A Bargain at $2M (relatively)

palimpsestJuly 5, 2012

This house, at ~$2M is a relative steal at about $90 a square foot. It's an unmanageable 18,000 sq ft + 4000 sq feet on some acreage. It's been institutional for some time although it's well preserved. My great-aunt lived a few doors down (her house was not as big), but we don't know if hers is private or institutional. This is still a nice neighborhood, but very few people could manage this--since a house like this is not about buying it, its about maintaining it:

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Boopadaboo

Imagine having the money to keep it up! Just thinking of heating bills on a place so large keep me from looking at this 20,000 sq ft church for sale in our county. I bet it would be an amazing space redone though. :) Not in as nice an area as yours though obviously since the price is only $199k.

Here is a link that might be useful: church for sale

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:43PM
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jterrilynn

What's the history of the house Pal? I wonder who owned it originally and what life it had after.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:46PM
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palimpsest

Built for an industrial magnate around 1910. It looks corporate on the inside right now, with boardroom and lecture room type adaptations.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 10:23PM
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jterrilynn

I love love that house! I would buy it (if I had the money) and make most into a school of the arts for school age children. Then I would remodel a portion for myself and live there every summer.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 10:46PM
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jenny_from_the_block

What neighborhood is it in? Seems like it would be purchased right away if it were in a decent area....just think of the Montessori school you could put in there ;-)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 11:01PM
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gsciencechick

I was also thinking school or else mixed use of business and condos. That is probably the only way to make it work for modern times.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 7:57AM
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dedtired

I love trying to guess the neighborhood when you post the different houses. Chestnut Hill? I wonder if the zoning would allow any of the purposes mentioned above.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:14AM
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palimpsest

This is Chestnut Hill, yes. The house is already been used institutionally. I think they Have to allow it because of the size. The residential market for 100 year old 18,000 square foot houses is very limited.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:43AM
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gsciencechick

I thought about the zoning, too.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:49AM
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palimpsest

Part of this street is almost fully commercial, and down at this end, I think it is a mix of residential and institutional. It *has to be, because the houses of this size would be empty and decaying if they could not be used for commercial function.

Much of the zoning was also established in the older suburbs, which are now in the city, when people WANTED a store near the house, and WANTED to be near public transporation, and that still exists. People walked when these were built.

The house my mother was born in is East of this in a different old suburb and while it is residential, the commercial is right there, too. It, or one of it's siblings was just for sale and although it was well maintained and on a nice block, the empty lots and half stripped cars were within a few blocks on Google Street view. It's just the way it is here--mixed together.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:30PM
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dedtired

Of course, people are still building houses of this size. I see them every day. In fact, two homes that were converted to religious use have become private homes again.

Here's a link to house that was built as a private estate, then converted to a convent and then back to a private home. Sadly, the current owner lost their money to Bernie Madoff. The house was on a house tour and I got to go through it. Quite something!

Here is a link that might be useful: house-convent-house

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:50PM
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palimpsest

They are, it's true, but most people who would want a house of 18,000 feet would rather live someplace like Villanova, etc. There are people out there, but the pool is limited.

The house is cheap but I would say it would need a multi-million dollar renovation and more than $1M to furnish.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 10:19PM
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maire_cate

Yes people are still building estate homes. This one is over 45,000 sq. ft. and is located in my town. I often wonder what it's fate might be 100 years from now.

Here is a link that might be useful: Villa Collina

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 10:48PM
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dedtired

You are so right, Pal.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 10:50PM
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palimpsest

Historically, houses of this gigantic size (Villa Collina) have a VERY short life span compared to a typical house.

Whitemarsh Hall (100,000 sq ft) was completed in 1921, lived in until 1938, sold for $167,000 in 1943 and used as a warehouse and chemical laboratory. It was resold in 1963 but essentially abandoned, and demolished in 1980.

