About this newsletter

About this newsletter

By Alice Dreger

In 1998, we bought our home in the Oakwood Historic Neighborhood of East Lansing in large part because of the trees. In fact, the people who sold us our home described it in their for-sale-by-owner advertisement as "a treehouse."

They were right. Our silly 1923 house has been added on and added on and it is now four stories tall in the back. Our bedroom suite, on the top floor, is in the tree tops. We have skylights and a solarium in the bedroom to magnify that feeling of being in a treehouse. But all over the house, you feel like you're in the trees.

This was especially important to us because, until we bought the house, we had been living in the Stonehenge Apartments on the north side of town on a small pond surrounded by old-growth forest and snags (dead trees). Our apartment had a balcony from which we could watch an incredible variety of birds. Then, after a big wind storm, our stupid landlords (DTN) decided to cut down all the trees for safety reasons. All the birds left, and so did we. We went shopping the next day and bought this house.

For over twenty years, we had the best neighbors next door at 615 Sunset Lane. They were family to us. I often said I thought we should buy life insurance on them because our lives would be so damaged if we lost them. They were over our house all the time for dinner. We were in their garden all the time for conversation. They helped raise our son.

When the pandemic caused them to shift their lives to California to be with their children and grandchildren, it killed us. Not only did we miss them a huge amount, we waited in trepidation to see who our new neighbors would be. Most of all, we worried that they would come in and cut down two trees that are of enormous importance to our lives: an old oak in the front and an old black walnut in the back. These trees are just inside their property line, legally owned by whoever owns 615, but emotionally shared by us. These trees are our friends as they shade our house, host innumerable bird species, and house our squirrel friends.

When our neighbors tried but didn't manage to sell their house, we realized just how stressed out we were about losing these two trees to a future neighbor's bad choices. When another dear neighbor cut down an old, perfectly healthy black walnut "because it is messy," our panic increased.

Long story short, we decided to buy 615 Sunset Lane and put a conservation easement on the two trees. The easement (still being drafted as I write this) will say the trees can't be cut down without our consent as long as we own our home. If the trees are unhealthy, we and the new owners will come to a mutual agreement with the help of experts to do what is necessary. But as long as the two trees are healthy, they are preserved under the conservation easement.

But we're not just slapping on the conservation easement and trying to sell. We're taking on a rehab.

The house at 615 Sunset Lane is a gem. It is a big, old, 1923 family house. It has beautiful oak woodwork and gorgeous hardwood floors and elegant old windows. It has a lovely layout. It has such good light and a phenomenal location, five minutes walk from MSU and downtown.

But it needs some TLC to bring a neighbor who will immediately understand why this house and this neighborhood is a gem. It needs some TLC to attract a buyer who will understand why this house is totally worth a shared driveway, membership in an historic district, an overlay restriction, and that odd conservation easement.

So, we're fixing up the house before we put it back on the market: dealing with the garden that has not really been tended to in over three years; upgrading the ancient electrical service; fixing the dated bathrooms and kitchen; and on and on. The goal is not to lose money, to attract great new neighbors, and most of all, to save Bob the oak and Ann the walnut.

So many neighbors have been asking about what we're doing, I decided it's time to create a newsletter about it. This newsletter is free. You can sign up to watch our progress, learn about the house and neighborhood, and be the first to know when we list it again. We'll also let you know when we have open houses and give-aways of items we're pulling out of the house.

Interested? Subscribe. It's free, and you can always unsubscribe if you get tired of me waxing poetic about the built-ins.

Thanks in advance for coming along on the adventure.