Yikes! I write a home reno blog, too, about an old brick farmhouse that was built in 1899. It was a rental for a long time, so thankfully there’s no one to really get their hackles up about me harking on neglect.

  4. Oh man, we curse the prior owners of our home about every other day. From the crap DIY flooring install, to the dog-destroyed trim all over the house, to the faux finish in the bathroom that looks like they tried to paint with toothpaste on wet toilet paper. Our favorite comment involves their apparent swinger status, because they sure loved the caulk! (but seriously, they did-caulking over caulk that’s caulked over caulk is a really crap idea). Come to find out that the ex-wife still lives in our neighborhood. Oh well. I’m sure the next owners will want to know why we dug up perfectly good grass to make our herb garden, and never filled the nail holes from our own DIY flooring adventures. It’s one of the joys of homeownership.

  5. I am so glad I have not experienced this. I have a reno blog too and have chronicled all the things we have done. I guess for us it is different though. Same owner lived here for 52 years before us and she kept her house immaculate. I bought the house “AS IS” from her so I certainly expected issues. And I have had them (Electric, new windows, etc). However, I have such a great respect for her and the life she lived in this house that I don’t believe I have ever critisized her or her choices in one of my blogs. She LOVED this house and was forced out of it by old age and Alzhiemers. I have actually tried to respect her and honor her as I did my own updates. My house was built in 1959 so I knew it was not perfect. But thats what I loved about it. Neither was I!

    • It does seem like a slightly different circumstance … we also bought our house as is, but quickly discovered there had been issues specifically hidden or hack-job repaired in order to sell the home. Like our bottom stair tread was actually thin plywood painted, which obviously was not safe to be using about 20 times a day. So I guess I harbor a little resentment because the house wasn’t immaculate or even really well-cared-for as much as it was aesthetically altered to appear better than it was. :/

      • Yeah, see that’s completely different. Deliberately hiding issues especially in a dangerous way is just not ok. My parents are probably going to sell their home “as is” soon and there’s a lot of deferred maintenance and uncompleted projects but nothing has been or will be covered up.

    • I have a similar tale as yours…I have gotten used to the whole house pink carpet and the golden girls style drapes because as a single mom, I was lucky enough to find a house an old lady had to leave, and a lot of her furniture became mine in the sale as well. It really helped me and I feel like a steward, caring for the house she loved.

  6. I blog for the local newspaper and our DIY house projects are a frequent topic. I try to be careful about what I write about the previous owner because I know she’s still around.
    I often wonder what will happen, though, when the next owner finds all my blog posts, or when it’s on the market and people are googling me and find the blog. I hope it works in our favor, I guess, but at least someone might have a glimpse into why we’ve changed the things we have.

    • I worry about this too, the Google machine putting kinks into our selling of this place. I hope it works out in more of a “Yay, look at all we fixed!” kind of way, but I’ve wondered if I’ll end up having to shut the whole thing down in order to move on. :/

  7. That seems so strange to me. Sure, they might have emotional attachments to their old home, but it no longer belongs to them! If you give away your favorite shirt, you don’t get a say in whether the new owner never wears it/turns it into something different/uses it as a dust rag. I would love to find a blog for the houses I’ve lived in, and if the new occupants hated my bright green kitchen and cursed me for it…so be it. 🙂

    • Oh boy, you wouldn’t believe how common that is though! My mother-in-law is a perfect example – she kept giving us things that we didn’t really want, but she didn’t want to throw away. Fast forward to us moving house, and she notices some of the stuff in a bag for charity, and she got all uppity about it, and dug the things out and took them home! Who /does/ that?! lol

      • My mom does that! She’ll ask me about the living room set she gave me 15 years ago, or the the coffee table or the desk, dresser, chest, etc… . I’ve found the safest way to deal with this is to pass the things onto my brother (snicker) so if it goes away it’s not my fault. LOL

  8. The house I had for a while had passed through a lot of hands before it found me. I was talking to my neighbor one day, and she was chatting away about some of the things previous owners had done and what the man who renovated it had done.
    Just as I was about to complain about something that was obviously done by a crazy person with absolutely no idea what they were doing… she mentioned that her sister had done it.

    • I actually went on a job interview once and discovered that the position I was applying for had been previously held by … one of the granddaughters (this was right after we bought the house). It was slightly awkward as I was talking about what a mess this place had been and the interviewer knew the house because he’d been here for dinner or something. Whoops.

