What I'm Seeing Now


An Historic Mess!

I was excited recently when I was called to inspect a very historic property in Northern Virginia.  Built in 1902, it has been actively listed and on the market for two years.  No offers.  Historic properties abound here and I love seeing them.  The picture is blurry.

The buyer had grand plans to fix it up a bit and rent it out for a while until the market improves.  They were grand plans.

I met him in front.  He said, "We need to go through the back door."

"No problem.  Let's go."









The rear door turned out to be a piece of plywood over an old cellar door, the metal door long gone.  I helped him open it.




And this is what I saw.


It wasn't that deep, but the stairs were a bit frightful!



Well, maybe all this trash was moved toward the door to be able to get it out.




Well, no.  On the left, under that window, is the other end of that stair way entrance into the cellar.

We picked our way through the mess.

The house as been vacant for two years, the seller residing now in a nursing home.  There is no water or gas, although there was electricity.


When he called, he wanted me to determine the condition of the structure, the heating system, water heater, and roof.  I could see from the outside that the roof was in rough shape as a large limb had fallen onto it in the rear.  That couldn't be pretty from inside I thought.  But as to the rest...

The structure was generally a mish mash of fixes here and there.  As something sagged, it was supported from underneath - a column here, another there, a shim or two, some under floor support.  All resting right on the ground!  And cute!

It was quite wet (muddy dirt floor), moldy, sagging, full of termites and, in my opinion, dangerous!!

I recommended an engineer, but could say that it would need to be replaced, perhaps piece by piece.  Since this is an historic property, it could not be razed.  Repairs would be mandated, difficult, piecemeal and expensive.

To say the least.

"Well," he asked, "what about the heating system?"

And, here it is...



This is his picture, but you get the idea.  The unit was old, rusty, dirty and not usable.  The very old radiator service lines were the same, and galvanized!

I told him he would surely have to replace the unit, and probably the service lines as well.

It would be a major operation.


To say the least!




And the water heater?


It was a bit rough as well.


Not very old (12 years) but fairly used up, rusting all over, no incline on the very corroded vent line, no tube on the TPR valve, interesting heat deflector above...


Overall, I think it needed to be replaced.


To say the least!




"How about that old water heater on the other side?"


"Um, no, that one won't work either.  You will need a new one period."


To say the least!


He was disappointed to hear all this.  (His wife was not...)



"Well, what about the roof?  We should at least see that while we are here."  We made our way up some scary stairs to the main level.  The house was so full of debris and stuff that I could not see the floor or walls anywhere!  And I mean anywhere!


This is typical of what I saw when we got upstairs - the ceilings looked like this in most of the upper level bedrooms.  I said, "The roof looks to be in bad shape all over."


To say the least!


The access to the attic was a staircase in a bedroom closet. We had to move stuff just for me to be able to get onto the first step! I looked.




I couldn't see too much...












Most of the house looked like this!  I did not expect much better in the attic.  I was not disappointed!  What bothered me most about the attic was the many, many huge piles of raccoon poop!  I hoped one would NOT show up.  They can be very mean when you approach or enter their territory!

My client said, "I think I'm going to blow up this deal.  I was just hoping to remove all the trash, fix a couple of things and rent the place out.  I think this is going to be more than I bargained for."

To say the least!

His wife said, "Thank you for saving him from himself!" Another day, another salvation!  All in a day's work...

My recommendation:  Historic properties can be interesting and a lot of fun!  Not all of them are like this.  But when you get a call to list or sell one, get a home inspection!




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 112 commentsJay Markanich • August 28 2009 04:43AM


Just what "history" does this house represent??  The history of neglect??

How could this property be put on the market?  Or, was it.  Your article doesn't indicate that it was an actual listing.  In which case, it's clearly an unsafe property and no agent with half a brain would permit a buyer to even enter it.  Further, no listing agent would permit showings until it was made safe.

The question still is, is this property "historic" or just old and ugly????

And unsafe to enter.  To say the least!

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Hi Lenn!  Yes, clearly unsafe.  And it has been listed and on the market for two years.  I will make that change to the post!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

WOW I'm looking for that one in the MLS and see what the description says.  I"m with Lenn what makes this property "historic"?  I can't believe that any buyer's agent couldn't have told this couple that the house was a disaster.  Hopefully he takes your advice and walks away.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 11 years ago

Sad that any structure is so highly neglected especially if it has historical value. Im curious as to how much it was listed for.

Posted by Chip Jefferson (Gibbs Realty and Auction Company) almost 11 years ago


Did the owner really need a home inspector to help out here? No disrespect but some things are so obvious as to be laughable.

BTW, where the heck is the listing agent in all this?


Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 11 years ago

That what I call a FIXER UPPER and a prayer. . you fix and you pray that you upped the purchase price!

I'll give them $5000 to take it off their hands and I use this post as my inspection. since it was so well written.

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 11 years ago

Jay, You seem to get all the best inspections. If you ask me it's a bit ridiculous to save a property this far gone because someone deemed it historical.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 11 years ago

This is beyond "handyman's special" or "needs a little TLC." YIKES!

Posted by Leslie Helm, Real Estate For Trail Riders (Tennessee Recreational Properties) almost 11 years ago

If you are doing an inspection...the buyer would have to have toured the property and written an offer that was accepted...did he take the tour blindfolded...buy it off the internet with imaginary pictures.....some people should just rent...

