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what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Posted by circuspeanut (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 7, 12 at 17:10

We closed on our dream house a few weeks ago. To make a very long story short, our sellers took the original blueprints, photos and sketches, which had stayed with the house since it was built in 1910, with them when they left. They are now demanding we make them a cash offer for the plans.

I cannot go into the hijincks of these sellers and their snake-oil agent without getting angry all over again (our realtor reported him to the state board, he was so bad); suffice it to say they were extremely difficult sellers.

Because there wasn't any kind of specific clause in the contract about the plans, despite being listed as an asset in the realty write-up, there's little we can do but be extorted if we want the plans. Unfortunately, we do want them pretty badly since we will be doing some work on the house and want to stay true to the original architectural intent, etc.

It's a medium-small private house by a well-known turn-of-the-century local architect, in a style that's slightly unusual for him. The house has no historical meaning of note beyond the sentimental, it is not historically designated.

The plans consist of a few linen pages of drawings wrapped in leather in a roll. Does anyone here know about such things and have an idea as to the real market value? $50? $200? $10,000?

Thanks in advance!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Do you want the plans because you "want to stay true to the original architectural intent" or are you concerned about their value due to their age (sell the plans for a quick buck)?

If they were "extremely difficult sellers" why wouldn't you forget the deal and move along? That's what I would have done.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

That really stinks - what horrible people. I am going to assume that your architect is not prominent enough that these blueprints, etc. would have significant independent value to someone other than the homeowner. Thus what interest could they possibly have in keeping them, other than trying to extort more money from you? In that case, I think I would offer them a nominal amount - $20 or $50. $100 at most. I would take the position with them that you've paid quite a lot of money for the house, and just aren't prepared to spend a lot more on something you thought was already conveying with the house. If they think you'll walk away, they may lower their expectations, and hopefully they don't know just how badly you want the plans. I would hate to give these people any more money than that, no matter how much I wanted the plans.

If they refuse, fine. A competent architect should be able to stay true to the original design/intent even without the plans, unless the house has been significantly remuddled. If they do refuse, I'd imagine they'd then either shove the plans in a closet or toss them (since they sound so spiteful), or try and sell them on craigslist, ebay, etc. You could watch listings and have a friend bid for you.

If you really are dying to have the plans and are prepared to pay whatever they want, you could contact a few antiques dealers, or google to see if any of your architect's plans have sold. That could give you at least a ballpark idea of what they would be worth, and would give you a starting point for negotiations.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Just curious, since it was listed in the realtor write up as an asset have you contacted your attorney? If they wanted to keep them they should have had the realtor remove it from the write up. Did you discover it on your walk thru and speak up at the closing?


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Thanks hlg222. We have a call in to a friend at the architect's grandson's firm to get a professional guesstimate on the value of the plans. The architect is just prominent enough that the plans probably have some market value, but I'm not sure who would be interested in this particular house other than us; the local historical societies would love them but I doubt they have any budget. I'll do some sniffing around locally.

In terms of future work, I'm sure we can manage; it's just a shame not to know which walls are original, etc.

No, Tom, we most certainly wouldn't sell the plans after we get them; we'd frame them, and leave them with the house should we ever move, as would any ethical old house lover. If we were as mercenary as our sellers, why on earth would I write for advice here?

We love the house/location inordinately and never thought we'd have the chance to own there. Yes, our sentiment prompted us to stick with the deal, despite these awful sellers, where others might have bailed (in fact we were the third contracted buyers in a row, the others fell through for reasons unknown; possibly, like you, they just wouldn't put up with jerky sellers. As one example, these folks circumvented both agents and wrote us a long personal, emotional email detailing exactly why they were deeply offended at our first offer on the house, which they considered too low).

Tom, perhaps you are not an old house person and don't understand the great attachment one can form to a specific house and its corresponding history and documentation?


