The Willy Wonka house: big deal or big mistake?

9 Replies

How do you put a price on the weirdness factor of a house when buying a property? Do you think an extremely custom/DIY rental unit will draw in OR push away possible renters?

I just got through walking the most beautifully ugly, creative, creepy, Willy Wonka style home I have ever set eyes on. This place is a massive 4,000+ sqft bright green single story house that was converted into a tri-plex by its eccentric owner. The house is selling for well bellow typical market value, but I don't know if my tenants will appreciate the high ceilings and extra space or be pushed away by the weird tile/room layout?

From what I could tell, the owner was a contractor who used the leftover housing materials from work to piece together an ever growing home... one piece at a time. The result was an (admittedly well constructed) 9 bedroom house with a MASSIVE amount of living space for each 3 bed 1 bath unit. I would like to live in one of the units and rent out the other two, but here are some of my concerns with the odd layout:

1.) Every room has completely different style/color tile in it.

2.) 2 of the units have 1 bedroom with only one entrance/exit? (My realtor said this does not qualify it as a bedroom and could be a safety hazard?)

3.) There exists a makeshift balcony with scaffolding pole railings that was built on top of a DIY storage closet that was built onto the front of the house?! 

4.) The house seems to have been used as one giant storage unit for the sellers hoarding habit. 

Any advice? 


Put yourself in the renters shoes.  Would the awkwardness you described drive you away at first sight or effect your needs as a renter? Example #1  The renter walks in and is horrified turns around and walks out and says nope that place gives me the creeps.   Example #2 If the renter walks in and says wow this is weird it does check all my boxes but I don't think I would be interested at the current price. lets see if I can get him to drop the rent price down some.

 As a past renter I didn't care what it looked like as long as my needs were met and it was functional and in my price range but I was an exception to the rule. Most people want more.

Also keep in mind your exit strategy. I love the idea of house hacking but if you said the house has been sitting on the market for a while are you willing to do the same thing if you decided to exit the deal a few years from now?

Hope this helps 

If its under market value enough, you use the money you saved to update tiles, colors, etc. As long as you don't need to knock down walls, or reconstruct the layout it shouldn't be too cost prohibitive.

Also, a bedroom needs windows and usually a closet to be considered a bedroom. If not, you can call it an office. OR if you only need to install windows, that shouldn't be overly cost prohibitive, considering bedrooms add a lot of value.

Finally, make sure you have enough cash to address safety concerns. Specifically that balcony. Make sure it is built to code and SAFE.

@Nathan Hughes

Exit strategy, that was the first thing that came to mind when I walked the property. Who is going to buy this place if my rentals flop?

It really comes down to the unit layout. These units are built into a one story house, so only 2 of the 4 perimeter walls have windows. There is very little natural light and I am wondering if that will put off tenants or potential buyers when I sell?

The fact that it is well built is good.  Are you planning on holding onto it for a long time?  If so, over time you can get rid of some of the quirkiness.  

The big thing will be the renters-some people/markets will like the slightly quirky, but the key will be the layout and finishes.  Are they what people would expect for that price point in that market?

Think of HGTV Masters of Flip-the layout of the homes is good as are the finishes, but OMG the colours (in my opinion) are nothing that would ever sell in any town I've lived in.  Yet they work for Nashville-or that part of Nashville.

I agree with the person above who said that you can change the house after you buy it.  Personally, for me, I would absolutely LOVE a place like that.  I grew up believing that everyone in the world was like me.  I've since found out that they're not.  I'm the type of person who has to constantly ask my wife, "Is this normal?"  I heard a quote the other day, "You can change anything but the land it sits on".  Wish I could remember who to attribute that quote to.  Anyway, I HTH...

Can you market it to art or music students?  IT might be a desirable rental if a school that offers those majors is nearby. 

Or maybe a rehab center:)

The windowless bedroom cannot have a window installed because all 4 walls are interior :( The only way to convert it into a 2 bedroom would be to knock down walls and build a wall in the livingroom to convert it into a bedroom. But this would have to be done for 2 units! 

The code in our municipality states that "The dwelling must have at least one bedroom or living/sleeping room for each
two persons." Does the living room count as a "sleeping room" in this case? Or would I only be able to house up to 2 tenants?