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 11 years ago

Great work!

Posted by Will Nesbitt, Nesbitt Realty is a family-run brokerage. (Nesbitt Realty at Condo Alexandria) almost 11 years ago

That's a historic wreck!  He should call This Old House to see what they think about it!  Also, is there a story that places the home with some historical figure or something?

Posted by Bob Haywood, BobHaywood.com (McGraw Realtors) almost 11 years ago

I love old homes and several years ago almost bought one in Savannah, GA that was over 200 yrs. old.  But the amount of work on some of them is far more than the average consumer can envision. That would have certainly been a "money pit." While they may not be aware, you helped them avoid disaster. 

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 11 years ago

Jay, did Tom Hanks or Shelley Long happen to be in the house laughing while you were there?

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) almost 11 years ago


George Washington must have slept every night in a different home, given the number of historic homes in my area!  Sometimes, however, a wrecking ball is the only renovation that makes any sense. Particularly if one hopes to rent the old home - few tenants will be pleased with the constant TLC most demand...

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 11 years ago

Jay -

I not sure I even want to know the agent who put this house on the market!  Was it at least on a nice piece of land?  Remember the movie "Money Pit"? 


Posted by Michael Bergin, Northern Virginia Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - ABR - SRES ) almost 11 years ago

Wow....a lot to contend with for sure.

Patricia Aulson/portsmouth nh homes

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 11 years ago

Jay that poor house borders on "hysterical" not "historical":)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Great post as always Jay.  Reminds me of my lender inspection days.

I find some of the responses interesting.  Yes these properties are listed and shown all the time in this shape and worse in my area. Quite often they are "described" with "less than truthful" writings by the listing agents/companies...To say the least !  Kind of like a CarFax commercial where you see the car being extenguished by firefighters and the description quickly gets changed from "minor smoke damage..." to "this car is HOT!"

I once heard an agent scream at my client "why do you want a home inspection??? You're already getting a good deal!!!"

Sometimes the Best Deals are the ones you walk away from!  As was the case in your post.


Keep up the great work!  :)

Posted by Bill Warner, Infrared Thermal Inspector (BC Warner Inspections) almost 11 years ago
I recommend my clients to all get home inspections, but definitely in a property like this! If I were you, I would have ran home to shower as fast as I could!!!!
Posted by Kayla Pearce, Real Estate Agent - Milford Delaware (First Class Properties) almost 11 years ago

I love old homes... and even if this one is in very great disrepair...maybe someone with lots of money will come along and fix it!  (Glass is half full!)

In any case; if they could dig out all the stuff, imagine all the neat old stuff they may find...you have to dig for gold and you have to dig through a mountain of trash and junk to find something of historc value here but I bet you it is there!

Coming to you from Texas

Posted by Sussie Sutton almost 11 years ago

Geeze Louise!  Did the guy bother to go inside before he called you?  So much that is funky about this place is totally obvious, and I'm not talking about the trash.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Almost seems like a work of fiction. That's a pretty challenging property, for sure!

Posted by Melissa Zavala, Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County (Broadpoint Properties) almost 11 years ago

"Thank you for saving him from himself"  HAHA I run into buyers ALL the time in the market for hisstoric homes - sometimes their good and others?  Lot's of problems like your pictures above.  It's wonderful that the buyer had an inspector like you!

Posted by Leesa Finley, RED Properties - Raleigh NC Real Estate (RED Properties) almost 11 years ago

Hi Jay ~ Houses like this should of course be priced to account for all that needs to be done - and in most cases would be bought by an experienced builder or contractor who wouldn't have an inspection.  Nobody buys a house like that after an inspection.  You just go in at a price that accounts for doing everything that needs to be done.  Some novice buyers go down the inspection path for a house like this - despite their agent's counsel - but they almost never buy the house. It's not for them. Hopefully it will be bought by somebody worthy because it could be beautiful again if someone does right by it. I'm delighted that there are preservation restrictions - I hope they're strict ones.


Posted by Elizabeth Bolton, Cambridge MA Realtor (RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA) almost 11 years ago

Jay, maybe a horder lived there? Glad that you saved this buyer from himself as some people don't have any idea what they are getting themselves into.  Termites = run.  You'd have to be sure everything was ok with a structural engineer in that basement with dirt floors.  Sure, let's add some stone foundation walls into the mix too!  Is that your first inspection where you entered the house from the cellar?  Don't forget to mark that one down!

Sometimes with an older historic home the village gets themselves all rapped up in saving it that they can never sell it.  OR to someone who would care to fix it up.  We've got one historic home in my village that's been for sale for 5-10 years, I can't remember.  The village is just hell bent on getting it redone and just recently they've found a builder dope to do it.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 11 years ago


To say the least,  this house had a lot of delayed maintenance before it went into serious neglect.  It looks like a typical 80 year old foreclosure would look.  Scary.

Posted by Carol Pease, CRS, Broker-Associate 512-721-6320 (JP & Associates Realtors) almost 11 years ago

Jay, Historic or prehistoric? Looks like my great grandpa's house which one of my cousins adopted as a live-in project. Kate

PS I went back and read your post again for financing info. Did not see what he had planned. I am guessing he was intending to pay with cash?

