Banks did not want a bar of it and the pest control man refused to step inside but that only made Jenny Dixon more determined to rescue Wollongong's oldest house.
Ms Dixon and partner, school principal Harold Cosier, on Friday allowed in cameras to take photos of the dilapidated interior of the 1843 house. They hope the photos may help to solve a pressing problem that will get worse as winter sets in.
"The original internal stairs were ripped out in the '50s leaving only a set of external stairs that are a nightmare to use at night when the weather is bad and there's wind, rain and lightning," said Ms Dixon.
"For heritage purposes, we need somebody who can remember or has photos of the configuration and the materials that were used."
The couple, with their blended family of four children, took possession of the 170-year-old Georgian house in Bukari Street, West Wollongong, in January.
They face the challenge of addressing years of neglect, and have taken up residence on the second level while they work on the ground floor.
The restoration project has attracted wide interest, including an ABC television crew who will document the renovation of the once grand manor house.
The house was built for Judge Roger Therry, attorney-general and sitting member of the NSW Legislative Council from 1841 to 1843.
At the time it was a landmark with french doors opening on to wraparound verandahs.
"It was built from convict bricks weaved together so well there is no creaking," Ms Dixon said.
One surprise has been the discovery of an underground cellar which was used for root vegetables.
As well, they have found 1920s car parts in the garden.
The couple are receiving guidance for the restoration from Wollongong City Council's heritage officer Joel Thompson and a range of heritage experts.
"At the moment we are trying to negotiate the tensions between restoring a heritage building and complying with building standards," Mr Cosier said.
"We've had about 30 strangers knock on our door for a look as well as lots of friends," he said.
"They fall into two groups - those who love the place and those who admire the hedge out front and we know the second group are secretly thinking we are insane," laughed Ms Dixon.