Monday, June 17, 2013

Ramshackle vs. Shit Hole...You Decide!

While I was out last week at the cemetery taking photos of headstones, I happened to notice a house for sale on the road along the way.
I took note of the real estate company on the sign and went onto their website.  I located the property listing and contacted the listing agent after asking Hubs if he'd be interested in seeing it over the weekend.

So we made a date with the agent to go see the property.
It was listed for a very cheap amount and the listing noted the house was in poor shape and was being sold "as is".  We figured for the size of the lot(almost 2 acres), the location and the low price, it was worth checking out to see if it was a project we'd like to take on.
Mine you, Hubs is not in the least handy, so by "taking it on as a project", I mean we will buy it and have someone else do the bulk of the real work.  We can paint, make curtains and buy furniture and appliances. ;-)

Going in knowing the house was in poor shape didn't even begin to prepare me mentally for what we found.
Hubs referred to ever so kindly, as ramshackle.
I think it is a shit hole but I'll let YOU decide which is more accurate.

Think a cross between a house from "Hoarders" and a crack den......

Skip past these photos if you have a faint heart or a weak stomach.
The listing says it was built around 1930....this would be the main part of the house as the addition was built on much later.  The kitchen cabinets date from the '50's or early '60s.
Here is the entrance shot, coming up the driveway......

 The door leads into a cement block screened in porch on a concrete slab.

Here is another shot from the property listing taken from behind the house, standing up on the hillside's retaining wall looking down onto the house....

The screened in porch is on the left, the 1 car garage is in the middle and the door and window to the right are a quite large workshop.
In this shot you can see how the house is laid out.  There are 2 main sections to the house, what we think was the original cottage, which is 24 x 32.  The peaked roof behind and to the side of the main house section is an addition, which is 22 x 28. The screened porch, garage and workshop were all added on at various points in time.  The roof lines are a mess visually.  All different pitches and angles.  The roof needs replacing asap and there is serious ceiling damage inside and critters are getting in.
Oh, and there is no key so you can't lock the place up.  Nice, huh?
There is no backdoor....or rather the screened porch entrance IS what was the backdoor.  There is no front door.  We think there was a front door at one time which led into the living room.  There is a cement walkway down the yard and stairs leading to the road, which also leads us to believe that there was a front door at this location.  But at some point they closed up the door and the entryway/mudroom/vestibule area and made it into a small room(nursery/small bedroom/study/hobby room/whatever).
Here is the side of the house, which I refer to as the front of the house, as it faces the road....

The open doorway is the entrance to the basement.  Between the window on the left and the double thin windows next to the doorway is where the entrance use to be.

Here is another shot of this side of the house....

This is the chimney to the fireplace in the living room and where the addition to the house is joined to the main part of the house.  Here's the addition.....

Now here is a shot of the retaining wall that runs along the hillside along side the house to the back of the property.  It's about 3.5-4 ft. tall.....

The retaining wall also runs down the side of the driveway for a piece.  We think the wall needs redoing or structural support.
There is also a retaining wall at the front of the property where it meets the road.  The yard/property drops off(as in a cliff)to the road.  There is a retaining wall there which looks like it will need attention very soon.  Since it abuts the road, Penndot will need to be called in/advised and the road partly blocked off when this wall gets repaired/redone.  Anything involving the state govt. will be licensed and permitted to death and get very expensive....that's a given.
Now prepare yourself for the interior shots.....this ain't pretty.

The screened in porch, complete with bags of garbage........

This is upon entering the house....

A built in coat closet, peg hooks and lovely knotty pine paneling.
Next to the closet is this.....

It's wooden, built into the wall and old.  My thinking is it's a telephone bench thingy.  Desk phone would go on the upper shelf and you sit on the lower shelf and chat in years gone by.  Also a good place to remove/change shoes/boots when coming in/going out the kitchen door.

So this door leads you into the kitchen.....

The kitchen is 14 x 23 and opens up into the living room.  The cabinets you see are all there are.  There are a set of double windows looking out onto the screened porch.  The appliances still in there are all trash.  There is a formica paneling thing on 2 of the walls.  That black pipe sticking up by the arched doorway is a washing machine drain pipe.  They had the washer and dryer in the kitchen against that back wall.

Here is the view of the living room from the kitchen doorway.

