Bob Griesmer has been commuting from Norwalk to West Hartford for 22 months until his fixer-upper house is ready.
"I'm having a lot of fun," Griesmer says of the house with three fireplaces. "I could park a VW beetle in the fireplace in the living room."
Griesmer, the CEO of the Children's Museum in West Hartford who also oversaw the construction and start-up of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, is used to managing multiple projects. The Children's Museum opened four large, hands-on exhibits, ranging from live butterflies to giant Lincoln Logs, in July alone, and Griesmer aims to continue that trend.
He ran a construction company in Abu Dabi in the United Arab Emirates in the late 1970s, and he and his wife, Anne, who works in property management, have flipped 10 houses, although they are not so eager to flip this one.
"The location and the building, we're enamored of it," Bob says. "This house has been empty such a long time that there is a lot more renovation than we anticipated."
They started with the basement and are bumping out the kitchen to add a half-bath and mud room to the house that has been abandoned for two years. "The house has so much potential. It needs tender, loving care," Griesmer says.
The couple looked for a house in West Hartford for nine months. "I felt a need to live in the community," where the museum is located, Griesmer says.
He brings the same commitment to renovating their new home.
"We don't have a plan to sell it, but one never knows," he says. "It's fun to do it smart, so when you sell it, you can make good money."
Their realtor, Carl Lantz, who they found through family friends, is "very talented…a straight-talker…and has patience," says Griesmer.
The couple had bid on two houses in West Hartford before purchasing their current home, but the location and house were a better fit on Hunter Drive, says Lantz, a realtor with RE/MAX Premier Realtors.
"It is a long road to be on for them. . . . They are doing the work for themselves," Lantz says, but with Griesmer's project-management background, "he sees the snags, the expenses, but he sees the light at the end."
The Griesmers also have the ability to laugh with the challenges, including the leaking airbed they have been attempting to sleep on for months.
"They bought at the right price [$290,000] at the right place," in a neighborhood of homes averaging $750,000, says Lantz. "They're doing everything smart."
M.A.C. Lynch, Special to The Courant
96 Hunter Drive
SQUARE FEET: 2,265
YEAR BUILT: 1942
LIST PRICE: $299,900
PRICE PAID: $299,000
LOT SIZE: .40 acre
DAYS ON MARKET: Empty for two years