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House in Tear-Down Condition Sells for $952K

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There were 27 offers, most of them all cash

The listing for the house at 2055 20th Avenue didn't mince words. It described the Sunset District home as extensively damaged, uninhabitable, and in tear down condition. That wasn't enough to keep the buyers away. Real estate agent Stephen Bellingham of Alain Pinel reports that the house, listed at $598,000, received 27 offers, most of them all cash, after just two weeks on the market. It closed on Monday at a staggering $952,000. "Even I was was a little surprised by the high outcome," Bellingham admits.

Listening to the agent describe the property, you can't help but have the same reaction. The house was occupied by tenants in 2000 when it suffered the devastating fire. Damage was indeed extensive, and it had gaping holes in the ceiling and floors. Matters weren't helped by the fact that it sat that way for 16 years, and weather and water took greater tolls. "When the fire happened, the occupants walked away leaving all of their things," Bellingham explains. "Going through the first time, it reminded me of videos you find on Urban Explorers [a website dedicated to probing long-abandoned buildings and spaces]. There was stuff everywhere, including an old grand piano."

Before he could show the house, Bellingham had to have a demolition crew come in and haul out the ruined items and debris. Once it was cleared, he made appointments with qualified buyers only (he made sure they knew what they were getting into and could afford it) and led them through in small groups with flashlights. (There's no electricity, of course, let alone water or gas.) "I took 174 groups of people through, so I think you can conservatively say there were about 300 who toured it," he says.

Bellingham also estimates that he talked to every developer in town. "There aren't many blank slates out there, and so this appealed to them," he says. "I know the buyer plans to fix it up, but I'm not sure what the intentions are after that." (Readers, I think we can all guess.)

Perhaps the real winners here are the neighbors, who have been living beside a vacant property for nearly two decades (and now have an interesting comp should they decide to sell).