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Return of the dogs?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  April 11, 2013 09:15 AM

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Buyer beware. As listings continue to dwindle, more than a few retreads from last spring are back on the market.

"Frank" is a long-time contributor to the comments section of this blog. He just landed a house after years of fruitless bargain hunting in which he saw more than his share of overpriced "dogs."

He finally found his dream home, but he had to pay up to get it.

Anyway, to Frank's surprise, one of the homes he tried unsuccessfully to bargain down is back on the market at $440,000, the same price it was listed at when he took a run at it last fall. (Frank, for what it's worth, tried to get the owners to accept something short of $400,000. No dice.)

While it was in a top town on the North Shore in a decent location, the 1950s cape was in pretty suspect condition, he recalls.

However, instead of fixing it up, the owners, who bought for just over $250,000 back in the 1990s, have decided to take another chance and hope the market bails them out.

Frank clearly thinks he's found a dog here - complete with a shower/toilet combo tucked away in a dark and dank corner of an unfinished basement. He worries he's being too hard - I don't - but what say you?

While we're at it, what dogs are you seeing out there?

Here's Frank:

The "fibs" (imho) are the following:

a) its listed as having 2.5 Baths. This technically isnt true. There's a "full" but cramped/small bathroom on the 2nd floor (where the bedrooms are), and a small half bath on the 1st floor. BUT what they are calling the 2nd full bath is *in reality* a miniscule (I mean really small) 3/4 bath (standing shower + sink, BUT no toilet, if I remember correctly) that is in the corner of (get this) a dark unfinished part of the basement. I was floored when I saw it, and realized that it was what they were claiming was a "full" bath. No one in their right mind would go down there to have a shower regularly.

b) Its listed as a 3 Bedroom house. But the listing lists 4 "bedrooms.". Well, from my observations, there are two bedrooms (with closets) on the 2nd floor, but the 3rd room upstairs does NOT have any built-in closets and so really cant/shouldn't count as a bedroom. And what is listed as the 4th "bedroom" on the 1st floor is really (imho) the equivalent of a heated mud room (converted into an office) connecting the garages to the kitchen. I asked the listing agent "so which one is the 3rd bedroom?" and the answer I essentially got was "whichever one you want to make it?." This made my jaw hit the floor.

Besides the fibs, the house needed a TON of work, fixing up, renovation and updates. (My estimate was $100k+, to make it a nice place to raise a family). The current owners apparently bought it years and didn't do any major updates since, and didn't want to spend any/many $$$ getting the house fixed up before putting it on the market.

The dated upstairs bath may work for two, but any more than that would be hell in the mornings/getting ready to go out. The kitchen is/was dated as HELL. Formica and creaky old cabinets, and (when I saw it) dated old appliances. This time around, in the only "update" that I can see from the photos, they have changed out the 15-20 yr old appliances for new "Stainless Steel" appliances. (Lipstick on a pig, IMHO, since putting new appliances into an old dated kitchen isnt going to suddenly make it a "modern" kitchen). And last but not least, the driveway and garages were in horrid shape. NON-functional garages that are (atleast last year) used for storage. I noticed that they don't show any photos of the driveway or garages, in the listing. Oh, and it has oil heat, with a 20 year old furnace that will likely need replacing soon. And last but not least, the owner has DOGS and therefore all the hardwood floors were scratched and the house smelt of dog.

Don't get me wrong, it has good bones (which is why we made an offer on it), but its (imho) more a  of a contractor/rehab specialists opportunity (in the $300k's) than something that's appropriate for FTHB couple looking to start/raise a family in it (despite the good location/schools etc) and "slowly" doing upgrades as/when the $$ become available. But with the scarcity of decent properties, some poor FTHB may take a chance on it.

BREN crowd, whats your opinion? Am I right in calling this a "dog" house, or am I too harsh?


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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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