TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY!! PICS!!!! Issues...

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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Re: Codes & Permits

Post by Greg »

SquarePark wrote: I HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION. TO petch house and others: Can you tell me how you successfully got this into the contract or escrow for these tenants to be taken care of by the former owner? Our realtor acts like it is not possible, but we don't think that makes any sense! Surely it can be written in. So please share how you did it so we can talk about that if we decide to get the house.
It was simply written in as one of the contingencies. I don’t have my old contract in front of me, but the wording was pretty straight forward. “Property must be vacant before the close of escrow”. There might be some local tenant rights laws that prevent that where you live. It's pretty common in California. In fact, I was booted from a property in escrow in a city about 400 miles south of where I live now.

In my case there was a hold-out tenant that refused to leave. It was the one that had not paid rent for 3 or 4 months. Twenty-four hours before the close of escrow I did a walk through with the owner and our two realtors. When I saw there was a tenant still there I said the deal is off unless the tenant is gone. That was sometime before noon and I walked off leaving the 3 of them in the hallway to sort it out. When I came back at the end of the day the tenant was gone. The owner rented her a storage unit and a motel room.

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Post by oldhouseluvr »

No one else has mentioned this so I will. You talk about "us", if that means you and a spouse/so, are you planning to have children? If so, how are the schools? If the neighborhood is not so great, will you want to raise your children there? What happens if you decide that this is not a family neighborhood and decide to move in a few years, mid-renovation? Will you be able to sell the house and recoup your investment?

If no plans for kids, then no worries there.

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Post by lrkrgrrl »

The cost of the heating bill is a pretty good clue as to why this house was divided in the first place: it is simply too expensive for a single family to provide for the "care and feeding" of these beasts! Even with state of the art energy efficient retrofits, your heating bill is going to be high.

I would recommend thoroughly researching local and state rental housing rules before considering the purchase of this building with the intent to return to a single unit. In my humble hometown, we have a unit replacement rule: any housing unit removed from the market must be replaced. For example: turning an apartment into an office, or rehabbing a building that results in the loss of housing units. There are exceptions, for example, an owner-occupant can get a waiver for a duplex to single conversion.

We also have reg's governing when you can and can't displace tenants at the sale of a building. They are largely based on whether tenants have leases or not. Landlord-tenant law is fairly complex.

Also, for a six-unit apartment building, I presume you will need to take out a commercial mortgage for the purchase, and not a residential mortgage, which generally is limited to 1-4 family properties. This is based on the national secondary mortgage market standards (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the state Housing Finance Agencies). There may be exceptions or special programs, but in most cases you will pay a higher interest rate, need a larger down payment, and possibly have to prove you have reserves for operating expenses, vacancies, repairs, etc. (edit: But you already know that.:oops: Sorry, I skimmed a bit too fast.)

My property is a four unit building, and I bought it knowing I was buying a home and a small business at the same time. If the city-backed $$ that you mention comes with good technical assistance, that could make a difference. Some of those types of rehab programs can connect you with a whole team of pro's to help you plan and manage your project.

Good luck!
"Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!"
(H. Melville, Moby Dick, Ch. 32)

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Lease issue

Post by SquarePark »

Yes, this is a problem because we are sure the tenants have leases, although some are past their yearly lease (they may now be month to month) but most have just recently signed leases and I cannot see anyway around that. I suppose the only thing is to wait their leases out and work on one unit that we live in? If anyone has experience with leases and share!

Anyone know how to get down that gas bill on such a big house with steam heat? We have read about thermostats-

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Post by al_roethlisberger »

Regarding reducing the costs of heating the house, it really isn't a "steam heat" issue per se, although it is true that the system you have in place may be operating suboptimally.

Hydronic heat works great when working properly, but an old drafty house... combined with a HUGE house(to me, anything over 3000 sqft)... can really conspire to elevate the expense of even the most efficient system.

We could spend an entire thread or three(and it has been done) on how to reduce your heating costs, see the "OMG... My heating bill is huge!" thread stickied at:

There's a reason it is 26 pages long!! :wink:

I'd start with that thread, then from personal experience, I'd go to and buy Dan's books "How Come? Hydronic heating questions we've been asking for 100 years (with straight answers!)" and "Pumping Away"(although this is actually a hot water heat book, it is still a great resource). Both books are concise and can be read in a short sitting, but will open your eyes to the complexity and ironically simple nature of the various systems out there.... and what you need to know to maintain and optimize them.

Then after you get your foundation of what your system is, etc, you can go to the forum and ask the "how to" questions.

Good luck
Lewis D. Isenhour House

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Post by SquarePark »

Isn't it true that the bill would have to go down if the house was not occupied by so many tenants? we are talking about an entire house with tenants in every unit with their radiators cranked. our plan would be to cut that in half. I do understand that this place is huge and the heat bill will be very large, but decreasing the number of areas needed to heat comfortably should help with that budgeted gas bill. We have been in the house when it was cooler outside, but not freezing temperatures, and the place had to be over 80 degrees. It was so hot, and that is one thing that tenants have said: "it's too hot" which is kinda scary!! is it impossible for the tenants to crank those radiators down? you'd think if they were boiling in there they would do something about it, but they must not be able to- the post on "my heat bill is huge" is very informative (that's where I had read about the thermostats for each radiator)

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Post by RioG »

I don't know the logistics of this... but what about having the tenants pay for their own heat? That might encourage some conservation efforts.

Otherwise, provided the unheated rooms could be shut off with doors and no pipes would freeze, I would imagine that would help to decrease the heat bill.

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Post by jrt »

Tenant/Landlord laws will vary from state to state but my understanding is that in general once the lease is signed the tenant is legally obligated (allowed) to stay regardless of who owns the building. They cannot be evicted just because the building is being sold

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