Thursday, August 19, 2010

Foreclosure's Other Side

A year ago, interested in investment opportunities, I started checking on the sales price of homes that were being offered for sale after foreclosure.  I had heard claims of "pennies on the dollar" and people were selling lists of foreclosed homes out on street corners.  Instead, I searched the web, found multiple houses at a wide range of prices, and drove around to see a few of them.  Many were garbage.  I found additions and modifications that, shall we say, were not up to building codes or even standard construction practices.  I found wavy roofs indicating rafter/truss problems, decomposing foundations with crumbling concrete.  I didn't want to get involved in a project that involved massive reconstruction on these kinds of levels.  I kept looking because it seemed that there might be a chance of finding something with the right things wrong and out of pure curiosity.

I was right.  In a historic neighborhood just outside of Phoenix I found a house that I liked.  This blog will mostly concern itself with the restoration of this house.... turning it into a home.  I will also include information I have learned about how to find and purchase these properties as well as what I have done and learned to fix it up, correctly, "on the cheap."

Phoenix has it's own unique architectural criteria.  Summer sun blasts unabashed on the desert floor and anything unfortunate enough to get in the way.  How a house is built should take these parameters into consideration;  A house facing east-west will incur the wrath of summer heat in the morning and afternoon.  The house I found is oriented North and South, with a nice patio and cover on the South side.  A single carport is located on the West side, protecting the living areas from the afternoon blast.  There are three foot eaves overhanging the walls so mid-day summer sun would not touch the house.  In winter, with the sun lower, the house would be heated from solar rays.  It is a three bedroom, 1-3/4 bath, 1070 square foot house.

The roof on this house appeared to be recently replaced, did not contain waves, or sink at the ends.  The structure is constructed of 4 x 8 x 16 inch concrete block.  The foundation has one crack but this has not displaced the block above it.  A support post in the carport was substantially rotted and in need of replacement, and the house was in dire need of paint.  Some graffiti artists had visited the carport and the city had painted over this with a nice (?) color orange/brown.

Copper thieves had removed all the plumbing and electrical wiring before I saw it so that would have to be replaced.  The price was lower because of this but I think the vandalism may have been a good thing.  According to the papers the house was built in 1957.  It had copper piping and 2 pronged, polarized outlets common for the time.  I could replace the plumbing with PEX and the wiring could be upgraded to 3 prong grounded outlets with GFCI breakers in the bathrooms and kitchen.  The interior of the house was a general disaster... hideous, green vinyl self-stick tile in the kitchen, hallway, 2 bedrooms, living room and both bathrooms.  It would have to go, as would the asbestos tile in the remaining bedroom, but the adhesive this stuff leaves behind is a problem.  There was lots of drywall damage from water and vandals there would probably be rotten footers behind the drywall under the studs.  I was pretty confident in my ability to repair and replace these problems, so I got with my Realtor and made an offer of $35,000 which was just under the asking price. 

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