June 19, 2008: House Hunting in Peekskill

Today is Oreo’s one day at home with me all week. He has been exhausted. He was not happy when he and I had to get up early this morning so that we could drive Dominica to work in Totowa, New Jersey. He had been hoping that he would be able to just stay in bed all day.

I started the day by finishing reading “The Thoughtworks Anthology”. I almost finished it last night but didn’t quite make it.

I managed to get a lot of Handbraking done last night. With all of the traveling that we have been doing recently that project has fallen by the wayside a bit and I am attempting to get back on track with it. We have some time before we will be traveling back home with stuff to put into storage, but I really want to get everything that we have here converted for the AppleTV before the next trip and there is quite a bit of stuff here.

Today was very slow at the office. Extra slow. Much slower than I would have thought that it would be.  It was the perfect day for it to be slow because I had to take off at four thirty to pick up Dominica from work so that we could drive up to Peekskill to do some house hunting with our real estate agent.

The first house that we looked at was 960 Orchard Street, Peekskill.  Orchard is pretty much right downtown.  We weren’t too impressed with the neighbourhood of old, falling down houses and loads of people milling about on the streets as we approached the house.  We had all but ruled it out as a possibility even before getting out of the car.  It sits directly next to a restaurant / Western Union check cashing location where the owner was arrested last July for something involving screwing over his employees of pay or insurance or something like that.  And next to that business is a cigarette and beer wholesale warehouse.  Um, no.

We figured that something was really wrong with the house since they put up no good photographs of it and the price has been jumping all over the place.  It was listed at $339,000 when we had agreed to go look at it and during the night it jumped to $380,000.  Fishy.

The first thing that we noticed was that the “completely fenced yard” meant that the front corner of the yard was fenced in but not the back of the yard nor the side against the driveway.  Just enough fence existed so that a perfectly positioned external shot of the house wouldn’t show where it ended just off-camera.  They even installed a locked from gate just four feet from the end of the fence.  It was quite clear already that the description of this house was going to be nothing but lies.

There “enclosed front porch” that they advertised was truly that but it was so narrow that we couldn’t figure out why they had enclosed it.  It is a completely pointless space that is unusable.  If you were to sit on the porch on a chair you would literally be one foot away from the outside wall staring straight into drywall.  Had the porch been left to be natural at least there would be fresh air and a view (of the cigarette dealer.)  As it was the space had completely zero value unless, given the neighbourhood it is in maybe this is the way to go, you just throw anything that you want to store out onto it and just forget about it looking nice.

We stepped into the tiny, outdated foyer and immediately noticed that the house was incredibly tiny and that all of the walls and ceiling in the foyer were completed destroyed and ripped out as if there had been some massive plumbing problem.  It was a complete disaster.  I can’t believe that they would even attempt to sell a house in that level of disrepair (but as we will see.. that was hardly the worst of it.)

The back yard, were we had thought that Oreo would get to play, had zero fencing protecting it from driveways on either side and the “nice landscaping” was nothing but half dead grass and dirt.  The back deck that we thought that maybe we could grill on was actually the back stairs and there was no deck at all.  Not like the porch which was just pointless and useless but there was actually no deck.  Total and complete lie, just like the fence.  No attempt at all to make a small, shoddy deck.

We went down to the basement.  The stairs leading down to the basement were ridiculously tight and dangerous.  I can’t believe that they are legal.  There was no railing as it wasn’t wide enough to allow for one.  The basement counted as one of the bathrooms and one of the bedrooms.  I am positive that that didn’t meet code as there is no safe escape from the basement through the house since the stairs are almost impassable.  The ceiling in the basement was approximately five foot ten inches.  I know this because I am five foot nine, more or less, and when standing float footed in the basement with shoes on my head hit the ceiling!!!

We didn’t bother going upstairs to see what was there.  We knew well enough.  Even stepping into the house was a waste of time as we had ruled it out outside.  This house was clearly bought by a “flipper” in 2006 just before the market collapsed.  It was someone who knew nothing about real estate and bought it for far too much money at the height of the housing boom in Westchester County thinking that they could do some drywall and simple stuff and make six figures of “improvements” and then flip the house as quickly as they could like people claim that they can do on all of those television shows that were popular recently.  Just like on those shows the people doing this one were definitely not qualified to do the real estate nor the repairs portion of a flip and the house was a total train wreck (if they could be so lucky to have a train run through the house and put it out of its misery.)

The house was originally listed at $450,000 which, obviously, is beyond ridiculous.  If this house was in Perry, NY it would literally have a hard time selling at $30,000 (yes, thirty thousand.)  And being in Perry would automatically put it into a better neighbourhood!  They dropped the price to $339,000 and fooled us into looking at it but apparently, we were told, did the math and realized that they couldn’t pay their bills if they sold it for that so now it is at $380,000 and only someone completely insane would pay anything near that for the house.  My estimation is that it is worth no more than $280K even being in downtown Peekskill.  The house is completely garbage, and I am very upset that they lied to get us to waste out time looking at it.  The whole thing is a scam to get a few bucks quickly off of desperate or unknowledgeable house buyers.  I’m sure that all of the work was just facade and that the place is likely to fall apart shortly after someone moves in (or, it would appear, before they even manage to sell the place.)

So we quickly moved on to greener pastures (or oranger as the first place that we looked was completely done in shades of orange.)  We went up to the Woods were there are a ton of townhomes and condos on the market right now and looked at several.  We didn’t find anything that would meet our needs but we got a feel for what is available up there and will be keeping a look out for something.  It is clear that house hunting is going to be hard.  When we wanted to move to Geneseo we pretty much found what we were looking for right away.  Now even looking over an entire county with the smallest towns being the size of Geneseo (and even considering a large town in Rockland County and some in Putnam) we are having a hard time finding something even remotely as nice as our place in Geneseo at three times the price!

We stopped at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway and ate at Burger King.  We were encouraged that we could see the type of stuff that we are interested in becoming available in the near future but depressed that the first house was such a disaster and that nothing else fit what we were looking for yet.  It is still slightly early and we haven’t even done our mortgage approval yet so there are those steps to deal with sooner than later.

It was around ten when we got back to Newark.  We watched a little Third Rock from the Sun and fed Oreo and it was time for bed.

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