Posted by Kate Kate almost 11 years ago

As a specialist in historic homes, this reminded me of a couple of houses that hopeful sellers called me for an opinion. Sometimes you need to tell them like it is. You or your ancestor or whoever was responsible over the last 25 years could not "afford" to fix up or upkeep the house, and has contributed to demolition by neglect. It's a technique used by so called slumlords.  Your buyer sounds like he was in training to become one. But his wife saw the light!

Posted by Carolyn Roland-Historic Homes For Sale In Delaware and S. Chester County PA, Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS (Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Sounds like the historic designations are pretty strict in your community if it can't be demolished regardless of it's condition.  There is a point where a historic property becomes a blight on the neighborhood, and this one seems to fit that. I love historic homes, but you'd have to sell this one for a song to someone who would strip it to the studs and start over.  Wow.

Posted by Marcy Eastham (Town & Country Realty Corvallis Oregon) almost 11 years ago

That was awsome, thanks for the pictures of it.

Posted by James Lyon (Vista Pacific Realty) almost 11 years ago

Thats MORE than a fixer-upper and a prayer...that's the Money Pit!

Posted by Christianne O'Malley, Exceptional Service - Delivering Results in Reno! (RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) almost 11 years ago

Whew!  What a disastor; it is not even salvagable in my opinion.

Posted by Linda Landry (HomeSmart Realty) almost 11 years ago

It's true, not all historic properties are like this, but any of them should have an inspection by a very qualified professional.  Having done a few remodels, I know there can be surprises hidden in the walls, and I know inspectors don't have xray vision, but a good one will know some of the potential issues to warn a client about.

Posted by Tamara Perlman (Referral Network Inc.) almost 11 years ago

That is awesome.  I have tried buying places like that before and my wife always talks me out of it way before other people get involved.  The racoon story reminds me of doing some floor work in the city.  I told my partner there were piles in the upstairs, he asked me if it was human piles or animal piles.  I said does it matter?

Posted by Kevin Middleton almost 11 years ago

 Just in time for Halloween...very scary!

Posted by Paula Springer, A.S.P. (Key Elements Inc. Home Staging & Interiors) almost 11 years ago

We deal with a lot of historic properties in Pennsylvania. Some of them we won't even touch. This would be one of them. As one of my clients said at one property, "Can I light the first match."

Posted by Jonathan D. Coles, BS, GRI, E-PRO (New Pennsylvania Realty, Inc.) almost 11 years ago

"Sounds like the historic designations are pretty strict in your community if it can't be demolished regardless of it's condition.  There is a point where a historic property becomes a blight on the neighborhood, and this one seems to fit that. I love historic homes, but.........."  I echo this sentiment expressed  by Marcy.

Posted by Kathleen Lordbock, Keller Williams Realty Professionals (Broker/Short Sale & Staging Specialist) almost 11 years ago

Yes, this is an eye sore for the unknowledgeable and/or inexperienced investor. Since it is an "historic" property, there should be some funding measures locally or federally that can help with the cost of repairs on "historic" homes.

Posted by Pam Loy almost 11 years ago

I would love to see how the listing agent represented the property in the MLS.

Posted by Stephen Orear, Realtor, CDPE - Carson City NV - Real Estate Specialist (Northern Nevada Real Estate - REMAX Realty Affiliates) almost 11 years ago

Jay, wow, what an inspection, that sounds like a tough property to sell in any market.

Posted by Jen Anderson (Exit By the Bay Realty) almost 11 years ago

I loved your post! Reminded me of many of the homes I saw here when I was selling.

Ours are generally not on the historic register - it surprised me that you said so many of yours are, because the people I've talked with here said it was difficult to get listed.

This community has MANY old homes that were built before cement came into use, and thus the wood sits on the earth. It's tough to tell sellers that a house with a rotting foundation isn't worth what they think it should be worth. But in reality, many of those homes do need to be demolished.

I'm all for preserving the past and saving those homes with the charm and grace of yesteryear. Old homes have a certain "something" that new construction never duplicats. But when the foundation, the roof, the plumbing, and the wiring all need to be replaced it just isn't a sound economic decision.

Meanwhile, I agree with Stephen - would love to see what the listing agent said in MLS. I'm also curious about the price. Was it a "giveaway" price or were the sellers expecting real money?

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) almost 11 years ago

Wow, what a mess.  I like looking at historic properties (oldest so far is about 225 years).  But this isn't even fit for inspection.  Someone will probably buy it for a song, detrash it, fix it up and sell it for a profit sooner or later though.

The only "historic" one I've looked at like that, took about 10 minutes for the first time, little money availabe, couple decided that it was more than they could handle.  Later they found one they could.

A funny, walking through the house, the buyer wife said, "Watch out for that floor over there, that's where I fell through into the celler"! 

Later someone with the money to do so, bought it fixed it up and sold it for a profit.

Just gotta understand what you're dealing with!

Posted by Erby Crofutt, The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY (B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)) almost 11 years ago

Oh my.  It is sad to see what happens when homes are neglected.  I enjoy old houses, and I'm all for saving historic properties, but it seems like this one may be past that point.