There is a window next to the fireplace and another one on the wall to the left in the room.  The hallway to the right in the photo leads to the addition, which is the master bedroom.  You can also see the hint of a doorway on the right side of the hallway....this is the 2nd bedroom.
Here's a shot, looking left into the living room.....

Now, what you can't see is off to the left off the living room, tucked behind the side wall in the kitchen is where the front door use to be located and where they've closed it off to make a small room.  This entryway probably opened into the living room, if you turned left and into the kitchen, if you went straight.  There is a elevation change down(by a couple of inches) when you step from the living room into this small room.  I couldn't tell if the whole floor was "off" in the living room or if this elevation change was deliberate.  There may be foundation issues here but it's not evident unless we have a professional go over the foundation.  The living room also has the knotty pine paneling throughout.

Off to the right of the living room was the garage door.....

The garage is cinderblock wall.
It's a generous 1 car size.  Good amount of room to walk around when a vehicle is parked inside and a set of built-in wooden shelves along the near wall.

The next door off of the living room is the full bathroom.  It currently only has one bathroom.....

It's quite large.  The sink is in the corner of the can see it peeking out form behind the tub wall.  The counter runs 2 full wall lengths.  Of course all the fixtures/counters/flooring will need to be replaced in here.
All the plumbing pipes most probably will need to be replaced.

Here is the 2nd bedroom......

We didn't measure it as it's hard to get an accurate reading if you have to climb up on piles of trash. 8-(
This bedroom is on the backside of the house, where the retaining wall comes up about 4" high, so the window is just that little basement type window you see.  All the ceilings in the house were drop ceilings and you could see, where the water and critters had gotten in and caused damaged, the roof trusses and sheathing of the roof, amidst the hanging insulation.  The ceilings seemed low and could use a good dose of sheetrock in the bath and bedrooms, or exposing and making cathedral ceiling heights in the living room.

Coming out of the bedroom and making a right, the hallway leads you to the addition, the master bedroom.....

This is the shot from the doorway looking straight ahead.  More ceiling/roof damage and a pile of shit.  One nice window on the front of the house and another one of those little basement type windows on the other wall.
To the right after entering the bedroom, there is a nice sized closet.  It's so big, they have a dresser sitting in it.
And here is the center of the room shot.....

You can see that doorway at the back of the room, which we'll call a closet....

Here's a shot looking down this closet from the doorway.  It runs the entire length of the addition-28".
We figured it was a closet or storage area, but if you look to the left into the room, from the doorway.....

There is a counter with a bathroom sink under that crap.  They were probably doing to put in an en suite bathroom(either a half or 3/4 bath)at one time but never got it finished.  We don't know if the sink is even plumbed.

And that concludes the house tour.

Oh, there is the workshop next to the garage.....

This runs along the length of the house and must be 30 ft. deep at least.  It's on a concrete slab but there is no insulation or heat source.  There is a vent in here.  The realtor said the owner use to tinker with cars as a hobby so he must have had to vent exhaust fumes in here. The wall is block construction about 4 ft. up and then wood framing on the right side of the building.  The left wall is block all the way up(as it's the shared wall with the garage).  The retaining wall is just on the other side of the wall on the right.  We checked that the retaining wall is not up against the building and the wooden framing is nowhere near the dirt level of the hillside, so other than age and/or pests there should be no rot from contact with the ground.

So that's about it.

The good things......It sits on almost 2 acres of land.  Taxes are low and we would challenge the county assessment anyway.  Though in the listing it states the house is over 2,100 sq. ft., that includes the garage and workshop and screened porch.  The actual house is just under 1,400 sq ft.  This is a very adequate size for what we want in a retirement home.  It's hard to find a retirement home on a sizeable piece of land anymore that isn't on the small side.  Somehow builders think that if you want a chunk of land between you and your neighbor that you also want a McMansion sized house. bleh! 
The home is on a public sewage system, not a septic, so we can add a 2nd bathroom without having to worry if the septic field perks for the additional bathroom.
It's very close, as in across the street from a stream.  You might be able to see it in winter(when the leaves drop), but you can hear it and it's so soothing.  But this property is up about 20 ft. from the level of the stream so even with it flooding it would take a majorly major flood to get to the elevation of the house.  Though we don't know about the foundation yet, the subfloor inside(except for that one spot transitioning from the living room to the small room)seems firm with no soft spots and no joists movement or noise when you walk around.  I am sure that once someone removes all the garbage from the shit hole that the support beams will sigh a little in relief. lol
And the best good thing--it's going for cheap.  Cheap as in, "we can go to the bank and withdraw cash and hand if over and not be left without any emergency fund money cheap".
Especially if we can talk them down.

