Thursday, August 18, 2005

Who Wants to Buy a Money Trap?

UIS is trying to unload a 19th-century farmhouse and get it the hell of its property. They would probably just assume bulldoze the thing, but I’m sure there is something in the school’s mission statement that dictates that they have to go the historic preservation route, at least at first.

The school is willing to donate the house plus a cool 13Gs to anyone willing to relocate the house, but only if they promise to be careful to respect its heritage. An architect has estimated that it would cost about $800,000 for the school to renovate it for its own use, so you can imagine the cost to a buyer who would also have to transport it to a new lot. So far, there haven’t been any takers.

It’s not surprising; these people don’t know the first thing about selling a house. In the same article where one UIS employee is at a loss at to why no one wants it, the school’s spokeswoman is calling is calling it a potential health hazard. They need to learn a little real estate marketing speak and talk it up Century 21-style.

First off, the house isn’t termite infested. Instead, it has a “naturally distressed foundation that lends an ascetic authenticity.”

That isn’t asbestos, that’s “organic insulation culled from mother earth’s minerals.”

And rather than come clean and admit that the house is in poor condition, just conjecture that “Bob Villa would be chomping on his carpenter’s pencil to makeover this old dream house in the rough.”

Sounds better already.

But if the marketing spiel still isn’t enough to convince some poor sucker, then UIS should turn to the local experts.

Selling real estate is a competitive racket and there has to be more than a little ego involved. I imagine that agents get together from time to time, have a couple a drinks and brag about that broken-down pile of sticks they just pawned off at an above market value price to some mortgaged-to-the-eyeballs saps. So maybe a little sales contest is in order to let them sort out just who is the big gun in town.

UIS should contact all of the top agents - the Wabners, the Pfisters and the like - and challenge them to find a buyer for this decrepit old farmhouse. Maybe a reality television element could be woven in by making all of the agents live in the house until it is sold. The show could combine the basic concept of the “Real World” with the realtors-behaving-badly subplot of “American Beauty” and a little “Animal House” thrown in to play off the campus setting.

I doubt that UIS will try and pitch my little idea to Bunim/Murray Productions. They probably already have a contractor lined up to flatten the old shack into a pile of dust just as soon as Carolyn Oxtoby is looking the other way. Sure it would be nice to see the house renovated and put to good use, but if the market doesn’t want it and government can't afford it, it's probably best to put it down.

1 comment:

JeromeProphet said...

I'd like to see someone save the old Strawbridge farmhouse.

That $800K quote sounds like the kind of quote a government owned facility would receive.

Have you ever seen the pace of work on a project being paid for by the government?

It's truly remarkable that anything ever gets done. And I'm not talking about government employees, I'm talking about private contractors working for the government.

I could see that $800K quote being considered in retrospect to be quite conservative indeed.

On the other hand if a business purchased the property it might take considerably less to repair the farmhouse.

Move the house down the street from the Lincoln home, on one of the now vacant lots, and turn it into a bed and breakfast.

Now if only I played the lottery!