Posted by Judith Reppert (United Country Countryside Realty) almost 11 years ago

What were the buyers thinking? Hope they were able to get out of this contract...

Posted by Monique Ting, Your agent under the sun (INET Realty Honolulu, HI) almost 11 years ago

It is always sad to see historical properties in such disrepair.  Hopefully, the right owner will come along and restore the property to its former glory.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) almost 11 years ago

We have a saying, some homes you wipe your feet before you go in, some you wipe your feet on the way out. I think I can see which this was. I hope this wasn't an FHA contract! (teehee).

Posted by Angela James almost 11 years ago

Are you for real? Are you kidding.....YOU ARE BRAVE.  I know someone can spend the money to fix this up and salvage it, but I couldn't imagine how much time and work it will take, and I thought I'd seen it all.

Posted by Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Hi Jay,  Too bad some of these old houses are left to deteriorate to this point ! 

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 11 years ago

Welcome to my world.  My investors drool over properties like this.  I find it fascinating to take a house down to the bones and make it attractive once again.  The house appears to have nice curb appeal and great potential.

Tina in Virginia

Posted by Tina Merritt, Virginia Real Estate (Nest Realty) almost 11 years ago

I'm curious that the buyers agent didn't point out these obvious points to the buyer.  Was there a buyers agent?   If there was he/she should be ashamned of themselves.   How could any agent, seller or buyers agent not see this?   Thank God for inspectors like your self that tell it like it is and protect the public. 

Down here, when dealing with invesotors, even though they think they know everything and have planned for everything in their minds, I reccomend as strongly as possible to have third party inspectors check the property.  By being this way we have allowed many a investor to get out of the deal and move on without getting burned on what they couldn't see or recognise the extent of damage.

Gary Steuernagel  Missouri City TX  (Delta Realty Group)

Posted by Gary Steuernagel ASSOC. BROKER, ABR, CRB (Keller Williams Southwest) almost 11 years ago

Ok I have walked through some major messes in my heels for clients but i would have had to say no way on this one.   :)   I agree with some of the other posts what is the historical significance?

Posted by Andrea Curtis United Country Premier Properties Certified Military Relocation Professional, U C INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR OF MILITARY PROPERTIES (United CountryPremier Properties) almost 11 years ago

Too much late night TV with Flip-It-Quick infomecials has made many Buyers delusional. 

Posted by Nancy Filgate, I love what I do and it shows. (Smart Source Realty) almost 11 years ago

Oh wow -- what a mess is right.  Curious about the 'historic' value and what made it so. And what it was listed for.  Totally agree with where was the buyer's agent comments, and wonder how the listing agent desctibed it!  Much more needed than elbow grease and TLC.  I went to show a property to a buyer once and it was posted 'enter at your own risk' -- needless to say we didn't enter! 

Posted by Alexsandra Stewart, Broker - Portland Oregon Real Estate (Remax equity group) almost 11 years ago

Wow, that home needs quite a bit of work, these type of properties must make inspections more difficult!  The ceiling looks like it is in really rough shape.

Posted by Patricia Beck, Colorado Springs Realty (RE/MAX Properties, Inc., GRI, CDPE) almost 11 years ago


 My first R.E. purchase was the Money Pit!  After we cleaned all the crud out of the basement, we discovered that UNDER THE DIRT was a concrete floor! ( Previous owners opened the cellar door and threw their trash down into the basement!UGH!)Who knew??  We worked our way from the basement upward! It wasn't half bad after we got the resident bats out of the attic!

On a good note, we paid $35,000 for it;sold it for $38,000; and still own 80 acres and ALL the mineral rights for the entire acreage!

I have no idea what we were thinking of when buying this "home"(only lived there 2 summers!), but it did work to our advantage! I wouldn't exactly call it a "diamond in the rough", but maybe a tiny gemstone!

Kathy Opatka

Posted by Kathy Opatka, Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches (RE/MAX CROSSROADS) almost 11 years ago


So sad, but so common.  I have the flip side listed.  The home was built by the founder of the town's wife in 1889, after their (so uncommon at the time) divorce.  It was taken over by a relocation company, who has put almost $20,000 into it, and it is currently listed at $100,000,  Just for grins and giggles, check it out at mspomeroyshome.pomeroyhomesforsale.com

Posted by cindi herres (LCGMAC) almost 11 years ago

Thank you for posting the photos with your description.  It was very interesting to see.  Glad you save the buyer from himself.

Posted by Mike Weber, 40+ years in Northern Colorado (Keller Williams Realty Northern Colorado) almost 11 years ago

As a home inspector, I'm glad you went in there instead of me.  As a broker and investor, it's a shame that the house was neglected.  Compared to other countries we have so few old houses left.  At this point, the owner should probably consider careful demolition to salvage whatever is possible.  Old glass is very expensive to replace and the beams and flooring are in high demand.  The wood we harvest now is just not as dense as years ago.  Even doors and doorknobs could be used elsewhere.  If there is anything totally unique like light fixtures or faucets, etc. they could be sold to a company that makes reproductions of old fixtures.  Even the trim molding could be salvaged.  Then there's the beadboard.  Where would you go to get a few pieces to replace a few on your porch.  Can't be found anywhere.  Just consider this organ and tissue transplant for homes.

