This house has many hearts.

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Tangina, Poltergeist

We’re currently house hunting, but not in any serious fashion since we’re not really financially able to take on the expense of a house, but we do like to drive around and haunt the neighborhood foreclosures and HUD homes in the area.

We’re like vultures, in that sense, gleefully feeding off the carcasses of the unfortunate.


Over the past few months, we’ve had our eye on a house in a city just up the road apiece, and I’ve become smitten, even though it’s an absolute wreck of a structure. It’s the former homestead of a family that runs the funeral home across the street (see how perfect it is!).


How I need you in my life
How I need you in my life

Okay, yes the railing is falling off the steps, but get a load of the Widow’s Walk on the second story? And the steps lead up to a full front settin’ porch. Whatever home I ultimately end up in will have a settin’ porch. The windows on the lower level are the original winter windows – meaning that there are hooks where the outer glass panes slip on and off and they are still functional. I love that about an older house.

I’d called the realtor a few weeks back to inquire about the house, since we’d driven by a few times, and the price they’re asking is several miles north of ridiculous.  We’re being fed a line as to why it’s so expensive, as if I haven’t heard those stories before when I worked for architects who dealt with realtors. Yes the house sits on 2/3 of an acre and yes the house is 1,500 square feet, but it’s also advertised as having a 2-car garage (demolished in 2006) and 1.5 baths (I only saw one – and about that later). Since the real estate agent and I were a wee bit cold over the phone I let D do the talking when we met for a walk-through yesterday. an vowed to be a passive, silent observer.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t suppress the giggles.

The gentleman let us in through the rear entrance and the first thing I noticed is the floor, upon which is scatter a goodly amount of walnuts, and when I say “goodly amount” I mean they are everywhere.  Somewhere on the property is a walnut tree and some industrious animal (or several generations since it’s been empty for about 5 years)  is storing them in this house, so we know what that means – Rabies! As we entered my unspoken suspicions are validated when we hear scurrying on the upper levels. That’s pretty much when the giggles start.

I don’t have any pics of the lower level, but the kitchen and nook are well spaced with beautiful cabinet work. The counters are generous as well, overlooking the fact that insulation and lord knows what else covered the surfaces.  It’s got a dishwasher (destined for the landfill) and a nice range (adequate but no clue if it actually works).  The nook windows overlook the expansive yardage.

The room that would be considered the dining room would be behind the windows on the left of that pic above.  The living room (on the right) has the original fireplace and extends to the rear of the home. There are hardwood floors throughout – of not original, then definitely well-maintained.  We noticed no creaking or soft spots as we took the tour.

The second floor:

Three bedrooms on the second floor as well as the only bathroom I saw.

Hello world!
Hello world!

This bedroom is opposite the stairs.  A perfect room for an office or television room. Yes, I did notice the chair, and when we first entered, it was on the floor and it propped open the door. The realtor closed the door and replaced the chair.   There was also a crowbar in the opposite corner, which I pointed out. You can probably see the walnuts in the corner. Someone is in and out of this house and they aren’t bothering to use the key in the lockbox.

The view from above
The view from above

From that window over looking the front yard. You can *just* see the funeral home across the street.

I didn’t get pics of the other rooms but they are on opposite sides of the home. The original hot water radiators are there, if not hooked up and the wood floors are sound.  darling little phone nooks and otehr long forgotten accents of  home built prior to the ’60s. It appears to have the nearly all original windows – some work and others are painted shut or missing that counter-weight.


This is the closet of the bedroom to the right of the room with the Widow’s Walk. Built-in and expansive (for a home built in 1919) you’ll notice the open door (more walnuts!).  Inside that open door (too dark for my cruddy camera) are the eaves, someone’s blanket, and a lot of daylight. It may not be the only entry/exit point for critters, but it’s a good-sized one.

The original owners (and as far as I know the only owners before what I assume to be the builder/developer entity that may own it now) had a sense of humor because the hooks in that home are the crooked finger variety. Deliciously creepy considering the family business.

Now the bathroom, which is my favorite room.

Where's my Do Not Disturb sign?
Where's my Do Not Disturb sign?

Skylight, which looked well sealed, a step-up whirlpool tub, and yes, that’s a pull chain toilet.

