The 1895 Queen Anne in Collingswood, New Jersey, had been split into two units in the 1960s, and while my husband and I, who both have architectural degrees, agreed that it was a cosmetic wreck, it seemed to have good bones. Nothing appeared rotted. The HVAC system had recently been replaced, and there was new copper plumbing, along with two new furnaces and water heaters.
Right after we took possession, we found out that things weren't as good as they seemed. The home's original knob-and-tube wiring was a melted mess. A second-floor bathroom was leaking into the first floor. It looked like we'd have to demo much of the house. My parents offered to let us stay with them for as long as we wanted. That lasted six months.