GDoN “needs structural repairs” edition

by Prince Of Petworth February 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm 40 Comments


This house is located at 3302 19th Street, Northwest. The listing says:

“Back On Market. This property needs structural repairs. Please see disclosures and attached Engineering Reports provided by seller. Sold in as-is condition.”


You can see more photos here.

This 3 bed/3 bath is going for $650,000.

  • Anon

    We looked at this property when it was on the market for $795k. The basement was horribly uneven and reeked of mold. Must be a major issue if they’ve dropped the price by almost $150k.

  • textdoc

    I wonder what kind of structural repairs it needs. It looks like a flip — maybe it was one of those shoddy flips that removed load-bearing walls, leaving all hell to break loose?

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      See the post above yours. Just from the photos the posts in the basement look a little…off. Are the posts going directly in the boxed in duct work? Weird looking.

      • AnonV2

        The box is around the main structural i-beam running the length of the house. Common to have those boxed in when there is not enough height to drop the entire ceiling to the same level. I don’t think they actually show the structural problems in the pics (shocking!), but the houses on that side of the block have REALLY steep back yards. Like, the drop to the alley is probably almost as much as the street to the roof. If there are any erosion issues back there, or if the previous renovators extended the structure onto improperly supported soil, the it’s a very big job to repair.

        • JS

          This was my thought as well. Backyard washing away and needing to stabilize.

        • Formerly ParkViewRes

          How much to repair? 100k?

          • Accountering

            You could be talking about rebuilding the entire house, and reinforcing the entire backyard with a massive retaining wall. This could be a 300k job.

      • ***

        How about the kitchen that has 2 different flooring materials? Or the weird loft alcove above the bathroom?

        • I Dont Get It

          You see a lot of those alcoves/shelves in newer suburban construction. Generally people fill them with large vases from Pier One and dust collecting artificial ferns.

          • ***

            Yes – my parents house has these. Awkward display spaces that are too high for anyone to actually see what is on display.

    • jcm

      Old, standard-width brick rowhouses don’t have any internal load bearing walls. The two brick party walls support the beams and bear all of the load.

      • anonymous

        This can’t be true unless there are no stairs.

        • jcm

          And yet it is true. The hole for the stairs has a perpendicular beam attached to two joists, and the cut joists attach to it instead of running all the way to the wall. Here’s a picture showing how it works.


          That site is great if you’re interested in early 20th century brick rowhouse construction, by the way.

        • Dane

          Sorry, but what jcm says is 100 percent true. Almost all staircase openings are supported by a doubled up beam that supports the joists that run into the location of the stairs- this beam is supported by doubled up joists on either end of the opening that themselves are set into pockets in the party walls.

          • neighbor

            I commented below but for some reason it did not show up. What JCM says is absolutely not true, please god do not go around telling people this. Some of the very narrow houses do not have structural walls between the party walls. Most DC houses (probably including this one) are wider and do have structural walls internally.
            The structural walls may be replaced with a beam to create an open floor plan, but failure to do so has been one of the big problems with irresponsible flippers.

          • Q-Street

            “Standard width brick rowhome” doesn’t mean anything. The baltimore rowhouse in the baltimorebrickbybrick link, for example, is only a 12′ span. The DC rowhouse featured in this post is ~20′. There’s plenty of variation, but you’ll find no lack of DC homes with interior load-bearing walls; particularly those with original framing and >16′ span
            That being said; I suspect the structural problems aren’t with the removal of a single structural wall. Even with DC contractors’ prices, that isn’t a $100,000 job to fix.
            It would be interesting to see the disclosures.

      • gs

        While this might be true in some of the more narrow row houses in DC, the steel posts in the basement of this house (like many others in the area) support a load bearing I-beam. In the original floor plan of this house there was a wall on the first floor that ran the length of the house (with some openings that had headers), which was typically stacked on top of the steel beam. The second floor typically had the same concept, but is less necessary as the loads from the roof are less than the living space. You can see the wall on the 1st floor in two places: 1) where it was removed in the front living room (where the floor is run in the opposite direction), 2) where it still remains between the kitchen and the dining room.

        I have no idea what the structural issues are with this house, but if I were the buyer, I would make my purchase contingent on an inspection by a structural engineer. One should also negotiate the ability to open up walls where need be, do soil testing etc. and to repair any damage caused by the inspection in the event the purchase falls through.

        • neighbor

          Even if you have an assessment there’s a lot of uncertainty. I’m guessing this is something someone with more capital and more appetite for risk will end up taking on (i.e. a developer).

      • neighbor

        Absolutely not true, please god do not give people this impression. This is only true for the particularly narrow houses as pictured in your link, not the wider houses as show above.
        In most DC row houses there is a wall between the entryway/living room and galley kitchen/living room is load bearing. The 16-20 foot distance is too wide for the joists to span without support. Homes that have been remodeled into an open floor plan have a new lengthwise beam install to support the joists. Except when they haven’t and the joists start to sag causing major structural problems (that was the major issue for the couple profiled in the City Paper with the terrible flipped house).
        Generally speaking, never make any claims about what is or isn’t a structural wall unless you are an SE.

  • anonymous

    If this one has structural issues- would that indicate the adjoining homes would be in same situation?