      • The important question: did you get the job, anyway? XD
        I’ve done something like that about other peoples’ houses. Like “My friend just bought this house and it has the most ridiculous [wildly specific identifying feature]. WHO DOES THAT.” And the person always knows the house. Always.

    • My fiance was talking to the mail carrier about our house one day. He asked how this weird porch that’s connected to our house was doing. Our washer and dryer are out there and the whole set up, kinda like the whole house, is weird and somewhat confusing. My fiance said something to the effect of, “It is a piece of crap and we can’t want until we can remodel and not have a washer and dryer in an unheated part of the house,” and then mail carrier said that he built the porch in question. Oh well.

      • XD Oh noes! Sorry, Mister Postman, but your handy work is wicked weird.
        Having a washer and dryer outdoors where I live would be awesome two months out of the year. The rest of the time, it would be totally miserable.
        Do people do this? Is it awesome?

      • Hahaha I live in FL and my washer and dryers have often been outside. I LOVE the winter, because if I space out and leave the laundry in the washer for more than five minutes it won’t spoil. I like getting the laundry out of the dryer when it’s cold!

  9. The people who lived in our house before us were HUGE DIY-ers – except they were not GOOD DIYers. A lot of stuff in our house was half-done, started and then abandoned, or appeared finished but was hiding laziness, danger, or both (like the beautiful kitchen sinks with pot-fillers and new fixtures… with pipes that dumped out right into the kitchen cabinets underneath.

    My husband HATES the previous owners for this… I’m trying to change as much as possible – even stuff that’s just cosmetic, and stuff that I liked when we bought the place – just so he doesn’t get reminded of them all the time!

  10. I kind of see the previous homeowner’s side. Sure, our house was nasty and rundown (condemned and boarded, actually), and sometimes we wonder what the hell previous occupants were thinking, but it’s 111 years old. Some people loved it and cared for it in those years; others neglected it. I don’t have any love in my heart for those who didn’t take good care of this lovely little house. But I try to remember and honor those who did love it. They may not have been able to care for it as I would, but it was their home, too. The psychological power of “home” may have meant as much to them as it does to me.

    A house with history is a mixed bag. I think we can talk about the pros and cons in a respectful way, making changes and telling stories while still remembering that the past inhabitants loved the house in their own way.

    • I guess that I feel that I had tried to do that most of the time — I’ve never said their names or really mentioned any of their story that I know because I’m not sure how much is true and how much is conjecture — so I was surprised that my point of view was taken antagonistically, whereas it was never meant that way. I know I’m going to bawl my eyes out when we leave this house because we’ve done so much work on it (nevermind it’s the house I brought both of my babies home to), so I understand the connection to home completely. I was just surprised at the vitriol that came my way for trying really hard to not talk about the people, but the situations in my home.

  11. The previous owners of my home are my parents- and I am going crazy trying to find the money to repair the things they never could (also due to lack of money, but they were able to ‘put it off’ for a few years, and now those few years have come and gone and I have some serious fixing up to do on no budget. Yuck). I have to be very careful what I say to them, because they take it as offense. I’m not bashing them- I lived here for fuck’s sake, I KNOW why they did (or did not do) the things they did, but now it’s my mess and it’s frustrating. I would like to vent to them and get ideas without it turning into a guilt trip. But no. That’s the problem with keeping a property in the family I guess. A whole different ball game.

  12. Whew. I’ve talked so much shit about the previous owners of our new/old house already on my blog, and the renovation just got started. Of course, like 4 people actually read it anyway, so the chances of prior owners finding it and being mad are slim. I have so far left out the fact that apparently the folks who lived there before we bought it were crazy hoarders, and it took 4 construction dumpsters to clean the place out, but honestly I think that’s fair game eventually. The neighbors sure feel comfortable blabbing it so it’s no real secret.

    And I’m sorry, but I (and you) have the right to complain about and attempt to find humor in the bullshit cobbling and unsafe repairs that the prior owners inflicted upon our house. I get pretty tired of hearing other people talk about how renovators should respect the “history” of their house. Yes, I respect that my home was well made and I like some of the funky 50’s touches it has. But I have no respect at all for shit like unsafe wiring that someone cobbled together with twine or cheap sheets of plastic that some idiot used tile adhesive to glue to my kitchen walls, leaving me still scratching my head over how to remove what looks like a layer of concrete and boogers. I’m guessing that you’re blogging about your home renovation for the same reason i am, because it gives you an escape valve for days when something simple turns into an old house nightmare.

