Buying a Crime Scene House
When I drove through the neighborhood looking for an investment house, I spotted this small fifties-era home nestled in an area of nicely kept houses. Two blocks from an elementary school, it was enveloped in the sound of chirping birds and barking dogs. Despite the cheerful greetings, there was a sense of foreboding about the tree-shaded house.
I pulled into the driveway and called the realtor who was friendly and willing to meet me at the property. But something kept me waiting in the car until she arrived. Maybe I should have passed on the opportunity, but the price was right and with a little work, I hoped to turn this little fixer-upper into a profit.
Minutes later, we opened the brand new door with its decorative window panes. Dark stains and a vague sense of unease greeted us in the living room. In the middle of the floor lay a a dead mouse. The little corpse didn't scare me off. Maybe it should have.
With my usual optimism, I plowed forward into my newest project and signed the contract to purchase the abandoned foreclosure.
The entry to the nursery held the strongest sense of foreboding, an oppressive feeling, as if something horrible had happened nearby. Each morning when I began to work on cleaning, painting and repair, I got the feeling someone was watching me.
The kitchen floor had an area of rotted plywood. I hired a carpenter and hoped to find some matching tile to cover the wood. Fifty plus years took its toll on the linoleum tiles which began to pop off with little provocation.
The kitchen cabinets held years of dirt and debris. I donned my protective face mask and swept out the accumulation of mouse droppings. With cleaning products from the dollar store in the nearby town, I removed layers of grime and grease.
After a fresh coat of paint inside, they looked like new.
The Dining Room
Painting antique white enamel over the old dark paneling brightened up the dining area after replacing the hollow core exterior door with a solid wood paneled one with a deadbolt. Adding a new overhead light fixture also helped to reduce the gloom.
The Living Room
Patching the many holes in the walls took a lot of time but resulted in a nice finish after a coat of semi-gloss enamel on ceiling and walls.
The elderly lady across the street was an original resident from when the neighborhood was new. When she visited my house to check on my progress she shared a few details about the house next to her. She passed away a few months later of cancer following her only visit.
At the house next to her, cars arrived all hours of the day and night, leaving within moments.Their two pit bulls remained chained out in the yard announcing the arrival of guests.The residents' car was equipped with fancy spinners on the wheels and the man who lived there spent most of his time polishing the vehicle.
One day as I worked inside my house, the police showed up across the street responding to a domestic disturbance call after a screaming match erupted between the residents. Frankly, I had some concerns, so I kept to myself.
The back yard needed major cleanup and landscaping. The exterior needed power washing before it could be painted.
In the patio area, I scrubbed the concrete stones with a bleach solution to kill off the green fungus. The patio roof was layered in years of decaying leaves from the neighbor's pecan tree. I climbed up and shoveled off the rich compost. I paid someone to fix the leak where the weight of the leaves caused the roof to buckle and droop.
Despite my cleaning efforts, there remained a peculiar odor that grew stronger as the summer heat moved in. It was a strong, unpleasant disturbing odor like something decaying under the patio stones.
The driveway was in serious need of repair, along with the drainage culvert which had to be replaced. I had a load of pebble rock brought in to cover the concrete driveway after hiring two guys to break it up into smaller pieces.
The major expense came after discovering that the foundation was not level. I hired a company whose men spent days under the house jacking up fallen beams to fix it. While under the house, they found the skeletal remains of a couple of cats. That was really creepy.
The Front Yard
The front yard required removal of the shrubs that blocked all the windows. I hired a guy to grade the dirt away from the foundation to reduce water seepage toward the house. After he ran over the main water pipe with the skid steer, it needed to be welded and repaired.
The Bathroom - Before
This bathroom needed to be gutted to get rid of the strong smell of mold and a leaking toilet that emitted an odor of sewage. This job was was professionally done by a contractor who replaced the sub floor and removed the cast iron tub that had deep chips and stains.
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New Wall Tile - New Flooring
Bathroom - After
Cast Iron Bathtub - Before
Bathtub - After
The Front Entrance Before
The Front Entrance - After
Ready to Market
The water heater was replaced and a friend installed a new air conditioning and heating unit in the attic to replace the old one. New glass window panes were installed and the house got a thorough cleaning top to bottom by me. The kitchen needed plumbing work, floor repair and a new solid wood door. The sixties-era built-in range and oven was repaired after a thorough cleaning.
After a Major Remodel
Major expenses like broken pipes and a ruptured sewage line along with the re-leveling of the foundation provided a valuable learning experience of what not to do when it came to investment property.
The house sold quickly to a cash investor who carpeted over the hardwood floors and rented it out to several Hispanic men. Although there was no profit made, I was relieved to be rid of the creepy house that turned into a money pit.
Exploring an Abandoned House in Durham Region
Other Crime Scene Houses of Note
Holcomb, Kansas, 1959, was the scene of the murder of four members of the Clutter family. Their quaint farmhouse was the backdrop for the book by Truman Capote, In Cold Blood. Two drifters intent on robbing the family ended up killing the residents.
In the 1980s, Dorothy Puente operated a boarding house in Sacramento, California for senior citizens whose dismembered remains were later found buried in the yard. She collected her victim's social security funds long after they went missing.
In Boulder, Colorado, 1996, Jonbenet Ramsey's parents reported their six year old daughter was missing and a ransom note was discovered. As of 2011, the house is still for sale for a reported 2.3 million dollars.
© 2015 Peg Cole
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