After 41 offers, the mold-infested home with collapsing floors and ceilings sold for more than double the asking price.
Four years ago, the average house in Seattle cost a little under $427,000. Today, that’ll buy you a house so dangerous that you can’t go inside.
With crumbling floors and ceilings that could collapse at any moment, about five feet of standing water and toxic air not safe to breathe, a West Seattle house was listed recently with the condition that only licensed contractors who sign a legal waiver could enter it.
Photos of the interior show it resembles more of a Halloween haunted house than a dream home.
Nonetheless, it got 41 offers — and sold in May for more than double the asking price after just 10 days on the market.
“That is insane, obviously,” said the listing agent, Bruce Phares of Windermere Real Estate. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted, given how damaged the property was.”
The couple who lived in the Belvidere Avenue house in the North Admiral neighborhood of West Seattle died a couple years ago, apparently after living in the house in disarray for a decade or more. A local firm that specializes in rehab bought it, and Phares said it will almost assuredly be a teardown job.
Phares said Windermere noticed an empty plot of land in the area had sold recently for about $225,000, so it listed the three-bedroom, one-bath home for $200,000 at the end of April. One potential selling point: Building a second story might create a mountain view.
The agent never got to go inside the 2,100-square-foot house, built in 1951, but contractors licensed to enter and take photos said the home likely couldn’t be saved.
Phares was shocked when developers, rehab companies and regular homebuyers alike began showing up in droves, enticed by anything with a low price tag in a neighborhood where the median house costs more than half a million dollars.
“With the conditions of the marketplace and things so slim, people are trying every approach they can,” he said. “It was amazing how many people wanted to live in the neighborhood.”
The water damage in the basement fed toxicity concerns (“you’d walk in and your glasses would fog up,” Phares said) and there were various other biomaterial and mold hazards. There was also debris filling the rooms, so that even if you could avoid the floors falling out from underneath you, you might step on a nail, he said. Kitchen appliances had deteriorated from all the moisture in the air. And some of the ceilings had collapsed.
While the new owners certainly have visions of making a profit, Phares said that at a $427,000 price, the purchase wasn’t a wise investment.
“I think those people are just taking Hail Marys at this thing. That’s what’s dangerous about our marketplace,” he said. “That’s not sound, and that’s not sustainable.”
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While extreme, the sale reflects what’s going on around the neighborhood, as West Seattle’s reputation as a more affordable option continues to diminish.
In West Seattle, the median single-family house cost $506,600 in May, up 17.3 percent just in the past year, and up a whopping 83 percent in the last five years, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. But in the Admiral area, median property values are about $650,000 now, according to Zillow.
Looking at the entire city, the typical Seattle house now costs $641,250, up 14.5 percent compared with a year ago and up 67 percent in the last half-decade.
Another issue highlighted by the sale is the teardown phenomenon, as investment companies and wealthier buyers look strictly at the land underneath a house when purchasing a small or rundown home.
From 2012 to 2014, about 1,500 houses across King County were demolished and replaced with something bigger, with the highest concentrations in Kirkland, Bellevue and North Seattle, according to the county assessor’s office. On average, the new homes are a little more than twice the size of the old ones, but nearly one-third of them are replaced with a house at least three times bigger.
Tyler McKenzie, owner of John L. Scott Real Estate’s West Seattle office, said he wasn’t surprised by the bidding war because of how scarce options are for homebuyers.
“Across the board, we have less inventory, and that includes teardowns,” McKenzie said. “And we have more investors and more flippers and more builders in the marketplace than we’ve seen in quite a long time, and those are the people with cash in hand to buy properties like this.
“It’s important for Seattleites to acknowledge we’re in a very different world,” McKenzie said.
It’s unclear what the new West Seattle owners plan to do with the 5,000-square-foot lot. The buyers, a local residential redevelopment firm called Tang Real Estate Investments, did not respond to requests for comment.