It was a private residence for all of 17 years.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 11:39PM
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marcolo

Historically, the very rich are real estate locusts--descend on an area, whether a stretch of untouched land or an "up and coming" neighborhood, price it out of reality even for them, lose interest, move on, and leave a ghetto behind. This very cycle has occurred in some exurban communities built during the boom, where the manses of the pseudo elite are now squattervilles for drug gangs. Some of this flight from the megamansions started to occur before the real estate crash. A 10,000 square foot home needs all commercial systems--HVAC, plumbing, etc. that were originally designed for malls and office parks. The maintenance is cost-prohibitive even for the rich. So the exodus from these homes began almost as soon as people lived in them.

The one you posted would make an excellent home for the X-Men.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 12:28AM
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gr8daygw

re: church for sale link, boopad~Recently I visited my original small hometown. We drove by the church I attended as a child a picturesque white frame building with steeple and double doors on either side of the large center stained windows. I was surprised to see that a gas grill was on the front sidewalk just outside the double doors and lawn chairs and residential type furnishings all about, the grass needed to be cut and it sort of looked like some very free spirits were living there no pun intended! They had their own special art hanging around in the yard, lots of whirligigs etc. Felt sort of weird seeing our old church as a personal residence! I suppose it takes a certain kind of buyer to move into an old church! I have seen churches turned into restaurants. In Atlanta there is/was one called "The Abby" that is quite impressive. The waiters used to dress in monks attire. Very novel.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:52AM
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palimpsest

Marcolo what you speak of happened all over Philadelphia in the 19th and 20th centuries as the wealthy moved south on Broad Street and suddenly abandoned South Broad for North Broad, and then North Broad for the suburbs. Some of the largest mansions had a residential life span of a couple decades at most. While the houses in or close to Center City were demolished and replaced with skyscrapers and such, there are very large houses along North Broad that are still essentially abandoned or substandard boarding houses.

The difference between old construction and new though, is an old abandoned house that can breathe can weather decades of neglect especially if the roof doesn't leak. But new construction that is weather tight and needs climate control on the inside will start to decay soon after it is uninhabited.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 10:57AM
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dedtired

Marcolo, I like that term -- real estate locusts. Perfect description of what has happened in so many city neighborhoods.

Pal, the houses that always fascinate me are those on Parkside Ave across from the Please Touch Museum. They must have been fabulous in their glory days. The area behind them is so depressed that i doubt anyone would rehab them.

I have an acquaintance that lives in Wynnefield near the Museum. She is a bit of a snoot. She said "we live in the Centennial District." Pal, have you ever heard that name? Is it like Newbold -- a new name for an old place?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 12:11PM
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kaismom

If the area can support it, this property is begging to be turned into a high end condominium that retains all its old world charm or completely modernized to ultra modern finishes inside but retaining the outside intact. I linked a property below. This is right next to a hospital in a very urban area. All the units sold around $1 Mil for larger units, I think. It is a stone building, evoking old Europe. Extremely rare in a West Coast city that I am in, Seattle. The building is exquisite from the outside. There is a beautiful large stained glassed window that they kept. The ouside has been meticulously preserved.

Palimpsest is completely right in what he says about the breathing in old homes versus trapping of moisture of new homes. The unfortunate by product of the new energy requirements is the air-tight homes that rot.

A while back, I read a newspaper article about a mansion in Philadelphia build by a man who made money selling meat to the Union Army during the Civil War. The mansion has exquisite gardens without an equal. Because Philadelphia did not go the way NYC went in terms of growth, the property did not have any demand and has become an institution over the past century. Now the institution is selling the furnishings, scuptures, and ornamentations to get money to maintain the place. I wonder if this place is it...

Much of the old villas, palaces, and mansions etc in the cities of Europe from the last several hundred years have become condominiums or institutions. The phenomenon has been going on for several hundred years.

Here is a link that might be useful: church turned into condominium.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 12:50PM
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sochi

Agree that the X-men should absolutely move in.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 5:01PM
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