Take this house, for example. It's 112 N Porter Ave in Waukesha WI. On the outside it looks somewhat normal. Even the inside photos make the home seem OK.
The description reads: Rehabber's Special!! Basementless ranch home. Great Waukesha east side location! 2 full baths. Large city lot. Priced $80,000 below city assessment. Hot Water Heat, Tankless hot water heater. Some new doors and windows. Concrete construction. Water damage. New Price. A great deal just got better.
Great deal - I'm all for that. This home started out around the $150,000 neighborhood when Craig and I first saw it listed, so a $116,000 price sounded very good, even if it is a "rehabbers special." The neighborhood is a good one, and has mostly unique and historical homes. The square footage is good, an attached garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Sounds GREAT. A relatively large lot as well. Sure, no basement, but we're having problems with our current one, so not having one eliminates that problem in a future purchase. We figured water damage = new roof. Sure, it's an expensive fix, but it's easy enough to hire someone for that and we'd have a house that could appreciate in value from that repair. Maybe some paint, other homey touches, some landscaping, and it would be a pretty cool house.
If you live in the area, they're having an open house next week, 5/24/08 from 2-3 pm. You'll have to check it out. We saw it during an "open house." The Realtor was waiting in her car - NOT in the house. That was the first sign of trouble. As we walked to the door she asked us, "You know about the serious water damage, right?" We replied that we had read the description that said there was water damage, but it did not indicate how severe. (here's where the truth in advertising issue starts to appear) Upon opening the door the Realtor did not turn on any lights, but stayed near the door, telling us to wander around and let her know if we had any questions. She did briefly point out the new interior and exterior doors and interior light fixtures, even though they did not match the style of the house at all, but they WERE new.
She seemed afraid to turn on the lights and carried a small flashlight in her pocket. Why you ask - because I think she was afraid of being electrocuted. Yes, that's right, she did not want to turn on a light and die in the process. It wasn't that there were bare wires hanging everywhere. Not at all. It was the puddles of water everywhere. In this photo you see a large garbage can sitting by the fire place - that was half filled with water pouring from the roof - and she told us she'd emptied it once already. The photo of the bedroom does not show the mold and soggy ceiling from the waterfall feature coming from the roof there. The carpet squished when it was walked on. The floors, even without a basement, were bowing and warping. The wood beams, seen in the fireplace picture, showed signs of rot and mold and would not, most assuredly, last another year in the destructive conditions of the extremely leaky roof.
The owner must have mounted a flat screen TV of some kind inside a wall because there was a large rectangular hole in one inside wall in the living room - so the purchaser of the home would need to fix that or have the same exact size TV. Or demolish the entire inside of the house - which really is the only option for a house so severely damaged by water as this one is, and so poorly laid out.
Another odd thing about the house, even if it was not leaking like a sieve, was the layout. It seemed like it was thrown together by a child - someone to whom space and function were completely irrelevant. There was a back side door with a mud room - that seemed detached from the rest of the house, and it was classified as a bedroom. WHO has a front door, garage entry way door and utility connections for washer/dryer and hot water heater in their bedroom? Unless they're living in their mom's basement, and even then there's not a front door. There was not a closet in this room either. We really thought it was a mudroom until the Realtor asked us if we'd seen the "extra" bedroom by the garage.
The living/dining room also had a front and back door. The front doors were double - can be seen in the top photo as the two doors on the front/right side of the house. The kitchen/dining room were spacious but kind of oddly laid out, along with another front door with a screen. That's 4 entrances to the home, not counting the garage. None of them had any kind of paved walk way that I recall.
How about bedrooms. Four, it says, right? Well, not really. There was one obvious bedroom and the mudroom that they'd called a bedroom, but we could not find the other two. Then Craig asked me why the kitchen would need two pantries. Upon inspection I assumed, and it was confirmed by the Realtor, that these two 9X7 rooms, completely devoid of closets or electric outlets, each lit only by one exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling, were the other two bedrooms. I can assure you that these rooms would not be functional bedrooms. A twin bed would barely fit inside either of them, and again, no closets. I don't think they had windows either, but I can't completely recall that. And they were attached to the kitchen. I guess that's convenient for morning coffee.
The stove top was built in, and was clearly the original from when the house was originally built back in 1951. Not sure if it even worked anymore. Same with the vintage built-in oven. Not sure if the garage opened properly - she never showed us. It had an extremely cheap tankless hot water heater installed - not sure how much longer that would work. She claimed the house was heated with hot water heat, but we couldn't be sure of that still working. We did turn on some lights and they worked, but the faucets were labeled by the city - so the water was probably turned off. (not that there was a shortage of water in the house) She did not know if the fireplace worked properly. It did not have any air conditioning, nor any ducts by which a/c could be run into the house. A small window air conditioner dangled out of the one "real" bedroom window, but we were not sure that worked either.
The house was also built on the back of the lot line - no back yard to speak of. But an extremely large front yard. VERY unusual! And what that little rock wall (seen best in the 1st picture) was for, I have absolutely NO idea. Driving up to the house it looked like the shed or pool house for the house directly next to it. (seen to the left in the photo)
I said something like - I wonder how much the lot is worth. Might be a value just to tear the house down and build a new home. The Realtor quickly informed me that because it was a historical neighborhood it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tear the house down. Apparently even though this house was not old or historic, the historical society would put up a big fight about any home in the neighborhood being demolished. She said we could call the city and see what they said, but that we'd have a real fight on our hands. Not that we could afford a demolish & rebuild plus the lot anyway.
This poor house! I'd bet the only people who walk through are those who read the listing and were not informed of the true state of destruction this house is in. I doubt it will last another winter without falling in on itself. The leaks are so bad that with the humidity of the summer and the damp-wood loving insects that will surely come to visit, if they have not already laid their claim, will find a haven here. Mold and mildew were already present; the house had the smell of it everywhere, and the summer heat will also increase that problem.
Let's fix this add now. One bedroom 10 X 7. One "other" room called a mudroom or den, 13X12, two utility rooms, each 9 X 7. Occupancy - while you could get the title quickly, there is NO WAY anyone could safely live there, making it not really as immediate as the "Immediate" indicates on the listing. The description should say something like: Rehabbers Only!! Basementless ranch home. Waukesha historic location. Large city lot with home set at the back. Priced $80,000 below city assessment. Deteriorating interior construction. Serious water damage. Bank owned. Lots of love and money needed to restore this to its original beauty!