It would almost be worth risking a disruption to the space-time continuum to be able to travel back in time just to invest in some prime real estate.
By the end of 2020, local Realtors had assessed the median selling price of a home in the Owensboro region at $168,000.
A glance through a few newspapers from the year 1921 implies that a person could have bought, well, pretty much all of Daviess County for that amount. Or at least a LOT of houses and property.
A six-room house at 14th and St. Ann streets—near the site of the Messenger-Inquirer—was offered for $4,500. That included a “good garage.”
Another ad promised a seven-room bungalow, furnace heated and neatly arranged on a large lot on Maple Avenue, noted as “the most beautiful avenue in the city,” saying, “You can get it now for $4,750.”
A smaller house was offered for only $1,500. This was a three-room house on Henderson Road, with lights and water, plus a stable, hen house and coal house, all sitting on a double lot.
No address is given for the eight-room house with a concrete porch, lights, water and a large well-built stable, but it was available “for a quick sale” at $4,200. If that were to be advertised today, it would be a quick sale indeed.
A “splendid cottage” near the L&N Depot featured six rooms, a bath, large stable and easy terms. Price: $6,500.
Another ad promised that “$5,000 will buy a good home within four blocks of courthouse.”
Given the prices of downtown property these days, a buyer today wouldn’t even need the house for that sale to be a bargain.
Areas that now are nestled pretty much in the center of town offered a booming real estate market in January 1921. A six-room house with an acre of ground on Ford Avenue was offered for $3,500; a nine-room, two-story house in the Seven Hills area was advertised for $2,600; and a four-room house with good outbuildings in the Hickman-Ebbert addition was on the market for $1,200.
For those who wanted to escape the hustle-bustle of city life, one could take advantage of the misfortune of an owner in ill health who was being forced to sell 36 acres of good land only 10 miles from the city. The estate featured a good four-room house, a fine barn and stable, plus plenty of good stock water at all times. Not only that, but the land promised to supply “enough fruit for home use.” Terms were $2,000 down and $400 next year and 34 years on the balance.
A little further out in Daviess County, there was a farm in the Moseleyville area advertised for sale. “THIS IS A BIG BARGAIN,” the ad said, in capital letters, and they weren’t kidding, especially by today’s standards. Of the 102 acres for sale, 75 were level and mostly tilled, and the balance “slightly rolling,” and all were promised to be “good, rich, productive land.” There were good improvements and a fine orchard—all to be had for only $160 per acre … on easy terms.
Nevertheless—an article published Sept. 4, 1921, in the Owensboro Messenger announced that the real estate market here was “quiet,” saying, “There is a decided slump in the activity of local real estate market at the present time, realty men say. Plenty of people are found who express a willingness to buy, but in almost every case they are looking for bargains and labor under the opinion that values are coming down in a few months and in the meantime they are holding off. They are entirely deceived, according to the well informed.”
Boy, that’s for sure.
The article went on to say: “From now on there is going to be only a very slight decrease in the value of Owensboro property. … Only now and then, when a property owner is caught in need of ready cash and must sell, can the bargains which prospective buyers are looking for be found.”
Nobody has a crystal ball to see what real estate prices will do in the future, and for better or for worse, there are no time machines either.
Otherwise, we’d all be going back in time to snap up those real estate bargains of 100 years ago.
So the best we can do now is to make our houses, however humble or grand, into our very own “home sweet home.”
For “home,” after all, is a priceless investment where our precious memories last forever.