Upon learning of the foreclosed house, our gears began turning. We were filled with excitement about the property next door and we were filled with doubt...
We're already restoring a behemoth, dare we take on another? Yes we can; this is the Laura Hawkin's house - a treasure that could fall in the wrong hands and possibly never be restorable again. Also, a new owner would be our new neighbor. What were the chances we'd have undesirables living next door to us again?
Our good neighbor who owned Rockcliffe Mansion scouted the property and nixed its value due to the massive amount of junk still in the house. He gave the bank a lowball offer which was subsequently turned down. Surely this neighbor who had brought life back to Rockcliffe knew what he was doing.
A worker of a contractor we hired scouted the property and got his even lower offer rejected.
A member of the local preservation society made an offer. No bite.
A relative of the not long-deceased owner vied for the property. Nothing.
Meanwhile, the bank hired a crew to clean out the house. In about a month and four big dumpsters later, the job was nearly complete; the house was cleansed of all clothing, furniture, books, appliances, and the many bags of garbage that filled the property.
Here were some of the rooms just before cleanup:
This was the porch on the south side of the house. It was used as a dumpster by the former tenants.
This was the bathroom just off from the kitchen. It stank so badly, we eventually gutted the room of all of its fixtures - cabinet and shelves, carpeting, paneling, toilet, and even faux ceiling - a fire hazard constructed of styrofoam.
Incidentally, I'd much rather die in a plane crash than use any of the toilets that existed in this house. Not to worry about us tossing out antiquities. The toilets and bathtub were unfortunate 1940-1950-1960''s attempts at bathroom remodeling - particularly the garish pink tub on the 2nd floor.
This was the main area of the attic and another dumping area, apparently one of several.
Fast forward - this is the west end of the attic cleaned up. If you look carefully, you'll see a little room on the right past the stairs. See the small makeshift door cut from the black plastic? According to some of our experts, this was at one time a greenhouse for a particularly illegal cash crop. Does this solves the mystery of how the former and non-working head of household could eke out an existence for as long as he did?
The east end of the attic. From here, one can view the Mississippi River.
Here's the view of the garage in the backyard from that attic window. This is a photo taken after we purchased the property and sealed the roof before replacing it.
According to the cleanup crew, the former tenants simply threw their Hefty bags of trash down the basement, as they used no garbage service. This went on for about two years and the basement was literally filled with garbage bags. EEWWWW!
We did our homework...
We decided in spite of the rejections we'd look into the vitals of the house and headed for the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra.
Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra, just 10 miles north of Hannibal. Photo from this website: http://www.flickr.com/
In going through the records in the Recorder of Deeds office, we discovered that the house was bought in 1999 for a mortgage of a mere $46K. Some of this had been paid off, leaving an outstanding mortgage balance in the mid $30K range. Who walks away from a mortgage this low?
With our knowlege, we finally went into action. We called the bank and requested a showing - a very quick perusal which revealed a gutted and tattered home needing everything repaired or replaced. The house's saving grace was its apparent solid foundation, despite being infested with roaches, mice, and termites.
We requested a sealed bid request, which the banker was eager to have us fill out right away. Later that night, we contemplated the previous offers and why even reasonable ones were rejected. We were to learn that the bank was as civic-minded as could be and wanted a serious restorer to take over the property. We knew we'd be up to the task. We had to be.
We got it...
We offered the bank most of the mortgage outstanding, got a counteroffer back and volleyed our counteroffer in return. It was accepted. We got the house for under $30K. Omigosh, what a feeling.