Le Crappier
Le Crappier
Throw me the idol I'll throw you the whip
Throw me the idol I'll throw you the whip
hey hey
hey hey
Yeah, this is coming out
Yeah, this is coming out

Do note the adorable built-in shower made for midgets and other people clearly not interested in standing up straight while they wash.  I’m not even speculating about what’s on the bottom.  Let’s talk about this gorgeous tub.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I dig the carpeted steps to get up into the tub.  I heart the way the skylight shines creating a sacred space – which is exactly how I view my bathtub. I’m not a Jacuzzi/whirlpool tub kinda gal, but this kinda impressed me.

magazine rack *and* a phone! *squeee*
magazine rack *and* a phone! *squeee*

This is class!

This however, is not:


Hello, dead mouse. What you can’t see is the dead rat on the opposite corner that has been there much longer and is only discernable as a rat by the skull and black ropey remains of the tail.

There is a full basement, but as anyone who knows me can probably guess I didn’t check it out as I did the rest of the house.  I managed to make it to the archway and got down on my haunches while D investigated for cracks in the foundation and checked out the boiler. There was no .5 bath down there either.

We thanked the realtor for his time and he locked up.  I’ve got his card and we’ll probably call on him again, but we’ll definitely have our own person negotiate for us. I’m sure I didn’t endear myself to the agent as I didn’t speak to him directly much, other than pleasantries and the parting reminder that there was a dead mouse in the tub.

This house isn’t being maintained and probably due to the fact that they’re advertising it to builders and developers as a teardown where the land is worth more.  The land is, even the slab where the imaginary 2-car garage sits, and only because the City requires it. I already know the price has come down by half since it originally went on the market, and if you know the area, there is plenty of open office space for lease. Sinking what it would take to prepare and build this place into anything the guy was talking about isn’t even remotely feasible in this economy. In the guy’s defence, he did say that we could put in a bid (which kinda blows the whole “other interested important buyers” story out of the water), which tells me volumes.

I know this house would be a burden on us financially, even if we get it for the price we want because of all of the work required to fix it up, but I still want it.  Bad. In the guy’s defence, he did say that we could put in a bid (which kinda blows the whole “other interested important buyers” story out of the water) and it would probably be considered.

If I may ask my realtor friends a simple question – how far would you go to make sure the owner of a property got the price and buyer s/he wanted?  Would you leave a home to fall into utter disrepair for the sake of making it unattractive so it only sells to a developer? For years on end? It bothered me that in this economy where agents and companies are complaining about the decline of sales of any property, a house that could go for its asking price had it been kept up even in the loosest of terms,  is left to the local wildlife. Even commercially, the price seems high (the land is zoned R 0-1, meaning you could run a business out of  it). The ad on the website still talks about the 1.5 bathrooms and 2-car garage and even has an aerial photo of the garage, but again, it hasn’t existed in a few years. Now I even wonder aboout the “approximate” square footage.

The whole situation kinda pisses me off, but I can wait. I think I can get this house for close to what I want to pay for it so long as the owner and agent become realistic about selling it.  If it’s only abut the land, as the house is being neglected, sell me the property for the price of the land, but don’t jack up the price to turn people off.

Maybe I’m way off about this, but I’d like a little advice from my peeps who sell dreams: how would you proceed?

UPDATE 9/8/2011: I discovered a few weeks ago that under a new Realtor, this house sold for $60,000. I’m heartsick that such a beautiful structure will be torn down and become an Allstate office.  If the Realtor had been willing to at least entertain a reasonable price, instead of a flat out refusal to even speak to the Owner, a nice family could be moving in.

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Just this fox. I'm a writer of horror and dark fantasy. I totally don't brag about it. The latter statement is an utter lie.
  • PJ
    June 21, 2009 - 5:39 pm

    Oh let me post here, too! ***SQUEE***

  • PJ
    June 21, 2009 - 5:40 pm

    AND MORE ***SQUEE***

  • Molly
    June 22, 2009 - 7:36 am

    Ok, you know I am not an agent, I just play one on the internet 😉 But, my thoughts are this…and be sure to run it past your guy before you write an offer…(if you need a guy, let me know, I can hook you up with someone in your area)

    It is not your job to be sure the owner of the property got what they wanted. That is the job of the person who walked you through the house. Personally, I think they are NUTS letting that property go into such disrepair. What business is going to move to your area right now? SERIOUSLY…from what I hear the market is so incredibly bad up there and limiting yourself to a “maybe” opportunity is just stupid.