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

eandhl --
We did note this at the walkthrough (that the plans were no longer sitting on the counter). When she phoned him, their realtor told our realtor they would bring the plans to the closing.
When we all arrived at the closing, their realtor announced that the plans do not convey with the house, and nowhere does the contract specify them, so we are not getting them and that's that. I suppose we could/should have halted things there, but it seemed a small thing to hold up getting the house closed and these folks out of our lives. It was not the world's most comfortable closing.

Therefore it's true, I have little reason to complain since we did accept the situation. But I'm still resenting being played by these guys and still curious as to whether anyone knows the general value of old architectural blueprints from 1910.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Whoa, whoa peanut. Sorry if my message came across that way. As a matter of fact,I grew up ina a Victorian. I also knew someone who bought a similar one and sold off radiators, etc. to make some dough. No harm intended. Mea culpa. And I DO watch This Old House every Thursday night here on WWLP. :) Many of us in New England are in old houses.

But one thing I've learned when purchasing a big ticket item. If the sellers came across that way, I would have RAN away. BTW, doesn't the local town have a copy or anything that might help you? At any rate I think you should hav been entitled to your copy of plans.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I think I would offer them $100 and if they say no, tell them I'm no longer interested. They may have hopes of getting a lot of money out of you.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

That's OK Tom; sorry, I should have introduced myself as a long-time GW member who's chronicled lots of adventures in bringing our current old Craftsman bungalow back to its original state. In fact I probably should have posted this query on the Old House board instead of this one --

Alas, the City registrar doesn't have a copy, probably due to a fire in the interim. It probably does seem silly to place such value on the original plans, but I'm keen to restore the remuddled bathrooms & kitchen to their original configuration and the blueprints would help immensely.

I'd rather sell a child than these gorgeous original, unpainted radiators. ;-)

Newbuyer, yes, I think that's what we'll do. My guy is sick of dealing with these folks and will just make a flat offer, take it or leave it. I think you're right, they are definitely trying to squeeze us, since they know how much we'd like to see the plans. We'll see.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I wouldn't pay them a dime. I don't care if it wasn't listed among the conveyances - anybody with any common sense would know that these plans should have stayed with the house. This is obvious extortion, and I would not play their game. People renovate houses all the time without having original blue prints - you don't really need them. I'd forget about the plans and let the jerks keep them.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

People can be so unreasonable. We bought a house from some difficult sellers once & the plans, the appliance manuals, the records of repairs, etc. were at the house & out on a table during all of our visits and the implication was that they went with the house. Things got dicey, they tried to back out of the sale, lawyers got involved & when the house closed all paperwork was gone. The plans weren't historical or anything but did show underground piers in the foundation that would have been handy to have. We were just glad to be done with them and let it go. Your situation is different & I would offer them your best price, then walk.

Oh, another thing they did was "poison" the neighbors against us. We overcame that eventually, but it was kind of weird moving in to a semi-hostile environment where everyone had been told we were horrible.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Ugh, you're right, you should have stopped the closing or hammered out a deal there, but I totally understand your reluctance to do so and don't think I would have been able to do it myself.

With the additional background, I would consider consulting a lawyer to see if you might have any legal recourse against them or their agent, based on the representations in the listing that the blueprints conveyed with the house, and the seller's agent's representation that he would bring them to closing. You're probably out of luck if it wasn't specified in the contract, but it might be worth checking into if you have or know of a lawyer, and probably wouldn't cost a lot to do as a real estate lawyer should be able to answer that question with little to no research.

I also think that any negotiations over the plans should not be done directly between you and the sellers - perhaps your realtor could step in. They clearly have a very personal animosity towards you and perhaps introducing a third party to try and make it an impartial business transaction would be helpful.

Personally, even though I might want the blueprints enough to pay a few thousand dollars for them (I'd love to have the original blueprints for my 1930s bungalow!), if I had to pay those horrible people I would be so filled with rage every time I saw the blueprints that I think I'd rather just let them go.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I would be really tempted to call them on this ridiculous bluff.

