[Note: I originally posted this Sept. 11, 2007. Aside from updating some numbers and addresses to match the reality of May 14, 2011, this blog post is essentially unchanged from almost four years ago.]
Current mood: chipperThe mayor of Braddock, PA, John Fetterman, is on a campaign to sell his community as a real place to live, work and invest. Good luck with that, dude. You got a project on your hands.
OTOH, how can you pass up being able to purchase a real house for less than a used car? Example: 307 Comrie Avenue in Braddock.
You can almost see it on Google StreetView; key in "307 Comrie Avenue, Braddock, PA 15104". It's about the fourth house on the right, almost obscured by the stop sign. Easier to see on the satellite view. The first link above is to the page on the county real estate assessment website for that house. Every house and lot in Allegheny County has such a page.
Building lots can be had for three-digit sums. Many lots have an assessed value of $500, though many have a condemned house on it. Expect to drop little more than basic grocery money to own these outright. The annual county property tax on the adjoining vacant lot, btw, is $3.28 -- yes, three dollars and twenty-eight cents -- and taxes are delinquent. It's about $142 for the house at 307. No, I don't know if the lot is actually for sale; but the house at 307 certainly is. [May 14, 2011: This house is really for sale, only $7,500. That is not a typo. Here's the ad.]
What's the catch? Well, really, there isn't much of a catch, other than there isn't much to do in Braddock, and hasn't been for a long, long time. They closed the town's hospital in 2010. There is a crime element, as there is in any run-down area, so you basically need bravery or chutzpah, but as far as I can see -- and I drove around this area just a few months ago -- that's really all that's wrong here. The mayor himself bought his house for $2,000. [link]
There is 7-day transit service here, only a six-minute walk to the bus stop, with sidewalks. It's flat, ideal for bicycling.
Oh, yes, there is one more thing: They want to build an expressway through here. I don't know if these particular houses are in the way, but the values aren't much higher on the other side of the main street, Braddock Ave. Or on it, for that matter. Nearly every storefront is boarded up. Nor is the expressway any sure thing. Some want it built (the mayor is not one of them); others simply point out the blasphemy of spending an insane amount of money for a T-shaped road that parallels two existing interstates. [2011 update: By some accounts, the expressway is dead, but other infrastructure projects in the area are being built with the expectation it will someday be built.]
Hizzoner wants artists, young people, squatters-with-an-income, empty nesters looking to get out of town without driving a half a day, and the brave, to set up shop here. And he might be right, too. I mean, yeah, $100K can get you a pretty decent house just about anywhere around here. But $10K, and own the place outright, free of mortgages and liens? How can you not consider the idea?