I bought a shell back in March with the intention of rehabbing it and adding another room onto the back. It turned out that it was cheaper to knock it down and start over. Fine.
It's a typical worker's rowhouse that is down every narrow side street of South Philadelphia. Two floors and a basement. Two bedrooms and a bathroom. Just under 800 sq. ft. The house is in the middle of the block but the three houses to the north of it were destroyed in a fire years ago and were subsequently demolished.
The lot is 15x50 which is average by South Philly standards. We're allowed to cover 15x40 of the lot and go up to 35ft. In working with the architect we learned early on that we'd need all the space we could get. Since we planned on going with the three floors it was easier and cheaper to just block up right next to the party wall to our south rather than trying to build on top of it. We lose a foot there.
We lose a foot to the block for the north wall of the house. We're down to 13 ft. of living space. Throw in the staircase and we lose another 3 ft. 10 ft. is a mighty narrow dining room but it's doable with a bit of creativity.
Now comes the easement. When the neighbors house was standing there was a two foot wide alley between the two houses. It was 8ft. tall and the second floor of both houses were cantilevered over one foot to meet at the property line. Anyway, this alley is basically just big enough to bring a garabage can from the back yard to the street without dragging it through your house. It's too narrow for bicycle handlebars - which makes it useless for me. Of course, I can't build on my half of the easement without my neighbors permission. The easement has to be vacated before i can build and I have to pay $500 for the "vacation."
The owner of the property is a certain Thomas Smith who took posession of the property in 1952. He paid $1 for it - which is another way of saying he inherited it. His address is listed as 1591 Meldon Ave. Donora, PA. Donora is about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and the street address, if it existed, would be somewhere in the middle of a large park. In the meantime someone has been quietly paying the property taxes on it.
In the one year + since I signed the sales agreement the neighborhood has exploded and neighborhing lots are selling for triple and quadruple what i paid. On the other hand i've invested a lot of energy into the process and was looking fwd. to having a house built to my own specs.
Before I get on the phone with the realtor and consider it a lesson learned does anyone have any advice for finding this guy (if he's still alive). If I do find him he doesn't have to agree - do i have any recourse?