Tell them that OF COURSE you understand that they wish to hold onto a memento of their time owning such an interesting house and you wouldn't DREAM of depriving them of the originals. (rolls eyes)

But you'd be happy to pay for any costs associated with photocopying so that you could have copies of the blueprints/photos etc for your reference.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I tend to agree with cas66ragtop. I wouldn't pay them a dime either. The blueprints would be long gone for most houses of that age, so it would have been a bonus if you had recieved them with the house. I also like trilobite's approach.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I also think that any negotiations over the plans should not be done directly between you and the sellers - perhaps your realtor could step in. They clearly have a very personal animosity towards you and perhaps introducing a third party to try and make it an impartial business transaction would be helpful.

Ha - I laugh, only because it's not just us -- I think it's everybody. They apparently absolutely detested our realtor, too. They were furious at her for providing them with realistic comps (!) to demonstrate that our initial "offensive" lower offer was in fact more than generous.

In fact, they blame her as their reason for withholding the plans. To give you an example of their most excellently crafty passive-aggression, here's their response to our query a few days ago about the promised plans. (We had been specifically asking their realtor about the danged plans since we went into contract):

At the time we were getting quite mixed messages from your realtor when she compared it to any other house on the block. If we would have known that you were truly interested in the plans we might have been able to find an agreement during the price negotiations. What do you feel the plans are worth for you now?

It was really almost a comically bad experience with both these people and their agent. I'm sure we will look back and laugh some day, but you're probably right, we might resent them so much we wouldn't really enjoy the plans.

Although it does make a good seller horror story! They demanded that we double the earnest money. They wanted us to skip any inspections whatsoever; then they wanted to shrink the inspection window to 3 days. Their agent wanted us to ask the previous buyers on contract to just show us their inspections "for free" (!). He was sleazy from the get-go: he conveniently kept 'forgetting' scheduled viewings with our realtor, then rushed us through alone one day, then refused to give our agent any commission at all. One system was not functioning correctly during inspection and he told us their insurance could take care of it. When a week passed with no movement, we asked again and he flipped out, yelling and cursing, telling our agent that if the repair wasn't specified as a contingency in the contract, they didn't have to do it. (Luckily she kept her cool -- she's very professional -- and simply pointed to the paragraph in the contract specifying that all systems be in working order.)

The whole thing is so bizarre, and yeah, I frankly don't wanna give these jokers another thin dime.

OK, I think that's decided me. The heck with 'em. Maybe the plans will show up on eBay at some point.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

You are the only person the plans have any value for.

Tell them to pound sand.

They can turn them over in 72 hours, or never contact you again.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

You know what I would be tempted to do? Forgive me, but the evil side of my brain is doing the talking now.....

I would meet their extortion with some extortion of my own.

Maybe meet at their house, and "accidentally on purpose" slip and fall. Oops! Boy my back is really killing me......but this severe pain may subside if I had the comfort of knowing I had the original blue prints in my possession!

Or have them meet at your house and have a tow truck driver haul their car way. Hey - I didn't give you permission to park in my driveway!

Or agree to meet somewhere else at a certain time - and then just don't show up. And have the satisfaction that you just wasted their time and gas!

OK, I could go on and on with dastardly plans, but I will stop.

I think you're doing the right thing by refusing to play their game. I am sorry you can't have the plans which I think really should belong to you, and it's a shame people need to be so nasty. I guess the best revenge is knowing you are a nice person and they are not.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Behind many RE stories there lurks a money story.

I have a strange feeling that your sellers are festering about letting their property go too cheaply.(not your fault, I know, but still....) Had they sold at a price which left them in smiles, your negotiations would have been all light and airy, and they would have gladly forked over the plans. Perhaps circumstances forced them to sell well below their expectations, in which case, you became the recipient of their frustration. Do you get where I'm going here? They're trying to "get even" with you by withholding the plans.

Forget about what is right or wrong, and just ask yourself how important the plans are to YOU. Ask them for a price and either pay it or walk away. It may their only opportunity to delight in "sticking it to you," but the bigger picture would have the plans in your hands.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

My only thought is---are these the original plans, or something made up just to get money. You mentioned that the house was built in 1910--those original plans would be either worn, or??? and yes it would be nice, but don't get taken on maybe later plans or just made up ones.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

cas66 -- yes, I understand the desire! This has made me deeply angry in a way I seldom get. But there is nothing for it; we either submit to the extortion or not.

We did check with a real estate lawyer who said we have little recourse, since we did agree to not getting the plans at the closing. Interestingly: had we never mentioned them to the sellers' agent, we could have made a legal case that they were implicit in the conveyances (besides the realtor's write-up, sellers had them sitting on the kitchen counter during walk-throughs). But alas, we did mention them after they vanished. The lawyer said he could try, but it probably wasn't worth his $1000 fee.

Thanks maremma. Yes, we presume they want to make up for what they perceive as a lower sale price than they wanted. Frustratingly, though, the house was not worth anything what they wanted for it. They had had it FSBO for almost two years for a crazy $150k more than it appraised at, before listing it with this agent. As is, we came up on the price a good 10k more than was reasonable given its condition and all the comps. It was not a steal by any means, in fact we think they are pretty lucky to have found us as buyers.

marie - unfortunately, yes, these are the original plans. They had been well-stored in the house for 100 years before these beasts absconded with them.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I have been reading this forum for months but haven't posted until now. I implore you: do not let their spite become your spite. I let go of a sentimental item once because I hated the thought of dealing with the owner, and I regret it to this day.

Try to re-frame this in your mind. Take the sellers out of the equation. Imagine you just happened to find the plans sitting on the shelf of an antique store. Think hard about what you would pay for them. Would you be a buyer if the tag said $50? $500? $5,000?

Also, it may help to be a bit more charitable in your thoughts toward these folks. It is certainly possible that they are just terrible people who enjoy putting the screws to you. But might there be a chance that they are simply people who had to part with a house they loved who wanted to keep a piece of it with them, but were willing to part with it if you wanted it *that* badly?

If it were me, I would get them to say straight up what they want for the plans. It would be a terrible shame to make an offer in the hundreds or thousands if they were thinking more along the lines of 50 bucks. If their asking price seems high, negotiate. If you can't get them down to a level you would be comfortable paying at that hypothetical antique store, then at least you can walk away knowing you tried


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I'd have someone that they might listen to (if there is such a person, lie a former neighbor?) suggest that they donate them to the local historical society so that everyone could enjoy them. They get to enjoy playing keep away with you, and you'd be able to have copies made to study and hang on your wall, and yes, local history buffs would benefit as well.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Also, it may help to be a bit more charitable in your thoughts toward these folks. It is certainly possible that they are just terrible people who enjoy putting the screws to you. But might there be a chance that they are simply people who had to part with a house they loved who wanted to keep a piece of it with them, but were willing to part with it if you wanted it *that* badly?

Y'know, I'd really, really like to think the latter. But I fear it's probably a bit of both.

If it were really a matter of sentiment to them, I can't understand why they refused my offer to pay for photocopies of the plans. Actually, that's not entirely true: they never point blank refused, but they replied to that query by saying they weren't sure where the plans were in storage and they weren't sure they'd find them. We replied that this was a shame, and they then replied to that with the news that they'd magically been found, and the request for money.

I just don't know how to read this scenario in any way but mercenary exploitation of our sentimental desire to keep the plans with the house.

It might well be me, but these folks make virtually every interaction highly confrontational, and it seems so unnecessary. Example: this morning I received a really nasty email from the seller who implies that we are holding their mail hostage, because it hasn't been forwarded yet. They didn't submit a mail-forwarding request to the USPS until about 6 days ago, so for about 2 weeks after closing we were getting their mail and handing it back to the postman the next day with 'moved - please forward' on it. (Wouldn't an email saying "hey - our forwarded mail hasn't arrived yet; can you keep an eye out and ask the postman? thanks!" have sufficed? Instead it's got ALL CAPS and exclamation points. Gah!)