    Most of the work might be cosmetic, they built houses so much better back then, be sure if you do go forward you have a THROUGH inspection (which can also be your out if you find something really bad like they didn’t tear down the garage termites ate it sort of thing)

    If the listing on the local sites still has the garage pictured but it hasn’t been there for 3 years the property may have been for sale for YEARS and NO ONE wants it. it might put you in a good position…

    Remember, they have been paying the electrical and property taxes on that puppy the whole time it has been vacant-so, they might haven’t even had a nibble on this one (other than the mice)

  • Molly
    June 22, 2009 - 3:58 pm

    Funny…I mentioned this house in the office and one of the agents said hey my son in law has a house up there….


    cute, but might not be exactly what you are looking for, it does however have TWO bathrooms..as advertised and no walnuts.

  • Veach
    June 22, 2009 - 6:12 pm

    My sister purchased a similarly aged/condition home last year (she lives near Indianapolis).

    It also sat and rotted for years. The owners asked $325. She made an offer of $249 contingent on the results of a inspection and she added some other codicils to her bid (I can’t recall them all, but they were things like ‘owner pays all closing costs’, and ‘owner will replace the roof’). She ended up getting the home for less than $230. (because the inspection found a leaking basement and other things that the current owner would be required to address prior to sale). She then put in a large amount of work to it and now it is ‘rented out’ for events and such. (some pics of it in its before and after states can be seen at her website: tailoredrose.com)

    Good luck.

  • little black duck
    June 22, 2009 - 10:12 pm

    Molly – Cute house, but it’s Downriver.

    Veach – money can do wonders for a house like that. $325 seems a lot for something that’s rotting from the inside. I’ll never understand realtors and over-inflated housing prices in this market.

  • Maureen Francis
    September 8, 2011 - 8:12 pm

    A couple of things. Hope I don’t come off as defensive, but I am a Realtor, after all 🙂

    The Realtor does not in any way set the price. The Realtor advised the client and the client chooses to accept the advice (or not). Some Realtors will hold on to a poorly priced listing in hopes that some day the seller will come to his senses or just get tired. Some sellers can’t figure out how they can afford to reduce the price to market value when they owe more than the house is worth. A good agent should be able to at least provide them with options.

    Condition is all solely the responsibility of the seller. The agent can advise them to clean it up/maintain it, but if the seller does not do it, it’s usually not going to happen. If this seller believes the value is all in the land then he does not want to spend money on the house.

    It is a cool house and you love it. I don’t know what you know about the history of the listing and comparable properties, but those are all things you would want to discuss with your agent. Given the state of the home, you also will want to be discussing your financing options with your lender. There is a special FHA loan that provides funds for repairs. The way it is now, you probably could not get a regular FHA loan due to it’s condition.

    If you need some names of lenders, shoot me a note. I would be happy to point you in the right direction.

    • little black duck
      September 8, 2011 - 8:21 pm

      All of which I could understand – except when I discussed the price with the Realtor, he flat out refused to even speak with the Owner, telling me the owner had no intentions of coming down. I threw out the $80K price then, and he began walking towards the door.

      I reposted this story because over the winter the old realty sign came down and in the spring a new company was advertising. We were interested in it all over again, thinking maybe the Owner had changed his mind. The house didn’t change hands. It sold a month ago for $60,000. That’s one heck of a drop.

      I have to wonder – what changed the owner’s mind, and if I had been allowed to make an offer then, maybe I wouldn’t have to watch it be torn down this fall.

      • Maureen Francis
        September 8, 2011 - 10:20 pm

        A Realtor is obligated to present all offers. If the offer had been in writing he had to give it to the seller for the seller to make up his mind. A verbal offer is pretty much meaningless in Michigan. Did your agent ever submit an offer for you?

        The agent you were talking to sounds like the seller’s agent. You said you planned to have your own agent. I don’t know how this all progressed, other than the sad ending, but I always recommend people see houses with their own agent, not the seller’s agent for many reasons.

        Sorry you did not get the house.

  • Tracy
    September 8, 2011 - 8:49 pm

    I’m in love with the porch. I can already imagine sitting on the porch, reading a book and watching the rain under a blanket… Yeah, I know it’s your house but I’ll come over and use it 🙂 And the bathroom is just perfect.

    • little black duck
      September 8, 2011 - 8:51 pm

      Doug thinks we might be able to talk to someone about talking them out of it selling it and tearing it down.

But how do you really feel?

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