A Tale of Two Houses


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”

This is the tale of two listings.  They share quite a few features.  Both are fixers which have not changed hands in many years.  Both are held in trust.  Both need an amazing amount of work.  Both have great views.  One, in particular, is in an advanced state of decrepitude.  Let’s call them A and B.

A is in Burbank, in the hills, on a lovely, broad street.  Its family built it and over the years added various levels, some unpermitted rooms, greenhouses, even at one time a laundry area on the roof.  Now it has fallen on bad times.  Despite the great expectations its heirs had of its worth, the real estate market sets its own prices.  And now the beneficiaries of this trust are at odds,  lawyers are involved, and there is no money to keep the power on.  The pool has turned green and the lawn has died.  But because this bleakest of houses is in a great location, it has now been in escrow three times.  The first buyer never deposited his $50,000 earnest money.  The second buyer struggled mightily to perform but could not get loan approval.  The third buyer’s appraiser found the place to be “uninhabitable” and the loan cannot be approved without multiple costly repairs.  The trust has no money to make them.  At this point the buyer is preparing to negotiate an agreement to make the repairs before the loan funds, a  highly unusual situation.  The escrow is in a stall.

House B is in La Canada, just half a block from the commercial high street, in the only area of La Canada zoned for multiple-family real estate.  This one is a duplex. The husband died some time ago and the wife began renting out the second half of the house.  She had been a fashionable, beautiful woman but dementia settled in.  Eventually she needed a full-time caregiver and then a conservator.  I was hired to list the house by the conservator, a lovely woman, and her husband, who had visited and helped the owner for many years.

It was a trial clearing out this house, which had been lovingly used and lately neglected by its beautiful owner.  It took many weeks to decide how to remove and appraise the contents of this overstuffed house.  The owner was moved to a care facility which she instantly embraced.  The house needed a new owner to embrace it.  I was finally informed the house was ready to list.  I had it cleaned and set up an appointment for a carpet shampoo.  The rest awaited a complete overhaul by the new owner.  One of the agents in my office happened by as I was preparing the brochure.  She said she and her husband were looking for a project.  Could they look?

Two hours later I received a phone call.  They wanted to buy it.  They wanted to pay cash.  They would close in one week.  And they did.  The fumigation tent is in place.  New floors are already being shipped.  The siding will be ripped out,  the cabinetry replaced.  Those tired and stained shag rugs will be coming up.  There’s a white picket fence and a Cape-Cod cottage look in its future.  That old place is smiling.  So am I.  This is what makes real estate sales so worth it.

Can you tell from the photos which house is A and which is B?   Did one house sell quickly, and to just the right people, because its ghosts are happy?  Does the other languish in escrow because they are sad?

Therein lies the tale.

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