House Story Q&A with Kathryn Oti
If you know me well, you’ll know how much I love houses with cool stories. Whether they’re historic, architecturally unique, or just charming, I get a huge kick out of walking through a home and learning about its past and the people who have called it home over the years.
And if you don’t know me well, you hopefully know I’m a Realtor (you’re on my website, after all…) and any Realtor who doesn’t love houses is probably in the wrong business.
All of this to say, nobody was surprised when Molly Todd, Kelly Trask, and I generated the idea for “House Story.” The basic premise is this; we connect with the lucky owners of interesting homes in Richmond to open up their doors and allow the public to take a closer look. Think of it as an open house, but for homes that aren’t for sale.
We get a lot of questions about what we do, why we do it, and how the process works, so I figured I would sit down and answer some of them!
How did you start House Story?
About 5 years ago, I sold one of my best friends houses, Molly Todd, in the Forest Hills area. While selling, we found out that her house was a Gordon-Van Tine “Kit House”. Tine was one of the premier kit house manufacturers during the turn of the century. She got very interested in kit houses and found out that there were tons of them in Richmond. She linked up with an architectural historian and they started driving around and identifying kit houses all over RVA. I said to her: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a house tour and get inside of these kit houses?” And thus the idea for House Story was born!
We played around with the house tour idea for about two years but never formally got it off the ground. One day, I started talking to one of my co-workers, Kelly Trask, who’s another agent here at One South. I told her the idea and she immediately wanted to get involved.
We quickly realized that when you get a bunch of real estate agents in a room together, they instantly start telling stories about the houses they’ve seen. Every house is different–some of them are funny, some are interesting, and some are historic. We always have a house story to share with each other.
Once we decided that this opportunity should be open to all types of houses, the idea really took off. Molly, Kelly and I all love historic architecture, interior design, and real estate–and House Story is able to combine all of those things into one event.
How did you come up with the name?
As real estate agents, we have always said, “every house has a story”, so the name came easily to us.
Do you charge for admission?
We don’t charge for admission. The event has a Facebook page where people can “buy” their tickets, but tickets are free! However, at each event, we have a bucket at the front door asking for a $5 suggested donation, which helps cover our advertising and food costs.
How many tickets do you sell?
Every House Story is different–we’ve had anywhere between 50-200 tickets for an event, but we leave it up to the homeowner to decide how many people they feel their house can accommodate.
What is the event like?
House Story events start at 6 pm. From 6-6:45, we let the guests wander around the house and look at the rooms the owner has opened up for them. There’s also a lot of socialization and networking that occurs during this time between architects, designers, craftsmen, and homeowners. We have food and a bar set up by a bar sponsor at each event, and guests are welcome to grab a bite to eat and a drink while they enjoy the home.
Around 6:45, we all gather into the largest room. The homeowner talks about the history of the house, how they found the house, and any renovations that have taken place. Depending on the home, a contractor or designer will share their experience with the group as well.
How do you find the houses to feature?
We find homes any way we can. We speak to our friends and friends of friends who have interesting houses and see if they’d like to host the event. Most of our leads come by word of mouth, but we’ve also approached a few unknown homeowners that had interesting houses.
Are you making money from the tours?
No–House Story is an initiative we started to bring the community together and give back to the people of the city. We think of it as a celebration of Richmond and it’s amazing historical and diverse housing!
When do you have the events?
We try to have an event once a month from September to June. If you’d like to join us at a future House Story event, be sure to follow our Facebook page.
I hope that you have enjoyed this Q&A and hope to see you at a House Story event soon!
Past House Story Features: