A Real Estate Investor’s Nightmare: Meet The “Rat House”

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(Note from the editor: The following tale shows what kinds of properties you can end up running into when investing in real estate. I’ve seen some pretty nasty homes as well, and you never forget them! – Josh)

The “Rat House”

It seems that every house deal I have done ends up with a title rather than just refer to it by address. Some notable ones include, the Movie Theater House, the &*$% House, the Fish House, the Church House and the topic of this article…The Rat House.

I had bought the small 3 bedroom house of 1,031 square feet in 2001. The house had an attached 2-car garage but, it didn’t feel as small as it was. I knew I had a big task ahead concerning the garbage and belongings of the previous owners. Trash was everywhere. In the hallway, there were four doors. One was for the bathroom, one for the master bedroom and two other bedrooms. The piles of trash, boxes and clothes were as high as five feet in most areas and walking down the hallway…Sideways, I discovered there were two bedroom doors totally hidden from view because of the garbage.

The people that lived there (who I bought it from) were a bit loopy and both of them were not really able to move any of their things by themselves. In other words, if I wanted to get at the house to fix it, I would have to move them out. I showed up the day after it closed with 3 Hispanic “Day Laborer’s” and a big U-Haul to move them out. I had a 30-cubic yard roll-off dumpster in the driveway and we went at it.

I was mainly out in the front yard so I could keep out of the way of the guys going in & out during the first 30 minutes. One of the guys came out empty handed and was coughing non-stop. The other two soon followed with similar coughs. Once one of them stopped coughing, I asked, “Que es la problema?” He shook his head and pointed inside the house. One of the others said to me in broken English, “Breathing is bad in house.”

I motioned for them to stay outside and went in to look.

I went through the living room and into the hall. Before I got to the bedroom, I noticed the air had a lot of brownish dust in it which was heavy enough that it was hard to see farther than 10 feet away. I looked in the first bedroom and saw the guys had only emptied the room out to walk inside it about four feet. My eyes looked down at the floor and did a double take.

You could barely see the old, disgusting carpet because it was heavily covered with…

Rat %&$# (Droppings)!

I immediately covered my mouth and sprinted out of the house. I told the guys as best as I could (bad Spanish speaker) to not go back in until I got back. I drove to Home Depot a few miles away and bought three respirators. Once back at the house, the guys donned the masks and within an hour, they had completely filled the dumpster with garbage! The problem was that they had only emptied the two smaller bedrooms. We had to stop for the day because the city had to come pick up the dumpster to empty it and bring it back before we could continue. The same thing happened the next three days.

By the time the guys got the entire house totally empty, they had moved the previous owners into a two bedroom apartment, filled a 10X20 foot storage locker and FOUR, 30-cubic yard roll-off trash dumpsters! For those unfamiliar, that is the big, industrial size bins seen on construction sites.

Now that the house was empty, I was able to take a closer look at what repairs were going to be needed. What I saw was like nothing I had seen before and I seriously doubt I will ever see again.

“These people didn’t have pet rats… The rats had pet people!”

To say there was rat &%#$ everywhere was an understatement. Most parts of the house was covered with one to three inches of droppings and the garage floor was so bad that I honestly thought there was a dirt floor and not concrete! All of the cabinets had droppings that covered the shelves in them and the drawers were the same way.

The walls were disgusting as well. I thought I had seen it all but that thought went away quickly when I realized the crud on the walls was not cobwebs and dirt. Stuck to the walls (everywhere) was actual RAT DROPPINGS! The baseboards throughout the house were riddled with holes that the rats had made and the metal covers of coffee cans nailed to the walls indicated that the previous owners had attempted to keep the rats out of the living areas in the house. But guess what the REALLY amazing part was?

Not a single rat had lived in the house in over 8 years!

I talked to neighbors the rest of that day, gathering information about the previous owners and the history of the house. It turns out that there had been a grocery store behind the Rat House over 8 years before I bought the house. The neighbors told me that rats thrived in the garbage behind the store and the houses nearby had experienced a severe rat problem. After enough complaints piled up, the city ordered the store closed and the rat problem was solved.

The previous owners never bothered to clean the house out after the rats moved on. They simply threw something over the rat crap and went on as though there was nothing there. Now keep in mind that this house was only 1,031 square feet.

Here is a summary of what came out of and what went into the Rat House…

Thirty gallons of oil based Kilz primer-sealant
Twenty gallons of paint for the interior
All new cabinets, appliances and plumbing in the kitchen
New toilets, sinks, tubs, mirrors, medicine cabinets in both bathrooms
A total of five dumpsters were filled with trash from the house
The original trash budget of $450 ended up being over $1,600.
All new flooring
Countless panels of drywall replaced after ripping out to clean behind walls.

And the best details I saved for last….

There was so much rat &%#$ in that house that if it had been possible to collect it all and put it in one place, it easily could have filled… TWO or THREE 55-GALLON DRUMS!!!

During the trash-out phase, a total of SIX MUMIFIED RATS were removed from the house!
I guess those six were the unlucky ones to not make it out alive.

Usually I have some sort of moral to the story but, in the case of the Rat House, not even the $20,000 profit I ended up with can ever get me to forget about the house that had become so populated with rats, that I believe the rats literally took control of the house and the two poor, mentally unstable (assumed) previous owners.

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve been in a number of nasty homes, but never anything of this magnitude.
    I commend you on carrying forth with the project.
    It would be good to see digitals of the finished product.
    I’m assuming the profit justified the medical masks and other health paraphrenalia you used to complete the job.
    Jim Junkin

  2. I’ve had some pretty messed up rehabs, but nothing like this. I too find myself naming houses after peculiar characteristics, I guess this stuff does that to you.

    Keep those great stories coming!

  3. Good news sports fans…

    My girlfriend has taken my “Before and After” DVD (I never took stills of the house but had used a video camera), played it on her laptop, took screen shots and emailed them to me.
    I am now working on cropping them down and combining “before and after” shots into one picture.
    I’ll have them done tonight and will get them to Josh to determine how and where to post them.
    Don’t say I didn’t warn you though. Some of the Before shots are just… are just… downright disgusting.

  4. Can’t wait to have my partner read this. We are dealing with a mini rat house. Mostly confined to the basement, and the people were not as dirty.
    Droppings, carcasses, rat urine in wood framing. Horrible! But, I must say, not as bad as yours.

  5. I have been in some nasty houses. Just never had the presents of mind to take pictures or video tape. It always amazes me that people can continue to live in such environments. The owners family, neighbors, and governing bodies should be thanking you. You have documented what many have seen – well, maybe not that bad. Good Luck!

  6. The real money is in selling ebooks to people. I’d find these people more credible if they actually posts county records showing the properties they bought and sold and the actual amounts of the properties.

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