No one wants to buy a house next to a burned out property.
November 17, 2009 4:08 PM   Subscribe

How can we sell our house, when everyone is scared off by the vacant burned house next door?

in May 2008, the house next door to ours had a fire which gutted the second story. It's sat vacant since then and is a teardown at this point, probably, because in addition to the damage upstairs, rain has been pouring in through the tarps on the roof, etc., in the intervening time. There's probably animals in it, too.

The house is in litigation; it's not clear who owns it (there's a lawsuit involved, possible identity theft of a will, or maybe not, very complicated). There has been very little cleanup since the fire. We talked to the township and they sent nasty letters saying come clean up the debris or we'll fine you, and there was a little cleanup, but nothing substantial---and certainly nothing major like removing the plywood and tarps, etc.

Meanwhile, we needed to move across country and have been trying to sell our nice house since this past May. We've been getting a couple three showings a week since then. No luck. Recent reports from our realtor are that people are uncomfortable (understandably) by the situation next door....and as winter approaches, people are likely to be less likely to want to buy a house.

Any ideas about what we can do? The houses in question are in Perkiomen Twp., PA. (We're currently in Alaska.) We can't lower the price much on our house as we're already basically just trying to get enough to cover the mortgage (and the loan my parents made for the downpayment on the house).
posted by leahwrenn to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If you can get back to PA for a bit, it might be worthwhile to hire some laborers to do a few hours of cleanup work at the burned house when no-one's around. It shouldn't be up to you, but a couple hundred dollars discreetly invested to take care of the most unsightly bits might be worthwhile. Will a bit of anonymous cleanup have any affect any of the pending litigation? Probably not, and no-one has to know it was you behind it.

Do you have any way of finding out what the timeline for the litigation might be? If it looks at all likely that this will be dealt with within the next year, it might be worthwhile to delay the sale of your house and rent it out in the meantime. Renters are less likely to be spooked by the neighboring house, and you'll probably get a better price in a year if that house has been demolished ... and perhaps even benefit from an improved market.
posted by dacoit at 4:30 PM on November 17, 2009


If you can get back to PA for a bit, it might be worthwhile to hire some laborers to do a few hours of cleanup work at the burned house when no-one's around. It shouldn't be up to you, but a couple hundred dollars discreetly invested to take care of the most unsightly bits might be worthwhile. Will a bit of anonymous cleanup have any affect any of the pending litigation? Probably not, and no-one has to know it was you behind it.

No, do not do this, especially if people are already feeling litigious.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:33 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Consider trying to sell your house with a lease option. It may be easier to find tenants than buyers in this market, and you'll get higher rents on account of the tenant's option-to-purchase, which should hopefully cover or almost-cover your holding costs (mortgage, taxes, etc.). The tenant is also incentivized to buy before their option expires, lest they "lose" the extra money they were paying; fear of loss is a major human motivator.
posted by brain at 4:40 PM on November 17, 2009


Rent. Wait until this house is down to sell.
posted by caddis at 5:25 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since you've been semi-successful with rattling the township's cage, I'd pursue that option further. I'd gather as many neighbors as possible and confront the authorities, write letters, sign petitions, embarrass them in the local news, picket in front of city hall if you have to; in short, make them do their jobs.

Surely there are health and sanitation issues involved if there are rodents and other critters invading the house, not to mention building code violations and mold from the water damage, among other things. You and your neighbors are being denied the peaceful enjoyment of your residence; this can and must be addressed. Bombard the township with complaints every day, multiple times a day if necessary until they do something about this.

It also might be worthwhile to talk to a lawyer yourselves.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:08 PM on November 17, 2009


The weird thing about Pennsylvania is that there doesn't really seem to be a problem with abandoned properties: there are a significant number of decaying houses scattered around, far more than I've seen in other parts of the country I've lived in. And there's something of a limit to what I can do now from 5000 miles away in terms of hassling the township, unfortunately, although I certainly will call and talk to them again.

But continuing to pay the mortgage is being a strain. We figured it would only be for a couple months, but it's not looking like that any more. Probably it's time to try to rent, but that's got its own problems. Coming next week: suggestions for how to be a long-distance landlord...
posted by leahwrenn at 11:32 PM on November 17, 2009


it might be worthwhile to hire some laborers to do a few hours of cleanup work at the burned house when no-one's around.

This is a really bad idea. I agree with renting your house out until this situation is sorted, that way you'll avoid taking a bath on the final sale price through no fault of your own.
posted by dmt at 2:57 AM on November 18, 2009


We had a similar issue with the abandoned house behind us almost burning down. It was really an eyesore, and after repeated calls to the Mayor’s Action Center and Dept. of Health seeing what I could do about it it became clear that nobody cared. I got a tip from a friend of mine that the city would be a lot more quick to act if they thought people were squatting in the house (no idea why). So I called 3 or 4 times again and said that I’d seen homeless people going in and out of the place. 2 weeks later they came and tore it down! Good luck!
posted by Hellafiles at 10:00 AM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coming next week: suggestions for how to be a long-distance landlord...

Many realtors will act as property management agents for you, helping you to determine market rates, find tenants etc.
posted by caddis at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2009


« Older Watt's up with this?   |   Why does my mascarpone taste weird? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.