Posted by Judy Abernathy (A Lady Home Inspection Service) almost 11 years ago

Oh my goodness...what a mess! 


I wonder what it is that's so "Historical" about the place in the first place?


Looks like there might possibly be a plaque outside that says something like "Fred Sanford Lived Here" at least, that's what the photos look like...here's video of the home in it's "Better" days!




I may be getting up there in years, but old Broker-Granny knows what she's talking about!





Posted by Carol Simonson (ReMax) almost 11 years ago

A nice looking classic home always looks so nice, but as I have told my wife, they are not for me; too much work.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 11 years ago



It sad to see a home in this condition but it is nice to see that other inspectors sometimes have to put shoe covers on to protect their feet instead of the floor.


Thanks for sharing the experience

Posted by Scott Warga (ACSI American Construction Specialists & Investigations) almost 11 years ago

WOW ! I bet you felt unsafe in that home. It appears it might only be left to tear down. Too bad !

Posted by Nate Tasso almost 11 years ago

There is a reason why throughout history man has torn down the old and built anew on the same spot.  This appears to be one of those times. 

Posted by Steven Pahl, Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423 (Keller Williams Tampa Properties) almost 11 years ago

I took on what I thought was going to be a cosmetic fixer only to find out it had been a buffet for termites. I ended up having to rebuild pretty much the whole house. Somehow I managed to flip it and get out even. Next time I'll look closer!

Posted by France and Mark Clausen (Realty Austin) almost 11 years ago

What a shame.   I am sure the original structure has significant historic value and could be worth restoring, but not to level a building just because it is old is just silliness.

Local Historical Society's can get very powerful but who will pay for all the lofty idea's that conservation and preservation bring forward.

Thank you for sharing the experience.

If you have someone moving to Toronto I would be pleased to send down a bag full of our coloured money in return

David Pylyp

Luxury Homes in Toronto


Posted by David Pylyp (RE/MAX Realty Specialists Inc.,) almost 11 years ago

What a beauty!  All that property needs is a little spit shine!  Hope the buyer has some sort of construction knowledge...

Posted by Doug Leugers, Doug Leugers Real Estate Advisors (Leugers Real Estate Experts) almost 11 years ago

If the property is in the shape you describe than I would think that it is time for the listing agent to get real and price it to sell so someone can correct the blight on the neighborhood.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) almost 11 years ago

Hi Jay,

From your photos it sure looks like some MOLD growth on the wood framing too.  Unfortunately, I have also seen worse.  The question I have is after two years on the market, it is clearly not safe and why is it not posted as such?  

Posted by Glen Fisher (National Property Inspections of Southern New Jersey, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Jay- This situation reminded me of a home I showed in Chesapeake, Va two years ago, only it was described as a fixer-upper instead of a historical home. Let's just say the description should have read something like..."must bring flea spray in order to show ." I like homes with character (old homes too) but I am a bit reticent now when I show fixer uppers and handyman specials.

Posted by Nancy Flanagan (Wainwright Real Estate---Virginia Beach, Va) almost 11 years ago

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

Posted by R Grodin almost 11 years ago

people walk away from historic homes becasue they invariably become married to them. I am working an the appraisal of a Greene and Greene in claremont, california. At least here the owners had the good sense to have it thoroughly inpsected and then completely rebuilt new. the contractor's architect was a docent at the gamble huse for 7 years to you had the ghost of henry greene on the jobsite while the work was being done. I can't tell you what the work cost but it was a great deal of money. the problem with historic propreties is that they are never properly maintained as no one really wants to bite the bullet of the expense. that is why they are oftentimes demolished. it simply is no longer feasible to continue the present use. yes, life goes on. yes, and we still have the gamble house, the craftsman that was built without nails. steven davis, a`cuara appraisal, claremont (poor man's pasadena) california

Posted by steven davis almost 11 years ago

Just curious would you give an estimate of the potential repairs?

Posted by Cassi @ Knightyme Video Tours (Knightyme Video Tours) almost 11 years ago

Recall the "historic" age of dinosaurs, now long past with only relics left?  How could you realistically, ethically, morally sell this to some person(s) and sleep at night?  To clean something this nasty and filthy, then put children, babies on the floor- NO WAY!  Historic or not, it should be demolished and a modular back in its place, or maybe a replica!  Sans the filth.

Posted by Eddie Palmer, Century 21, Highlands NC almost 11 years ago

You were brave just to go into this one! Glad you didn't see any racoons! grin... yes, I know they can be mean.. I do feel sorry for the owner.. I do love to look at historic properties, but this would not be one of them. thanks for sharing

Posted by Ginger Moore (Wilkinson & Associates Realty) almost 11 years ago

Yep, I have had several of those clients:(  And typically there budget to remodel the whole entire place including remodeling the kitchen, 3 bathrooms, and all the repairs that need to be done on your job, their budget is a whopping $10,000.00 for the whole entire jobs.  There seems to be a ton of that going around these days.  And their answer is, well i saw one of those remodeling shows, and they got all their renovations done for under $6,000.00.  My answer to them is never believe most of the things you see on T.V. and it was probably in a town with the population of 15 people.  Gotta love it!!!

Posted by Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Every home has a buyer. I hope it would not end up on insurance claim list being accidentally burned down or something. 

Do you have to sign a waiver to even enter the house?