We've reconciled ourselves by now to never even seeing the plans. We'll just let it go; we can't see any type of good ever coming from any transaction with these people.

Thanks to you all so much, especially you de-lurkers, for the empathy, realism and insights!


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Peanut: That photo of the radiator brought back memories.!!
As a kid, I was assigned to paint one. I even remember the can of silver "Red Devil" paint that I used for the radiator and the pipe in the room corner that ran floor to ceiling (Riser?) . I remember a tiny canister at one end of the radiator that used to hiss from time to time.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Again, try to get a number figure from these sellers. Either accept, or reject at that point. From my point of view, having original plans of my vintage house would be a huge emotional/practical asset.

As difficult as they may be, try not to take anything they say personally (rule #1 in business). Rather, focus on the bigger picture. i.e. getting the blueprints.

Remember, you may have to eat humble pie by placating these sellers, but the indigestion lasts only for awhile ---- the blueprints last a lifetime.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I have found that there are some people who don't believe in the possibility of a win/win outcome. They believe that in every deal there is a winner and a loser, and if they aren't screwing over the other party that they must be the ones who are screwed over. It's really a sad way to go through life.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

"It might well be me, but these folks make virtually every interaction highly confrontational, and it seems so unnecessary. Example: this morning I received a really nasty email from the seller who implies that we are holding their mail hostage, because it hasn't been forwarded yet."

Some people are just not worth dealing with.

You may have discovered some.


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reRE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

"Example: this morning I received a really nasty email from the seller who implies that we are holding their mail hostage"

I would be nasty enough to them to put it al in a box and tell them to come get anything else that shows up, then leave the box on the front step.

MAKE SURE you have ALL the locks re-keyed.

I would doubt their honesty at this point.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

THEY want YOU to do them a favor and forward their mail? Perfect!

"Dear Sellers, thanks so much for your kind message. I would be delighted to watch for, collect, and provide you with the important-looking mail that has been accumulating at our house due to your negligence in failing to provide the Post Office with a timely change in address. I won't even charge you for my time and the inconvenience, provided that you return the blueprints you removed from the house. If you would prefer not to return the blueprints, the cost of my mail collection service is $50,000. I'd be happy to provide the mail upon the receipt of either one." :-)

In all seriousness, they have your personal email address?!? I would definitely block them so that they can't keep contacting/harassing you (and I know it's wrong, but I would be so tempted to "accidentally" drop one or two of the more important-looking pieces of mail in the trash as I was pulling it together to be forwarded).


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

By returning their mail to the postman/post office, you did the right thing. Just a thought, as much as some want you do something other than that, even kidding, it could be a federal offense if they did complain to the PO. With these type of people you never know what they will try or say to anyone. Do hope you did change all the locks on the doors. I also would keep track of any phone calls, mail, hearsay, etc and if it continues, do talk to the law enforcement for harassment. Just to protect yourself.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

The original blueprints are of no value to them except what they think they can extort from you.
Tell them thanks but not interested. I bet the price becomes free when they find out you won't pay and/or play their game.
I realize it would be nice to have them but any competent architect can figure out the original plan.
And BLOCK their email address immediately.
Peace will then reign in your mind and home.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Dont tell them that you are not interested in the plans. you would only do this for spite, because you really are. It would be better to ignore them (dont reply at all) versus say you are not interested. At least if you ignore, they might come back again asking about the plans. Or you might change your mind and ask them later when you think it over and simmer down.

A possible win-win is to find a drafting supply or surveyor supply store in your area. they copy blueprints for usually under $25. It would not be the originals, but a copy is better than nothing. This way you both get a the plans.

You could word it to them that you understand that they want them and can you get a copy. Maybe they want to remember the home. In all honesty, they feel like they sold too low and are mad and have been mad ever sinc they signed the contract. You are lucky they didn't take other stuff with them.

