'I Created a Gothic House—Soon People Can Stay There'

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Illinois and because I'm a real estate agent, I'd always had my eye on an octagonal house on Edgar Street. Aside from its shape, it also sits back off the main street, so nobody would really know it's there unless you looked for it.

The original builders of the home were Jim and Charlotte Griffin and in the summer of 2021, Jim's kids asked me to come and look at it and tell them what it was worth. I explained that I didn't want to be the person to say, because I was personally interested. Instead, I asked them what they wanted for the property and we agreed terms, because it did need work. They had never liked the house, they thought it was quirky and too strange, so they dared me to make something of it!

I bought the house in August, this is actually my 34th house and funnily enough, I'm 34. I do move a lot and I have built and bought and flipped many properties. I will have a design in mind but I don't do the work itself; I'm not handy! I sell primarily, because I own a real estate agency.

I paid $75,000 for the octagonal Edgar Street property, which was a good price for what it was but it needed a lot of work done. Structurally it was a very solid two bed, two bath property but it needed a lot of cosmetic renovations. It had never had gutters and it's an octagon-shaped house, so adding gutters and drainage were one of the first things I did, and there are a lot of different angles. I also had extensive landscaping done and bathrooms were taken down to the studs and reconfigured. But I was somewhat limited because the house is an octagon; the shape of the rooms are quirky.

I put around $160,000 into the renovations, and that was top-to-bottom. More or less everything on the inside has been changed, but I did keep some original features; there's a spiral staircase which is unique. However, I added features like a pergola with a fire pit outside.

To me, the vibe of the house and how it is situated lent itself to a unique color scheme, which is why I ended up going with black. I felt that it needed a darker vibe. But it honestly started with the roof. I decided I wanted a black roof and then black siding for the house itself. When I told the contractor, his reaction was, "I don't think so!" But the siding went on. Then I decided to paint the triple garage doors and gutters black too. Even the landscaping rock was changed to black.

When we started on the inside I said that I also wanted the interior walls black. My contractor said it wasn't going to work but they did paint the walls black. But when I went and looked at them and the ceilings were still white, I decided those had to be painted black too.

Some of the furniture is black, but a lot is white to provide contrast. There is also white trim throughout, some charcoal gray doors and the bathrooms also have white tiles. But a lot of items had to be custom ordered, like the light fixtures, because they were black and unique. I didn't want anything to be what you'd see in a typical home.

Although the house has a quirky vibe, it has so much natural light; it has windows on all sides and the upstairs bedroom suite has skylights. Even though it's pitch black in places, when you walk in, it doesn't feel depressing. People say the property is gothic, and ask if I'm gothic. I'm not, it's just the style of the house.

It was actually a really quick, six week renovation. I would say it was done by early October. When I bought it, I had planned on renovating it and staying there for a while. But then, I realized that having such an unusual property in the current market meant it would be a good time to sell if I wanted to make my money back.

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When I had been posting renovation pictures, I knew people were intrigued, but I never, ever thought the house would go viral. The listing was shared on Facebook on December 17 and within 48 hours it had tens of thousands of shares across the nation and beyond. It's now up to almost 120,000 shares and 24,000 reactions.

I didn't check my spam message folder on Facebook for 48 hours after listing the property and when I did, there were more than 500 messages from people all over the world asking questions like: Is this home still for sale? Is it haunted? Do you hear or see things there? I guess people just assume it would have that feel because of the color, but it's not an old home. I've even had people say they were spiritually drawn to the house. One of the questions that made me laugh was someone asking what color was on the wall, because they wanted to get that paint color. It is a custom color that I bought, but it's black.

It wasn't long before there were a couple of offers that came in, just because of the uniqueness of the house, but all types of people have contacted me about viewing it. I got a lot of people who I guess you would call gothic who were very intrigued by it. Again, these people would ask if it was haunted and what kind of feel it had. I would tell them that the house was built in 1993 and that I hadn't experienced anything unusual there. There were also a lot of people who asked if I could make it an AirBnB so they could stay there for a night and have the experience, but I like to move on from project to project.

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As well as the two bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house has an open plan living/dining area, a galley kitchen and a laundry, and none of the rooms are square! It was listed for $250,000 and it's currently under contract to be sold. The person buying it is doing so sight unseen, just from the photos and videos. I haven't met him yet, he just happened to see the place online, called me, had me do a virtual walk through and purchased it. He has bought it furnished and is planning to rent it out as an AirBnB. Based on the reactions I've had, I think it will do very well!

My understanding is that the neighbors were just happy to see the house cleaned up. It wasn't that it was neglected, there was just a lot of deferred maintenance work. Edgar Street was kind of an unknown street in Lincoln, but now there are always people driving by and taking photos. I think the neighbors are ready for it to go back to being a quiet street now, which it will in time.

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At the moment, I have three other homes underway. One is a 1917 brick bungalow on an older street in town, so I'm going very neutral and modern with that. But I have another property also in an older neighborhood and I was initially planning on styling that home with very bold colors on the exterior, interior or both. I think people are tired of always seeing the same style in properties. But since then, I've had a couple of people who are interested, so I don't know if it will end up being a bold colored house.

For now, I still reside in the black house and I'll be there until the sale closes, which will likely be March or April 2022. I'm already under contract to buy another house, but that one is a very modern, ranch style home. It's just another chapter in the book though, it won't be long before I move on again.

I wish I had an answer to the question of what my "forever home" looks like. I've lived in many styles of home and I really have no preference. I love all different styles of house and I could live anywhere, because I can very easily make a place my own. I could walk into any type of home and see exactly what I want to do with it. I was definitely born and blessed with the imagination and creative spirit for that.

Seth Goodman is a real estate agent in Illinois. He owns ME Realty in Lincoln, Illinois. Find out more at sethsellslincoln.com or follow him on Facebook at Seth A. Goodman.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.