    I understand how the person who contacted you might be upset about thinking you were somehow maligning their relative, but still. They should get over it. It’s your house now. If you want to paint the whole thing lacquer black and hang sex swings up in the living room, sfw? It’s your name on the deed.

    I’ve been overall a little surprised, as a home renovator and home renovator blogger, how judgy the internet renovation community can be about choices people make about decorating and creating their own homes. You live there now. And you probably don’t share grandma’s taste for floral wallpaper and little ducks with blue ribbons around their necks. If they’re that bothered by it, they should have bought the house when it was for sale. Or, they should avoid reading your blog, since apparently they find it upsetting, and you should feel free to continue to express yourself.

  13. I can really see both sides. The frustration of having a badly taken care of house, for sure. But I also think, if someone complained about the state of my Grandparents’ house, for example, I would be pretty upset. We all did our best, but sometimes it’s just not to be.

  14. I kinda see both sides, if the blog posts actually badmouthed the previous inhabitants and not just their “handiwork.” It doesn’t sound like you did that though. In that case, I can still see how a former homeowner could be miffed about something that a) they might have never known about (electrical issues or something) or b) something they personally did to the house because there is attachment to and ownership of that project. But I don’t think they were right to attack you for the blog choices you may have made if you weren’t calling them “drunk Aunt Nancy” or something. (I’ve read something similar on a blog; she nicknamed the former occupant and I was never sure if it was really the blogger’s alcoholic aunt or if she was just speculating based on poor remodel choices the previous woman had made.)

    Not quite in the same vein but this article initially drew my attention because both my maternal and paternal grandparent’s homes were sold in the last year and I would really love to see them again. Even if they were getting renovated, I think. It’s impractical to hope that either or both new owners are blogging about it, but the hope is there in the back of my mind anyway. “Let me see the house and yards of my childhood again! Tell me why you love it. Let me in.” I am afraid of changes that could be made. God I loved those houses. But I still want to have some connection… 🙁

    • I had that chance, a couple of years ago. My grandparents house went up on the market, and I badgered my mother into going with me and asking if we could have a look, as it was up for sale. I was particularly adamant about it as it was just under a year since my grandmother had finally passed, and it had been a slow slide for a few years, with a lot of lost history and memories. :/

      The then-owner thought that idea was pretty darn nifty, and had us over, the whole family group that could make it, and gave us a tour. It was strange – but very wonderful, to be able to show my husband, “I played here. We slept over in that little bedroom on the corner. The ping-pong table was here in the basement. I helped grandma cook in this kitchen, grandpa watched his game in that little room before dinners…”
      Seeing what they changed – including a HUGE addition and adding to the basement, even – and seeing what they didn’t, like the kitchen cabinets, or the main bathroom, which was an amazing combination of mint-y green, pink (including fixtures), and gloss black tile.

      I got to show my husband and kids a part of my childhood, and got to say goodbye to it, sort of. But it was still a little heartbreaking, yeah….

  15. My parents’ house is that way. The previous owners didn’t seem to believe in fixing anything – they just redecorated to cover it up. That’s left us with everything from mildew between layers of vinyl flooring (and all of us with allergies) to flooding (and more mildew) to structural integrity issues. We’ve cursed previous owners so much in the last 12 years. It’s a good thing my ‘rents are good DIYers, and I can paint the hell out of some cabinets thanks to putting in about 3 kitchens worth of them over the years. I kind of wish I’d thought to blog about that stuff, even with the crazy.

  16. Omg Tabatha, I just had a look at your blog, and can I just say, the before pics are awful! Your renos look gorgeous, it has so much character now. You should be totally proud of all the work you’ve done <3

    • Thanks Kaelee! I am pretty proud of it, even though I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I think some of my favorite compliments I’ve ever received are from people who I know have a WAY different aesthetic than me, but say that my house looks great because it’s a true reflection of me and my family. That gives me the warm fuzzies all over. 🙂

  17. I love your kitchen!!! YEEEEE!!!

    And I’m glad you keep writing about the house the way you’d like; I should spew some stuff about our house. Painted OVER the SKU sticker on the doors??? REALLY!?!

