Aging couple builds $300,000 house in Franklinton with future in mind – Real Estate – The Columbus Dispatch – Columbus, OH

In a field of $40,000 rentals, Judy Box and Bruce Warner have planted a rose.

The couple built a $300,000 home in Franklinton, an area that sees precious few new private homes.

“Oh, we’re crazy, I’ll grant you that,” said Box, a no-nonsense native of Australia who serves on the Franklinton Area Commission with Warner.

The couple’s home isn’t merely new and nice. Box, who designed the house, sees it as a prototype for senior living.

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“I’ve been planning this house for years, long before Bruce came into the picture” she said.

Box, a retired psychiatrist, isn’t new to homebuilding. While living in Marysville, she served as a private general contractor of 120 homes from the late 1990s to 2007.

After buying more than 30 rental properties in the Franklinton area, Box and her husband, Bob, moved to the neighborhood in 2007 to better manage their investments. There she got to know Warner, a retired railroad worker, and the two married in 2017 after each of their spouses had died.

Although they owned homes a few blocks from each other, the couple wanted one that they could call their own. They bought a vacant lot down the street from Box’s home on North Guilford Avenue and last summer got to work.

Box, 70, and Warner, 79, are both healthy, but they know at their ages that can change quickly. So they designed a home they could grow old in.

The single-floor home features:

• Wide hallways to accommodate a wheelchair

• A first-floor laundry

• Lever door knobs instead of round ones for ease of opening

• A built-in generator to back up the furnace and air conditioner

• A deep and well-lit basement for storage

• Lots of natural light, including a wall of kitchen windows.

But perhaps the most unusual feature of the home is its size — about 2,000 square feet, not including the basement. Unlike most patio or retirement homes, Box’s and Warner’s home includes four bedrooms with the potential to add three more in the basement, which includes egress windows.

Box, who is no sentimentalist, added the bedrooms because she expects to outlive Warner but has no interest in leaving the home. She instead envisions a “Golden Girls” life, with female roommates who have lost their spouses.

“Who knows what will happen in the future?” Box said. “We wanted a house that can work as we get older.”

Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade and former chairman of the Franklinton Area Commission, thinks the house could serve as a model for Franklinton development.

“It’s a beautiful place, I think it’s great,” he said. “But it illustrates a larger point. We need more houses for folks to age in place, there’s a real need for that sort of housing. … This neighborhood is full of opportunity for that; it’s close to services, the bus lines, Downtown and property is cheap.”

Box and Warner know the home is worth far more than those in the surrounding area, even though properties have increased in value, like many urban neighborhoods. Box counts 12 owner-occupied homes among the 100 or so in the three-block stretch of Guilford north of West Broad Street, where the home sits. Most of the homes sold in recent years have fetched between $20,000 and $55,000.

Box thinks that her home and one on South Cypress Avenue are the only privately owned new houses to be built in the area in decades.

According to Columbus Building and Zoning Department records, eight new homes have been built in the 43222 ZIP code in the past decade, not including homes built by nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity.

Box’s and Warner’s home is probably the most expensive of the new homes, as well as the farthest from East Franklinton, which is undergoing a revival.

“There is nothing that far west that even touches the investment Judy and Bruce made,” said Smith, who built the home on South Cypress two years ago with Jeremy Miller.

They see Box’s and Warner’s home as a sign of recovery spreading throughout Franklinton, not just in the emerging Scioto Peninsula neighborhood.

“I see so much happening in Franklinton, there’s just a lot of positive energy now here with people fixing up houses,” Miller said. “I see that energy flooding over to the west side of (Route) 315.”

Box and Warner expect their home to rise in value, but for them the home rises far above a mere financial calculation.

“Is it smart to build a $300,000 home on a $4,000 lot? Of course not,” Box said. “But I don’t care. I like this neighborhood because it’s real and because I can have a clothes line if I want. Why would I want to live in New Albany or Dublin? You can make a difference here.”

After months of building, Warner is just happy to relax in the new digs.

“Some people came by the other day and asked if this was a rest home,” he said while building the home last summer.

“I guess it is.”

 jweiker@dispatch.com

This content was originally published here.

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