House #31: Solving The Puzzle

February 16, 2012 · 6 comments

I mentioned the other day that we picked up a house we’re calling The Puzzle House. The reason for this name is that the first few times we visited the house, we were very confused about exactly why it was in the shape it was in. I know that sounds cryptic, but we’ll get to the details and you’ll see what I mean…

Here is how I first experienced the house:

Upon entering the front door, I saw what looked like a structural post and a beam (“header”) that appeared to be the remnant of an old wall. But, there was no indication of why the wall was taken down or what other walls used to exist:

Walking up to the area behind where that wall used to be, it was obvious that the flooring had been torn out and new sub-floor had been laid. With the rest of the living area being hardwoods, it’s hard to imagine what type of flooring would have previously existed in that space:

Directly to the left of the “weird wall” and “weird flooring” was an exterior french door that was boarded to ensure no-one opened it. I guess this made sense given that there was nothing on the other side of the door…just a 5 foot drop to the ground:

To the left of the french door was a kitchen that had been mostly gutted of sheetrock, but the cabinets and most of the countertops were still in place. The first assumption was that there was some flooding and the sheetrock needed to be torn away to prevent mold, but there was no other indication of water intrusion:

Upstairs, there was a bathroom that was completely gutted, which was strange given that the rest of the upstairs was in pretty good shape and was clearly the original finishes of the builder:

Then there were the exterior anomalies. First and foremost, the foundation had clearly been modified or repaired at some point. This initially was my biggest concern for the property, until my GC and I did some further investigation:

In addition to all this, there was clearly some modification of the foundation in the crawl space and then some additional bracing and modification of the roof structure in the attic space. Given all of this, I was ready to give up on the project, but the agent seemed pretty desperate to get it sold, so I figured that if I could determine what was going on, I may be able to get the property for a price that would still allow us to make a decent profit.

So, I had my General Contractor come out and take a look. It took a while, but he started putting the pieces together and ultimately determined what was going on. There were actually several different things going on:

  1. The removed wall, the exposed subfloor, the french door to nowhere and the modified foundation walls were all related. It appears that the space defined by that subfloor area (the back corner of the house) used to be an exterior porch with a wrap-around deck. The previous owners removed the deck (hence the french door to nowhere), enclosed the space (hence the weird missing walls) and never got around to actually finishing the interior space (hence the subfloor). The weirdest part of it all was the foundation wall, which actually wasn’t a wall after-all. The porch used to have an open space under it, with the corner supported by a big concrete post (that you can still see at the very corner of the house); what looks like a repaired foundation wall is actually just plywood with cement smeared over it to appear to be a concrete wall. Our engineer confirmed that the plywood was purely cosmetic and that the post was still the sole structural component.
  2. The kitchen appeared to have been through a grease fire (hence the removed sheetrock). There was only a minor amount of damage remaining on a couple of the framing members, but my GC found it.
  3. According to our engineer, the modification to the foundation in the crawl space was not at all structural, and was just added to level the floors on part of the first floor of the house; but, the sloping floors were the result of poor structural design of the foundation. In other words, the previous owners tried to fix a structure problem with a non-structural solution.
  4. Lastly, there is absolutely no indication of why the second floor bathroom was gutted or why the roof structure was modified, but bathroom is just a cosmetic issue and according to our engineer, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about with the roof.

The repairs for all the issues above will consist of some reinforcement of the foundation in the crawl space, removing the french door and fully enclosing the interior space and then gutting and rebuilding the kitchen and the second floor bathroom. We’ll leave the roof structure alone and hope inspectors don’t have any issues (if they do, we have a letter from our engineer verifying that everything is perfectly sound).

The rehab on this one will start on Monday, and here are a bunch more pictures

6 responses to “House #31: Solving The Puzzle”

  1. Todd W says:

    LOL! We looked at this house too! Be careful walking under the fan in the living room! This area has done well for us in the past so good luck!

  2. Justin says:

    Very cool that you and your contractors were able to piece together the weirdness. Seems like what may have very well turned a lot of people away isn’t so bad after all. This is a great example of why good contractors/network is essential in this business. Good luck!

  3. J Scott says:

    Todd –

    That’s hysterical…I guess this is right in the heart of where you do most of your work? Perhaps you can come over and give me some tips on this one (and maybe a cabinet quote as well)!

    Oh, and the seller pulled that fan down at some point in the past week or two…it was hanging by a thread at that point!

  4. Robert Jones says:

    This is a very funny rehab situation. Where is the seller in the equation? Did you try contacting him to see what was going on?

  5. J Scott says:

    Hey Robert –

    This was a foreclosure, so the seller was a bank, who knew nothing (and even if they did wouldn’t tell us) of the property’s past.

  6. Luis@ says:

    No, this should be called “The WTF House”…

    Good luck explaining all this to your buyer.

    What is the projected ARV on this?

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