This early twentieth century home is located in an old Pennsylvania mining community. It sits by itself on the side of a very steep, irregular-shaped, triangular lot, facing, across the street, the side of a stunning, even steeper, pine forest mountain. The land takes up nearly an entire block of an antique street.
Due to the heavy rains in the northeast this summer, the lot is overgrown particularly with "weed trees" (don't know the proper name for them) that grow almost webbed, in extremely close proximity, all the way up to (and even around) one side of the home. The kind of vegetation that surrounded the castle in Sleeping Beauty.
A huge drainage pipe abuts the "point" of the triangular lot, at a very steep pitch, next to which sits one of the biggest oak trees I personally have ever seen. The township officials insist this tree belongs to the property, but the neighbors (most of them elderly or middle-aged) claim no one knows who "owns" the oak tree. The wisest among the neighbors says not to worry about it because it's holding the cliff-like terrain in place--at the bottom of which sits a decently cemented stone wall. The cement in the stone wall is almost all in place; it is not a Colonial-era stone wall (one round gray stone on top of another), but a kind of "mod" 60's wall, where the stones are flat and angular, and the cement looks almost like faux, VERY even, caulking.
I've gone in to such detail about the exterior because on another recent thread, two exceptionally informative professionals (one was a house inspector, the other an insurance agent) advised avoiding homes where vegetation grows directly up to (or around) the foundation; and this certainly is the case here.
Of more concern is a mysterious issue regarding the interior. Because this home is on the side of--well, a cliff, the "basement" is a two-car garage, very high-ceilinged, on a grade with street level. There is an oil furnace, no insulation overhead (in other words, under the floor of the first floor residential area). There is *NO* sign or smell of mold in this area.
There is only one entrance to the residential area of this home (but two ways of reaching it): steep outside steps from the street and garage, and a high paved alley above the home, with shallow decrepit pressure-treated steps leading down.
The plastered walls of the interior of the home are absolutely filthy, and in the bathroom and kitchen area, there are "blood-colored" "speckles" on the ceiling that I assume are mold. The mystery is how they got there.
The second floor of the home, essentially a finished attic, is also plastered, filthy, and with absolutely no sign of the mold that stings my eyes in the kitchen bath area downstairs. Since neither the cavernous "basement"/garage, nor the finished (visually stunning) attic, show the least sign of mold, I do not know where this smell could be coming from.
The realtor and a family member who went through it on a second showing with me were of the opinion that cooking odors and a poorly ventilated bath, in a home a least a hundred years old, could absolutely be responsible for the pungent smell. I thought perhaps an unventilated kerosene heater (since there is no insulation, and the home is on the side of a cliff, in what amounts, in the winter time, to a wind-tunnel), plus tenants who were cigarette smokers, might account for how acrid and unbearable these two rooms are. For what it's worth, the kitchen and bath sit the closest to the "cliff"; all the other rooms are high above the street and/or cliff.
Finally, the roof is very old, and the chimney needs replacing. I don't have any difficulty dealing with problems I can see and estimate replacing. I have difficulty with problems I can't readily diagnose, and the excessively pungent moldy smell on "ground zero" really is impossible to diagnose, since the ancient filthy paint in higher rooms makes it clear a leaking roof is not the cause.
Thank you for reading this. I've never wanted to go ahead with a home purchase more in my life, but if surveying costs, ownership/custodianship of a monster oak, and above all, this "burning" smell are overwhelming liabilities, then I'll pass. The quaintness, setting, and almost Alpine-like view made me decide to risk making the post and being laughed at. They're all too beautiful to pass up without getting some feedback.