Warning-this review is based on incomplete permit information. Please go here to read the new revised review.
Today's very special house is 1417 Central Ave. A 4+bed 3bath 3000 sq ft home (public facts show this as a 2-2 2900 sq ft house) on a lot of indeterminate size but I'd guess around 3500 sq ft for $799k. Last sold in 03 for $720k. Check out the zillow page here.
I'm going to put in a stronger than usual disclaimer for this very special house....
Read This: The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. You should probably regard this as just the incoherent babbling of an unbalanced mind....
If you love your family and value their safety Run, Run away from this house!!! Do not be enticed by its location and size!
Man, where to start.....this house has so much wrong with it that I was literally flabbergasted when viewing it. Ugh... as an exercise count how many unpermitted modifications were made to this house.
Looks okay from the outside right? We were initially very excited to view this house as its spec's seemed right up our alley and the price is in our comfort range. The house is located 2 blocks from Franklin park and school and it has the amazing central ave street trees that we lust after. When we got up closer to the place something didn't seem right.
Damn some jackass clad the entire house in vinyl...vinyl siding, soffets and no original trim left on the outside of the house. There however is a newish electrical service of 200 amps....done without permits.....
I couldn't get a picture of the front room but picture a McMansion great room with a stacked stone brady bunch corner fireplace. Here's a shot of the 'great room' with all this amazing open space-notice there are no interior walls in this entire area-that's going to be important later...look at that fancy kitchen.
At the end of the great room is this nice little library room that counts as one of the bedrooms. It has sliding glass doors out to the deck..this room was also built without permits...and when I say built, I mean that this is a 2-story addition to the house done completely without permits!!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Walk down the stairs of the deck and you see this 2 carish garage. It appears to be in good shape...its also covered in vinyl siding...problem is, that they've landscaped the side yard as to make in impossible to get a car back here!
The house is advertised as having a basement... This area is maybe 6'-2" high. Its got a concrete foundation with lots of evidence of water seepage. I guess this could be storage space...when you walk through that opening to where the water heater is it gets weird... I should say that a permit was pulled to do some earthquake retro-fitting!
Here's a shot of the center load bearing wall. This looks to me like the original framing on its original brick foundation!?!?! Notice the complete lack of posts and beefed up foundation piers to handle the severely increased point loads from the open floor plan above. Seeing the original sole plates everywhere is a serious red flag to me. All the real foundation contractors replace the always rotted sole plate with treated 3by lumber. Whats with the cement block retaining wall? How do we know its not compromising the integrity of the brick foundation.
Here's a peek through to the other side of the basement that has not been dug out. It looks like a concrete foundation but still with the original sole plate?!?! Okay now I have to drop a major bomb on y'all....all this foundation work, done without permits!!! This just blows me away...but once you know that, the half assed job they did on the foundation makes some sense. They had to do it on the sly. No jacking the house up on steel beams and excavating and forming up and pouring real foundation walls.
A little balcony-just what you want your toddler to have access to. The balcony did appear to be nice place to hang out and enjoy a cuppa in the morning. I can't say if this is original to the house but it was redone without permits.
Next we have this good sized bedroom. This was probably the original master bedroom. Those windows face Central Ave which is a pretty busy street and it was surprisingly loud in the room-even with the dual-paned vinyl windows shut tight. Don't think I could sleep in there.
Okay kiddies lets review all the changes made to the house without permits...
1. Replaced the windows and siding with vinyl.
2. Rebuilt foundation.
3. Made MAJOR structural changes to the main level by removing load bearing walls.
4. Added a 2 story addition to the back of the house.
5. Built a deck off the back of the house.
6. Remodeled the kitchen.
7. Remodeled the 2 baths.
8. Added a master bath.
9. Completely redone the elec, waste and plumbing lines.
The remodeling kitchen and baths isn't such a big deal..But the big structural changes made to the house, including adding a 2 story addition and redoing the foundation without permits are a really, really, REALLY big deal. They removed a significant amount of the load bearing walls on the second floor reducing the shear strength significantly. Actually I didn't see any shear panels in the short dimension of the house...that coupled with the lack of interior walls on the middle floor is a scary proposition in an earthquake.
The cities engineer didn't sign off on any of these modifications...did any engineer? I'd guess no by the lack of posts and piers in the basement to take the added point loads of the open floor plan above. Are those beams and posts, now hidden behind drywall, even close to being correct for their spans-loads? Who knows...there is absolutely no guarantee that this place won't fold like a house of cards in the next good sized shaker.
I talked with the listing agent at length about the house. He confirmed my fears that all of this work was done without permits and or oversight. That the house was completely gutted, a second story addition was added and the house was completely remuddled in the interior and the foundation was redone all without permits. I asked the listing agent, 'How in good conscious can you sell a house in such a state.' He replied that it was all in the disclosures and basically washed his hands of any responsibility. He said that he personally would never buy a house in such a state...He said that the current owners were ignorant and had a bad buyers agent which is why they didn't get the previous seller to correct these issues. What he's looking for is a 'greater fool'. An ignorant buyer with a incompetent or corrupt agent to offload the house onto.
In the permit record there is a complaint from 93 saying heavy equipment is on site and major work being done without a permit. The city appears to of done nothing about it...if they had maybe the house wouldn't be in the sad-scary state its in.
Legalizing this work is a seriously expensive minefield.
If the city wants to play hardball (and they have done this in the past) with this house they can require that the addition be torn off and rebuilt to code, actually they can require that ALL the unpermitted work be torn out and redone to code. That means you'd have to pay the fines, then pay the new permit fees, then pay to have it all removed and then pay to have it all installed correctly. You'd have to hire a structural engineer to do a full analysis of the house. That means opening up finished surfaces so he can see whats there, I don't know how he would determine if the foundation is safe without digging up large sections to inspect....
Run, Run Away from this house!!!
Don't be the 'Greater Fool.'