Posted by Alex Gregory (Fairways realty) almost 11 years ago

I dont understand the need for an inspection here....Couldnt the buyer see most of this for himself

Ive owned old houses, worked on them and lived in them...My brother lives in a civil war era home that was probably in worse shape than this when he bought it.. (10 acres between Baltimore and Washington). He has had a weekend project every weekend for the last 30 years, but its been a good home for him and his family for those same 30 years. Its also going to form the basis for his retirement in a few years.  My sister home is a converted 1890's carriage house/barn. When she and her husband bought it the horse stalls were still in the basement.  My daughter lives in a home, built in 1904, subject to some preservation laws. The home has been jacked up. a new foundation poured and set back down. It has a new second floor, new plumbing, new electric, new HVAC, new exterior siding , new drywall, new kitchen and baths and a new roof. The only thing original to the home is the frame and some of the wood floors . It is essentially a new home, and a good home for her to raise my grandkids. 

So you can understand  why I might say this house in Virginia looks looks fixable to me, but it should probably be priced at a discount to the land value.

By the way...what is the price?  I expect to be in Washington DC sometime before it gets too cold...I might take a look.







Posted by Ron Parise (LocateHomes.com) almost 11 years ago

ALL - Wow, the responses seem to be along the lines of

Yikes ... and what's historic about this?

Why did he need an inspection?

This may help answer some questions - in this jurisdiction, apparently, any house over 100 years old is considered to be "historic."  Also, I was told, if a house is on the market for a period of time without selling, it can be razed and rebuilt.  This lot was already subdivided and a new house is being built behind this house!  You can see the dirt driveway in the first photo.  But this structure can't be razed yet, I was told.

The seller lived in this house for over 60 years.  She is in a nursing home and apparently had the idea that the historic value of the house would bring in more money than it is currently listed for.  She started at over $700K and is below $350K now. I feel badly for her.  She obviously loved her house.

A neighbor told us that a homeless person occupied the house not long ago and they finally got him out.  How he lived there I don't know.

This buyer, my client, was offering cash, but I don't know how much.  His objective was basically the structure, but wanted to know about the systems as well.  People have unrealistic ideas sometimes.  He was able to look beyond the mess and see its potential.  Not everyone can do that.  His agent showed up and immediately left.  She came to get the key out of the lock box, but we had already gotten in through the rear door.  I never saw her.  We signed no waivers, although the place is clearly dangerous.  It was very difficult to get around.

Here is another photo (we took many) of the living room bay window.  You can see the original window molding, probably of oak.  The house had all its original windows.

I doubt the seller lived like this.  The kitchen and one bathroom were both  frightful.  After all these years the house still had only one bathroom.  What furniture was left was not in good shape, but I could see that in its day it was beautiful.

Well, I wish the best for her and let's say I HOPE she did not live like this.

I will pick through your very nice responses and see if there are any other questions I did not answer here.

Thanks for your interest!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Great post.  That home would certainly be a labor of love for whomever were to purchase it.  Also, it would take considerable resources and patience.  Inspections are a must for any property - new or old.

Posted by Tim and Pam Cash, Real Estate Professionals - Clarksville TN (Crye-Leike (Sango)) almost 11 years ago

ALL - a few more responses to questions:

I have done many historic home inspections.  Few have been this bad, if any.  I did one in Middleburg VA which was pre-rev war, with an addition built in 1855.  It was gorgeous!  Lots of original structure in it.  It was a very interesting inspection.  I felt proud to be there.

I don't know how the MLS listing information reads.  That WOULD be interesting!

This house had termite tunnels all over the place, particularly in the cellar.  The buyer had been there before more than once before our inspection and had never seen them.  No fleas that I found...

There was mold throughout.  One bedroom was full of mold on the walls and ceiling.  Very colorful too!  And dangerous, no doubt.

I have no idea what repair costs would be.  I think it needs to be gutted and redone - it is extremely structurally unsound.  The floors bounce everywhere.  The original foundation was in decent shape, but might not pass modern jurisdiction criteria.

All in all, thank you for stopping by!  Your comments have been insightful and gracious. 

Think of this poor old lady and how many of the elderly still live in their homes not wanting to leave, but are unable to keep them up.  It is a sorry thought.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

That is a scary looking place.  And every once in a while I have a client ask me how a $5000 house can be over-priced... 

Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) almost 11 years ago

We see things like this in Michigan too.  The homes are great to look through, but there are so many hidden problems.  You'd have to be really committed!

Posted by Kelly Dix almost 11 years ago

Jay, it ruins my entire day to see the condition that some homes get too.  Oh I understand how it can happen, but it doesn't make it more pleasant.  Every once in a while I drive past the row house that I was involved in overlooking the Ohio River just west of Cincinnati.  Two hundred plus years, I had a ball with that one.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 11 years ago

I think it's funny that other agents are taking cracks at whoever listed this house.  Someone has to list it!  Someone might come along and buy it, ya never know.  We don't know what the MLS print-out stated, possibly it was very truthful.

I also do not blame the buyer's agent.  If her buyer wanted to see this home then she did her job showing it to him.  No matter what she might have told them, this buyer (the husband) thought he could make a go of it.  He probably knew deep down inside that it was too much to take on, but he needed another professional to help him see the light.  He was hoping and dreaming it wasn't as bad as it looked.

