Property appraisal is not typically thought of as a “dangerous” profession per se. However, you may encounter some strange—or even spooky—properties from time to time. Recently we asked our appraisal community, “What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?” While some appraisers discussed atypical and challenging properties, others shared stories of strange encounters ranging from surprising to creepy to downright scary. Read their stories below.
Want to participate? Sign up for our newsletter to get the next “Question of the Month” survey delivered to your inbox.
What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?
We’ve organized the strange and spooky properties described by our survey participants into the following categories:
- Vacant and secluded homes
- Spooky historic properties
- Properties in horrible condition
- Other surprising and strange site visits
Vacant and secluded homes
“Vacant home that was FILLED with spider webs. So many spider webs that I couldn’t do the inspection. I walked in and immediately was covered from head to toe in spider webs. I had to pull them off my eyelashes to see.”
“Parked at the street which was very narrow. Crossed a foot bridge over a stream and climbed a hillside with only some sections of stairs and railing, mostly just dirt. Halfway up the hill was a multi level home. It lacked a traditional layout and was amateurish in construction. How it passed any code enforcement remains a mystery.”
“I appraised a home on an island. Access was from a neighbor with a four wheeler across the ice. In the summer months they get there by boat.”
“Vacant house that neighbors told me had not been occupied for almost 3 years. They were concerned that the electric was still on and could pose a danger as you could hear an electrical buzzing sound. Once I entered the house, the sound was evident and I looked for the source, probably a light fixture with a bad ballast or short-circuit. However what I found was a massive wasp nest that was approx 4′-5′ tall in one of the bedrooms. When I opened the door, it clearly agitated them and I got out quickly and advised the lender to send in an exterminator ASAP. They were far too aggressive for me to even snap a photo. The AMC rep wanted to know if I could simply hit the nest with a can of wasp spray! Is this the actuality of ‘walking into a hornet’s nest’?”
Spooky historic properties
“A dilapidated historic church. The building was built in the early 1900s as a result of the KKK burning down the original church. It has been vacant since the mid 1980s. It has a basement, main floor and loft. Though we did not see any of the current resident raccoons, their presence was everywhere. The strangest part of the appraisal was being inside the historic building in its current condition and imagining it in full regalia.”
“Oh the joys of the appraisal world! Often a surprise is just around the corner. I pulled into the driveway of an old Victorian that was in need of lots of TLC. I had to maneuver my way around the treasures accumulated on the front porch to even find the front door. The front entry had boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling. The bathrooms had bags of ‘stuff’ in the shower and tub which made me wonder if they were even functional. One bedroom had been turned into an indoor hot house with lots of plants trying to take over the space. There was a bedroom that had floor to ceiling rabbit hutches, and yes, someone was sleeping in the same room as the ‘bunny rabbits.’ The kitchen had been ‘updated’ with a commercial style sink which had been installed over the radiator so the pipes would not freeze. The wrap around porch had a chicken coop attached so you could use the kitchen door to access the coop for fresh eggs. One of the second floor bedrooms had a large black flex hose sticking out the window and down the roof to the porch roof below so the cats could get in and out. The second bedroom had an exterior padlock on it. And the third bedroom had ‘black out’ curtains that were too narrow for the window, so they had painted the window pane black where the curtain did not cover it completely. I’m still having nightmares!”
Properties in horrible condition
“Been doing a lot of properties in really bad shape! Where have all of the hoarders come from?!”
“January, -10 degrees. House completely soaked from top to bottom from sprinklers set off by tenants. Approx $1.8 M in hard cost. Everything ruined/warped/popped floors. Basement 2X4’s pushed down so hard they were off center by 8 inches.”
“There were mushrooms growing on the baseboards!!!”
“I arrived at the property and knocked on the door. After several times, I was about to give up when these two, very large snarling dogs came around the side of the house. They were followed by a man I assumed to be the owner. (It was.) He asks me to come around to the side door as there is some ‘stuff’ in front of this door. My spidey senses were tingling. We step inside and I immediately see what is blocking the front door. It was the second floor!! The house had been gutted by fire. After getting a few photos for the lender, I went outside to walk around. The only sign of fire damage was a char stain on a rear window. This had been repainted white, to hide it. The lender had no idea of the fire. Insurance company never notified them. The owner incorrectly guessed that he would have had an Exterior Only inspection from the street, because ‘that’s what his brother had done.’ The appraisal was not done.”
Other surprising and strange site visits
“Not odd. But memorable. In the beginning of my career, I relied too much upon Google Maps to point me in my direction. I set out to appraise a new construction home, arrived at the property, measured the exterior and went inside to take pictures. While I thought it was odd, the borrowers had already moved in and had obviously been living in the home, I did not question it. Come to find out I had arrived to a new construction home that had recently closed, and the people inside were actually living there and supposed to be there. I was, in fact, committing a felony of breaking and entering. As soon as I caught my error, I called the contractor and he called the borrowers to let them know someone was in their house. They were totally understanding…and all was forgiven. Still makes a great story for the appraiser water cooler talk.”
“I recently appraised two Amish (no electricity and limited water) houses. Neither one returned my calls to set up an appointment, so I had to show up unexpectedly. First place had a house full of kids that were all over and made picture taking difficult (they didn’t want their face in a photo). Next place I showed up unannounced and there were about 50 Amish [people] there to watch a house being torn down, and a tour bus came through and unloaded with tourists to see how the Amish lived. They had temporary housing in a shed and inside there were babies sleeping all over! Measuring outbuildings was difficult as I had to maneuver around chickens, calves, and many horse and buggies.”
Participate in our monthly survey for appraisers
What’s the strangest property you’ve appraised recently? Join the conversation! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Or, sign up for our newsletter to participate in our “Question of the Month” for real estate appraisers. You’ll get a new survey question in your inbox each month, and your answer might get featured in our blog.