The bad things..... It needs all new wiring and electrical updating, as well as plumbing.  Yes, someone has stolen all the copper piping and wiring since the house is not secured.  There is no water heater and the heat source was oil or gas.  Not sure on whether there still was a furnace but it would need replacing anyway.  The foundation may have issues.  Retaining walls need attention.  There are no appliances, The kitchen needs reconfiguring and all new cabinets.  The windows need replacing as well as the flooring and ceilings.  All new bathroom fixtures and laundry.  Locks for the  Another door.  Insulation and a new roof.
The only thing that could possibly wait for later is grading and asphalting the driveway and having some trees taken down to open the property up to more sunshine.
Excavation and retaining walls(not little decorative landscaping ones but major keep the hillside from sliding down ones)can be very expensive to do.  Plus we'd need to have some drainage work done in conjunction with the wall.

And the worse for our budget bad thing is we can't do much of the work ourselves.  I'm a little handy but not without help and Hubs wants no part in putting a house together construction-type stuff.  So we'd  have to pay to have everything done by someone else.....and I don't trust most of the construction type folks around here.

I got on my financial hat and did some guesstimates of what all the projects this house needs done would run.
Everything--windows, insulation, roof, new plumbing, wiring, appliances, kitchen cabinets, ceilings, flooring, garage door, siding on the house, retaining walls, driveway plus the demolition and clean-out would run $60,000.
This doesn't include anything we find behind the walls, new sheetrock for the walls, foundation structural issues or replacing roof trusses or if all the roof sheathing needs replacing.  It also doesn't include if the well is bad.

They are asking $39,000 "as is".  We would feel comfortable paying $20,000 due to the deplorable condition it's in and all the work it needs.  It's worth $20K just for the land and IF the foundation is sound.

Our other possibility here is to demolish the house/garage/workshop.  We could park an RV trailer and use it for a vacation property for the short term....I'd  have to check the zoning regulations first in this area to see if that is feasible.  This would cost whatever we can get a used RV camper for.
Then we could sell the camper and build a new house when we were ready to move forward with that.

This could be a big mistake/money pitt or it could be a diamond shat out in a pile of dog turds.
I've watched all those flipping real estate shows to know that once you start tearing things off or out of a house, you will, without a doubt, find things hidden from sight that will cost you additional money in replacement or repairs.
For some reason, after going through this horror of a house and taking a good long shower once I got home and burning what I was wearing, I can't seem to just say this isn't worth even considering!
I don't know.....maybe my brain cells disintegrated from all the molds spores floating in the air in that house and I'm not thinking straight.

Help me out here, will ya?
What do you think of this place?
Potential or Hell NO?!



  1. It holds very interesting possibilities, doesn't it? I guess if you got it cheap enough like the $20,000 the land is probably worth that? Tons of work - possibly so much so that taking the house down and starting over might be cheaper to build a small home just right for the two of you.

  2. What about buying it for the property (for lower than their asking price) and demolishing the house (although the fireplace looks like something worth saving), fixing the retaining walls and then putting up a manufactured home rather than go through the expense of stick-built or the inconvenience of an RV? Manufactured (not mobile) homes these days are not the flimsy, poor-quality structures they were in the past and can be customized any way you like (we personally love the modern ones that are available today).

  3. Hire a home inspector for around $200 t0 $500. Have him go through it, climb in attic, do everything. He may be the type to tell the ptb your thoughts and price range, so keep that close to the vest. Mold mitigation is expensive.

    I think the house needs to be razed. There are home plans built for expansion. You could build a verrrrryyy small place to move, sell the house, and use the profits of the house to add onto the tiny house and have what you need. By tiny, I mean kitchen you eventually want, second bath, and extra bedroom. When you get the house sold, add on the master bedroom and larger bath and whatever you need for your retirement home.

    The land sounds great. The house at this point is unlivable. In this town, you can get a special provision to park a trailer/camper for up to six months to live in while construction is done. You need demolition. Maybe you could provide someone with a place to park HIS trailer while the place is demolished, saving you part of that cost. Hauling away is expensive.

    If the roof is compromised, so are the ceiling joists and possibly wall studs. It is hard to get mold away and dry rot is a killer of wood.