That buyer's agent was smart, she knew it wouldn't be a good inspection and she didn't waste her time - open the door and go do something worthwhile.  I can only imagine she warned the buyer against this house but he didn't want to listen.

Posted by Judy Orr, SW & Near West Chicago suburbs (HomeSmart Realty Group) almost 11 years ago


That looks pretty unsafe.  Did you end up listing and selling it?


Posted by Ann Hayden 636-399-7544, SelectAnn.com (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri) almost 11 years ago

Judy, commenter #85 Kudos to you on your response. Many commenters are quick to poke a finger  at someone and "shame them" for either doing a job or making a decision.

Sometimes a person has a vision of how something could be. Many years ago I had a client who had a BEAUTIFUL "Painted Lady" to sell in nearby Waukesha. She told me her long saga of finding this horrid run-down rooming house, but seeing a vision of something underneath all the yuck. In the dining room alone she removed six layers of old linoleum to find an oak hardwood floor with walnut inlay around the entire perimeter! She spent ten years renovating the home, researching building practices of the Victorian era, poring over old census records to find our who had lived there, who built it and what their position was in the community. It was, indeed a labor of love and it turned out great for her and her family.

Posted by Pat Mullikin - KW Milwaukee (Keller Williams Milwaukee) almost 11 years ago

Hey Jay,

How was the electrical system? Was there anything in the house that could be used? You are 100% right , these type of houses should be inspected , and all of them are not that bad. I inspected a historic house in upstate NY two years ago. The owner kept the house in pretty good shape. My client brought the house , and fixed the things I recommended. Today my client and his family are happy  they brought the house.

Some times people need a professional opinion to see if a house is worth fixing or moving on.

Your post shows the value of a home inspection. 

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

I would find the nearest wrecking ball, but save any hardwood flooring that can be reclaimed first -- Mountain Lumber in Virginia where you are does a great job of that.  I bought Granary Oak from them one time and it's amazing what they can do with old wood -- provided the termites or water hasn't destroyed it.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) almost 11 years ago

Wow, it's a good thing they had an inspection. I always recommend that my clients have an inspection also and have been very glad that they did on many occasions.

Posted by Monica Bourgeau, Business Coaching almost 11 years ago

ALL - I think this house is beyond repair due to the structural failures throughout, so it would eventually have to be razed.  That would not be such a labor of love, but could be if they tried to preserve the original feel.

I don't think all the complaints about the agents were that they were doing their jobs as much as to how unsafe the house was.  And it IS unsafe.  But, yes, someone has to list and sell it.  I am just the home inspector, so that is beyond my purview.  My client is a big boy and was able to make his own decision(s) and will.  I am afraid it is not the jewel he hoped. 

There were various things that could be reused.  I did not see much of the flooring, hardwood or otherwise.  The kitchen (old linoleum) and bath (broken tile) would not be reusable.

The electric was old and newer.  The most recent box, in the center, is a Federal Pacific Stab-lok box, considered unsafe. 

All of them were rusting, inside and out, and providing power to the house. 

The service conductors were running through an old magnolia tree in the yard.  They were bent and being pulled away from the house by the tree!

The lot had already been cut in half, so the new house would have to be pretty much the same dimension as this one due to the mandated set backs.

All in all this was a big elephant to eat, but we know they can be eaten a bite at a time...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Wow, unbelievable.  I think I would consider this house "History", not "Historical".  Maybe a bit "Hysterical".  LOL!

Posted by Kim Pennington almost 11 years ago

It's too bad we have such stringent restrictions on some of these historic messes. By the time you refurbish them you'll probably spend well over what it would cost to scrape and rebuild. We have a beach in North Laguna owned by the state of California called Crystal come. It has/had a bunch of old structures that were built very flimsily for a movie set in the 30's. When it was abandoned several people started living in them and there they stayed until the state finally evicted everyone and turned it into a State Park over nigh resort property. They've to renovate the old structures for well over 7 years and have spent millions in the effort. It's been open to the public for the past few years but at what cost?  It will take the state decades to amortize this expenditure out. No wonder California is in such a mess.

They did the same thing with a little cove just to the south of Crystal Cove called El Morro where our family had a cute little mobilehome right on the beach for over 50 years. It used to be a mobilehome park and generated the State Park system 2 million dollars a year in net profit. 2nd most profitable state park in the park system next to Hearst Castle (San Simeon State Park) in central Cali. They kicked all the residents out 5 years ago razed all the mobilehomes and that's been it. No one's been able to use the park since because it's incomplete and the state doesn't have the money to finish the project and probably won't have for years. It will take the state decades to finish let alone amortize these expenditures out if ever. No wonder California is in such a mess.

Posted by John DL Arendsen, Crest Backyard Homes "ADU" dealer & Contractor (CREST BACKYARD HOMES, ON THE LEVEL GENERAL & FACTORY BUILT HOME CONTRACTOR, TAG REAL ESTATE SALES & INVESTMENTS) almost 11 years ago

I saw a couple of these yesterday on my tour of Old Town, not quite as bad though.  

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 11 years ago

ALL - It would have been hysterical if not so tragic for the former owner.  It is listed as "historical" because it is over 100 years old.  It is in Falls Church and they designate them that way.  And it would take more money than it is worth probably just to fix it up! 