I would offer them $50 for the plans and likely they will counter in the $250 range. It could be a fun little game for you. Just remember, no reply versus a big NO. This leaves you room to change your mind later.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I wouldn't give these losers one penny! They are obviously being PITA's on purpose. Just to tick you off. Don't reply at all to them. Block them from your e-mail. Don't give in to them. You can do your house remodel without the plans, they aren't necessary. People like your sellers should not be rewarded for their bad behavior. Ignore them. NancyLouise


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Thanks, all.

Yes, Tom, aren't the radiators just fabulous? It's a miracle they've never been painted or messed with, and added to the desirability of the house. It's hot water heat, too, which is quieter and easier to maintain than steam, or so I hear. Of course the boiler is still a converted wood-burning beast from 1946, so that will be replaced asap.

We had all the locks re-keyed the day after closing. We're very sentimental, but not stupid. ;-)

Greendesigns, an excellent idea re. the local historical society! I don't know who they would trust, but perhaps over time some connection will suggest itself. We would be quite happy with just photocopies (that we would pay for), but even that seems impossible to get out of them without a battle.

I wouldn't mess with the mail, that seems like overkill. It's true we really loathe their sleazy ways, but I don't think we could live with ourselves if we stooped to pulling illegal tricks. Karma will have to suffice.

An interesting new tidbit: doing unrelated Google searches on the house, we've also discovered that the sellers run at least 10 different websites devoted to multi-level pyramid marketing schemes, selling a variety of iffy pharmaceuticals and weird electrical gadgets of dubious medical merit.

So, we're clearly dealing with pros here and out of our league. *sigh*

Even con men have to live somewhere, I guess. You just wish they'd leave their own real estate out of their schemes!


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

" it could be a federal offense if they did complain to the PO."

Nope.


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RE::::: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Just another thought. As is appears that these people may run some web sites that either inform or sell stuff that may not be the best, just watch your credit, cards, address, email addresses to make sure they don't put out information about you that could lead into identity theft. Pull a credit report (free once a year), watch for COD packages, advertisements in the mail you are really not interested in (some may be illegal) for awhile. You never know what a person will do especially if they think you want something they have, or whatever. Just be careful.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

It's a federal offensive to obstruct the process of the mail going to someone:
18 USC 1702 - Sec. 1702. Obstruction of correspondence

Whoever takes any letter, postal card, or package out of any post office or any authorized depository for mail matter, or from any letter or mail carrier, or which has been in any post office or authorized depository [e.g., your mailbox], or in the custody of any letter or mail carrier, before it has been delivered to the person to whom it was directed, with design to obstruct the correspondence, or to pry into the business or secrets of another, or opens, secretes, embezzles, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

You are not reading the whole statute, just a section.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

It's a federal offense to mess with the mail. It may be a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, but it's still a federal offense.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Something tells me these nasty sounding criminals, er, I mean, former owners would mess with the blueprints even if you paid them. They sound kind of scary, actually, not in a brute-force sort of way, but in a devious way.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

Well if you do end up getting the plans from them, right after the exchange is made be sure to tell them how much MORE you would have been willing to pay them, but thanks again for the great deal!


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

"It's a federal offense to mess with the mail. It may be a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, but it's still a federal offense."

Once it is delivered to an address almost all the restrictions end.

The USPS has surrendered possession.
You are not removing it from their possession, they delivered it.

If it was unordered merchandise it is your to do with as you please.


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RE: what would you pay for old original blueprints?

I'd start watching craig's list and ebay for those plans too.

I've never owned a really owned house, but the newer houses we've remodeled usually have signs that point to previous changes and it's been fairly obvious what some of those changes were. The age of the wood inside the walls, the way it is mis-aligned, indicate that a wall was taken out and something added. Hopefully, whoever does your house will see those signs and be able to figure out what was there originally. Or a neighbor might know something, or know who might have photos of the house.

In any case, a good restoration contractor should be able to put it back to an authentic state without having the plans.


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