    You are 20 feet above the level of the creek, or 20 feet from the creek? A whole apt building was flooded here, and they were 50 feet from the creek, not above the level of the creek but on a steep slope.

  4. Sluggy,
    As you write, this could be an opportunity. Get a structural engineer out there first to determine if the foundation is sound or not. Also get a bid for demolishing the buildings (assume foundation is oK) and a bid for reconstruction. Look into prefab also.

    Good luck! This could be an adventure!

  5. How'd you get in my house??!

    I kid!

    As I looked at the pictures I felt like grabbing a garbage bag and getting to work on it... We got a tour of a house we were considering buying and it was a mess. The owners adult son was sleeping on the basement couch where he lived. Spider webs everywhere down there... The realtor reminded us that we'd be buying the house, not the lifestyle! Good advice, but we still didn't buy it.

    In this case, $90-$100 grand on a house with that much property wouldn't be bad. Considering if you lived in an RV while the repairs were made slowly over the course of a few years. As the repairs are made, you could move in slowly. This coming from a girl who's parents remodeled the house as we lived in it with 7 kids... I know how to do sheetrock but I do not do electrical work.
    You'd definitely want a lot of bleachy cleanser...

  6. I always try to be kind and supportive whenever I leave comments. I take the middle road whenever I can so I don't make waves. I also try to leave uplifting comments because I know how hard life can be. And after all of these years, you know me. We are friends so brace yourself for the "real Sonya." What are you thinking? There is no helping that place!!!! Den is handy and I am willing to get dirty but there is no way to help that place. We wouldn't even try. All that was said with love!
    I think you need to look at a few other places before making a decision.
    I see so many problems, I don't even know where to start. I think you will continue to have roofing problems just because of the add-ons. The foundation is probably shot and if it is, it will be cheaper to tear it down. Don't even get me started on the plumbing or lack of wiring. And one more thing that you forgot-it is probably haunted. As old as it is, I'm sure a few people have died in that place. Hell woman, there might be a few dead bodies in there.
    The only thing that I would suggest is looking at it as just buying the land sort of deal. And then burn the house to the ground. START OVER!!!
    I have done so many projects and I can tell you now all the "fix-it up, flip the darned thing" program shows combined can't help that house. Let it die alone!

  7. If you or hubs were like, if not extremely, at least moderately-high handy, I'd say go for it. Even if the foundation is semi solid, you'd be better off just demolishing the whole place and starting from scratch due to mold inside the walls, untold water damage, lack of insulation, and toxic in the... well, in every material. My advice? Get a friend that knows houses, or a darn good inspector and get most of those surprises over with before even considering the place. $20k sounds good for the terrain, but the house itself sounds like it'd be cheaper demolished than repaired. The way they added random additions with little consideration to any sort of logical structure may be pointing to other structural problems as well. Potential? Yes. But it may be much larger of a project than you guys want to undertake. Don't they custom build small houses like that for cheaper than $60k and ship them to the location?

  8. Potential is my vote. But look at the cost of tear down/new build. And if you can use the foundation. I did something similar (not nearly as bad though) - folks thought I was crazy until I was done. In the end my place was much nicer/newer than theirs (next door townhouse) and cost less all in (house plus reno). Have fun!

  9. my sister was able to purchase the same type of thing right outside of berwick. Then they tore it down and purchased a prefab, the ones they build right outside of bloom and put it on the land. The land was worth it and the prefab came in cheaper then the repairs they would have had to do

  10. Craphole. But I am not a homeowner or handy.

  11. The lot has potential. I don't see any potential in the house. I don't see a way that you could ever make the roofline cohesive. The house is more of a financial liability than its worth. Research demolition and lot prices to see what its worth to proceed.

  12. I agree with Sonya Ann up there. That there is a real shithole.

    Plus, the most important issue to address is that you can't do the work yourself and your husband doesn't want to or know how. This could cause some serious tension between the two of you.

    It is not worth it.

  13. As I said, raze it. However, some people raze buildings for the material. That would relieve you of some of the cost of getting that off the property. My father took a side job on the weekends where he remodeled a garage for the stuff in it and the attic plus a little money. The antiques were fantastic. I doubt you will have that luck with this house. But, there are guys who will want the material, no matter how bad it looks. I think Daddy did all the loading and hauling to the dump of the junk, but the guy paid for the dump fee.


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