In Virginia we are in no such mess as California!  And please don't make us bail you out!  We have enough problems here!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Jay - I am saddened to think of some little old lady living in such an unsafe structure. She was probably moved out against her will also. Sometimes it is hard to leave. I have to agree with other comments though - Did the buyer really need to get a home inspection?? I recently viewed an REO that is about 40 yrs old but unfortunately had had NO maintenance since the day it was built. I was afraid of falling through the porch while I was unlocking the door. The agent neglected to mention just how unsafe the structure is in the MLS. It always saddens me to see any home in such a state.

Posted by Kathie Burby, REALTOR, SFR, Tuolumne County Real Estate Guide (Coldwell Banker Mother Lode Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Kathie - I agree and feel badly when houses get to that condition, and especially for her as well.  This buyer had no understanding of structure, moisture, mold, termite infestation or whether the systems would work or not.  That was what he was hoping to do to fix up and rent the place.  He could see beyond the mess, which is a vision many buyers to not have.

I do think agents should mention unsafe conditions - structure, mold, etc. - if they know, that is...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Some of the bank-owned properties I've shown looked better than this. I hope you had good shoes on.

Posted by Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux, Where Buying & Selling Works (Keller Williams Suburban Realty) almost 11 years ago

Jay, oh my goodness!

Reminds me of an ad I saw many years ago that an agent long time in the business worte. His classified ad said, "Not for the faint of heart!" I still laugh all these years later when I see a house that fits that description - sounds like this guy had one on his hands.

But sad to think that the owner had been living there like that . . .

Posted by Angela Penkin (RE/MAX Plus) almost 11 years ago

Jay, I just had to go for comment #100:)  At any rate this house is exactly my point that eventually all houses return to "0" value.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

B&B - I do lots of banked owned inspections, every week, and none to date have been this bad.  And there have been some BAD ones!

Angela - it was sad.  I still feel badly for the seller - not just that the house was in this shape but that she had so much of her life in that house and its current condition certainly cannot represent her experience there.

Charlie - We're #100!  We're #100!  I don't think I have ever had 100 comments before.

Henry Hazlett, the economist, says that nothing is wasted because everything gets to zero value and someone at that point will want it.  There may be some salvageable stuff inside this house which has value to somebody.  But for the most part I think the house is ready to be razed.  The property, though, will never have zero value.  Unless a meteor hits it or something...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

My partner & I toured all the "train wrecks" in our area when I first started selling real estate & we would always ask two questions.  First, 'how did the family let grandma live in all this squallor?'  and second, 'why does the family think they deserve top dollar for this property which they were unwilling to maintain during the residence of the current owner?'  Owning a home is like being on a convenient payment plan: you can pay for upkeep while you live there or pay in loss of property value; whatever is convenient for you.

Posted by Ruth Zeiss almost 11 years ago

I agree Ruth.  I tell people at home inspections that in the long run home maintenance costs about 1% of the value of the home per year.  Often they don't believe me.  I have heard that real estate investors will calculate what they consider to be deferred maintenance based on that 1% formula.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Wow Jay. They really made you earn your keep that day. Too much work.

Posted by Mark Velasco, Top Producing COMMERCIAL Team 30+ years experience (Sharpstone Commercial) almost 11 years ago

I love historic homes and so sorry that this home had fallen into such disrepair. Glad you made it out safe and sound. One for the books.

Posted by Sara Goss, Realtor - Houston Bay Area, Texas (HatmakerGroup.com GMAC Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

It looks like it would certainly be a challenge!

Posted by Eunice Waller, Working Together, We Can Do Great Things (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Simpson Realtors) almost 11 years ago

Mark - that I did!  That I did!

Sara - I do too and love inspecting them.  This one was certainly one for the books, hence the blog!

Eunice - a challenge to say the least!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Oh my!  I've had a couple of interesting experiences like that myself.  My area is full of 100+ year old farmhouses and huge buildings in small towns.  Every once in a while, you'll get the Seller calling trying to get that dumb rich doctor from the big city who wants a "little" project.  I can't walk away fast enough!

Posted by Marty Erlandson (Erlandson Realty) almost 11 years ago

Reminds me of a home I almost bought, my inspector talked me out of it.

Posted by Roy & Gail Barnhart & McKay, Barnhart & McKay Home Selling Team (Barnhart & McKay Realty Advisors) almost 11 years ago

Erlandson - that is a big Oh My!

Roy and Gail - I didn't talk this guy out of it.  My job is to just gave him the facts!  Which I did!!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

If this was built in 1902, why is it classified as a historic house?  There would be more historic houses than new houses if that were the case.  I say tear it down and start from scratch.

Posted by Lois Merrithew (Lloyd & Day Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Lois - in that jurisdiction, anything over 100 years old is considered "historic."  That's probably so they can get extra tax money out of you and impose many more expensive mandates!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 11 years ago

I love old houses, and we have plenty of older ones here in my area. Not too many that are over 100 years,but close to it. It's sad to see them so run down and in need of that much work. There's so much stuff in that house, I am wondering why her relatives didn't do something about that before listing it.

Posted by Kerry Jenkins (Prime Properties) almost 11 years ago

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