The Previous Owners May Have Been on Crack – No, Really

lath and plaster

There are many things I love about Portland, but the housing situation isn’t one of them. It was pretty obvious when we moved here almost two years ago, that we’d need to be creative in order to stay here. We barely found a place to rent. The city had around a 3% vacancy rate at the time, and older residents were getting unsolicited cash offers to sell their houses (or possibly being tricked out of them). Construction companies were (and still are) gobbling up habitable older homes on the lower end of the price range and demolishing them to construct “skinny houses” and apartment buildings.

Bonus Garbage

Image: Marziah Karch

We got lucky and found a foreclosure. Woo! A money pit to call our very own. This place had tenants at the time we purchased it, so we knew it was, at least, something you could live in. We did inspect the place, of course. We knew the roof was bad, the plumbing was suspect (although not to what degree) and that the paint was peeling.

It hasn’t all been bad. It hasn’t been all good. So let’s share a few of the adventures along the way. Here were a few of the less pleasant bonus items:

Bonus garbage – The place had two large sheds in the back. We thought all those sheds were storing the tenants’ property. The real estate agent assured us that the property management service would have the place cleared out. Yeah, not so much on either count. We got sheds full of someone else’s garbage and a couple of bonus large discards in the basement.

Sheds with leaking/failed roofs, so soaking wet other people’s junk. And dead animals.

We also got bonus garbage behind the sheds. And by that, I literally mean garbage, in garbage bags. Add a couple more corpses to the dead animal count.

Thievery – we had multiple items stolen from our yard and porch, including things like a paint brush handle extender and other odd items. I started having my packages sent to my office. Occasionally, we’d see abandoned, stolen bikes.

Undisclosed liens – turns out that garbage was behind the shed because the landlord who lost the place in foreclosure had not bothered paying for garbage service. That’s illegal here. The landlord always pays. So we had a bonus lien from the county that hopefully will be resolved by title insurance soon. BTW, the bank was notified of this lien before they sold the place to us and declared it to be free and clear of encumbrances.

The previous owners were drug dealers – Oh yeah. It turns out the previous owners may very well have been on crack when they did those crazy, sloppy, code-violating DIY jobs. Both neighbors tell us that “about ten years ago” the place was raided because the owner was a drug dealer. That does explain the hot tub, and it may explain why there were sooo many sheds.

So let’s hear it for home ownership!


Image: Marziah Karch



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Marziah Karch

Marziah is a learning experience designer and writer from Portland, Oregon. She's written five books and has also written for WIRED,, TechRepublic, and MAKE.
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