    • HaileUnlikely

      Depends. Could be that a flipper f*cked this one up. Could also be that entire row has structural issues. Before I bought my current house (which has its own problems), I rented a house built in the late 1920’s. While there, I became aware (from a neighbor who had owned her house for 20+ years) that the whole row had inadequate footers which was leading to excessive foundation movement.

  • petworther

    Seems like there’s a lot of risk involved. I can’t imagine this being a good deal for anyone except a developer. If this is an individual homeowner man do I feel bad for them.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Word. Current owner bought in 2007, for significantly *more* than current asking price.

  • I Dont Get It

    I can’t get past that off-center fireplace.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      agreed. i am not a fan!

  • DC1

    Man, I feel bad for the people that paid $740k back in 2007.
    I have the feeling that it would be “cheaper” to demolish and build new.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I’m thinking it would be cheaper to demolish and build *somewhere else.* Building properly on a lot like this one will be unusually expensive no matter what.

  • k

    If you look on PIVS this house only has permits for replacing the front windows and building the back fence. Which seems odd since so much of this house looks shiny and new.

  • SilverSpringGal

    How did the new owners move in and not know the house was structurally unsound? Did they wave inspection, not pay a quality person? I mean…they’re already 100k under what they paid for it and I doubt they’ll get near asking price for it anyway.

    • K

      I bought a house and found out very shortly after that the house was structurally unsound. We did everything right: a recommended inspector, appraiser, survey, checked PIVS for permits & inspections. Long story short: all evidence of the structural issues were covered with drywall. A home inspector can only legally inspect what is visible. They can’t remove drywall. Unless you hire a structural engineer to come in before you close you’d have no way of knowing. Shady developers do it all the time.

      • Jayne

        Yep, that’s what I keep telling my girlfriend. Her rental property had some electrical and plumbing issues that didn’t show up until later, but how was that the inspector’s fault? He can’t go around tearing up the walls.

    • wdc

      Think about it. The inspector works for the realtor dozens of times a year. He works for you maybe every 15-20 years, at most?
      Inspectors “miss” things all. the. time. Either because the issues are genuinely well hidden, or because their priorities lie elsewhere.

      • houseintherear

        I get what you’re saying, but as a home inspector’s daughter I have to tell you that is totally not true… mainly because of liability. Home inspectors’ insurance rates rival that of doctors’ and they can quickly and easily be called to court hearings to back up their inspection reports. It is not in their best interest at all to fudge a report, especially because they are paid no matter whether the sale goes through (and it would be way too big a legal risk to be in the back pocket of a realtor, especially since quality home inspectors are few and far between these days and it’s not tough to get a lot of inspections without a realtor’s specific help).

        • wdc

          Perhaps it depends on jurisdiction. When the inspector missed ALL of the truly mind-boggling problems in our house, we consulted a lawyer and were told that he was not liable since everything was at least sort of hidden. (Bad pipe soldering behind an access panel– visible if you *removed the panel*. Plumbing hooked up backwards (or in the case of one hosebib, not hooked up at all), only noticeable if you *turned on the taps*.) Our inspector didn’t catch any of these things, but the lawyer said it was a question of “plain sight”. Maybe we got a crap inspector AND a crap lawyer. But the lawyer suggested that it was in the inspector’s best interest to keep the realtor happy. Sure, the inspector gets paid whether the sale goes through or not. But does he get called for the next job if it doesn’t?

        • anon

          Home inspectors are shady as &$^#*% and home inspection companies are giants pieces of &%^##&^. Like the post below, we had issues that the inspector “missed” but shouldn’t have if he was competent. When I consulted a lawyer they told me it would cost a small fortune to sue and I basically signed all of my rights away on the inspection agreement. Largely my own damn fault, but I was a first time buyer and didn’t know – I trusted the home inspectors as an independent 3rd party never thinking that the main limitation of them is that they don’t have any idea what they are doing. Long story short, NEVER TRUST A HOME INSPECTION!!! Get someone who actually knows what they are talking about, like a real engineer or certified HVAC technician, to look at the home. Might cost more but worth it in the long run.

        • FALSE

          houseintherear: This is absolutely 100% UNTRUE. ALL home inspectors in the DC area have added these nasty little arbitration provisions to their contracts (ALL of them – trust me, I tried to find ONE that didn’t and was unsuccessful) because their insurance companies tell them to do so to cover their a$$es. These provisions have been enforced across the country, so a home buyer’s chances of actually bringing their inspector to court are reduced to 0. Not to mention that they ALL have provisions in their contracts limiting their liability to the amount paid for the home inspection, regardless of their liability coverage. Insurance companies are getting over on inspectors at the home buyers’ expense. It’s nasty. Home buyers are best to follow the rule of caveat emptor because the chance of recourse against anyone is basically none.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      Happens all the time. Didn’t you read that WAMU article? It was hardly an isolated incident. Speaking of which, anyone heard updates on that couple/house?

      • Wamu wamu


    • SilverSpringGal

      The fact that you’re all saying this is commonplace is a disgrace. Or maybe its standard when it comes to buying century-old homes, I don’t know. But it makes my skin crawl.

  • Anonymous

    With these issues, few lenders would give a normal Joe Homeowner borrower conventional financing. This probably needs an all cash buyer. Caveat emptor.


Subscribe to our mailing list