  18. My landlord has literally lost it, he is having a severe manic episode, I have to be very careful when I talk on line about the fact that we are doing all the repairs

  19. I moved from LA to Indy 9 years ago, and like your situation, things were smoothed over to look like they were ok when they weren’t, so I feel a bit of joy for you that you do get to vent in a constructive way. Dude who owned my house had a love for floral wall papers and DIY- I always joke that he thought he was MacGeyver meets Bob Villa, and I assure you he was nowhere near either one; I’ve taken his name in vain every time one of his janky ‘hold it together w/ a piece of old chewing gum’ fixes has been revealed!

    On another note, I do a website where I just take photos of random home exteriors in the city that completely muck up the original look of a home and have 80% of the audience who love it and the other 20% that act like I’m a heathen for pointing it out. I think people can learn from positives and negatives. Continued luck w/ your blog!

  20. That’s wild that the previous owners read your blog. Even though it’s on the interwebs for all to see, I’d probably feel a bit like I was invaded or something. It’s so true that it’s all your problem now, and that’s nothing to feel bad about (or complaining about it). That they took offense to what you’ve written could point to the fact that they’re embarrassed about the fact that they were somewhat ok with living with how the home was, where you certainly are not.
    My own home, that we’ve lived in for a year, is only 6 years old, and the previous owners effed

  21. That’s wild that the previous owners read your blog. Even though it’s on the interwebs for all to see, I’d probably feel a bit like I was invaded or something. It’s so true that it’s all your problem now, and that’s nothing to feel bad about (or complaining about it). That they took offense to what you’ve written could point to the fact that they’re embarrassed about the fact that they were somewhat ok with living with how the home was, where you certainly are not.
    My own home, that we’ve lived in for a year, is only 6 years old, and the previous owners effed it up huge. It’s basically a new home. I get seriously pissed bc the wife was a realtor – someone who knows what’s appropriate to do in a home and what isn’t. We were very lulled by how beautiful it looked – it was staged perfectly, and the fact that she’s a realtor! Omg, the stuff we’ve uncovered in the last year have cost us thousands to repair!!! I complain to every person I can! It’s a very small town, quite rural, so everyone knows everyone else’s bi’ness. My hope is it does get back to her. I’m pissed.
    My dear old dad keeps reminding us that everything we repair properly means our home will be that much better, and that much more out own, which I guess is true. I have trust in our work/workers we hire to do stuff we can’t, so that helps me rest easier. I just question when these discoveries of things they totally messed up are going to end!!!
    I think you have every right to complain about how much work it is to fix someone else’s mess!!! Your value system says you should take pride in your home and maintain it, which is the message that comes through in your blog.

  22. I am the other side of this. Recently, my parents had to sell our family home. My mom grew up in that house and my grandma grew up next door.
    They sold it to an awesome musician cool family, but they totally redid EVERYTHING. It looks great, but it is just different. (Nail polish pink bathroom, vegas themed living room. All in 100 year old victorian)I’m sure there was stuff that they were like “What the WHAT? Why didn’t anyone ever fix this”. In our experience, it’s that it broke and no one really dealt with it because we were busy and/or poor.
    Luckily it’s SO different that no matter how my family would have decorated, they would have changed it.

  23. I haven’t experienced this, but it’s natural for any new owner of a home to hate something that the previous owner did, and to find glaring issues that need to be corrected.

    The day I moved into my new house, the kitchen chandelier fell out of the ceiling – without even being touched. It wasn’t installed properly. Since then, I’ve found a ton of other “DIY disasters”.

    It’s your home and you have every right to complain about how much effort you have to put into correcting things done by the previous owners. Especially when it’s making the ‘bones’ of the house stronger and safer.

  24. Oh boy, I found myself on the other side of this a couple years ago. I found the house I’d grown up in listed for sale and went ahead and checked out the listing including the photos. I was a bit sad to see some of the changes that they had made, removing and changing gardens in the yards(front and back) and other cosmetic changes, but nothing hurt worse than seeing the leaded stained glass cabnitry that my father designed and built for the kitchen GONE. Just gone, not refinished but taken out completely and replaced with good old painted wood cabinits. I had no ill feelings towards the current homeowners but my gut twisted and I wished with everything in my soul I’d had the opportunity to salvage those cabinet doors.
    I know it’s just stuff, but with my dad gone now, it’s one less thing in this world he made with his hands and that hurt.
    I think we’re allowed to experience our own emotions in this way, but to place them onto another and chastise them for not feeling the same – no. Just no. That’s unacceptable.

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