This is a long post, so don't even bother reading if you're not
interested in House Inspector-type questions. Every so often, when an
unusual and inexpensive home comes up for sale on our local MLS, and
in our family is usually in search of a 1 or 2 bedroom
place, I go to check out whatever's being offered. This time I've
fallen in love with a home that is admittedly problematic. I would
just like some feedback, 'cause I almost always get great feedback on
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,
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.