The Story of Pearl House

In early 2020 I sold my first property (the 203k renovation) and we moved into a rental apartment in mid 2020. By late 2020 I was bored and ready for another renovation property. I networked with my local real estate investing community and was able to find an off-market property in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Cobbs Creek that fell right in my price range.

The house was previously owned by a woman named Amanda who passed on over ten years prior to the sale of the house. Her son was left to take care of it over the years, but neighbors hadn’t seen or heard from him in years. It was only the few days following her passing that he stopped over to gather a few of her belongings and any valuables and then left the house with the neighbors. He never closed the electricity accounts and gas accounts so a handful of squatters made their way into the property and lived there for a few months rent free.

Finally the neighbors acknowledging the son wouldn’t take care of the squatter problem so they took matters into their own hands and called the cops to have the squatters removed. After several attempts, they eventually had the windows and doors screwed closed and added 2x4s to the doors to make sure nobody else could get in. It sat in same state for the next decade.

Opening the doors again in early 2021 her belongings were strewn across the house in piles, drawers emptied on the floors, furniture tipped over. It was a wreck, but I could still see the potential. There were no holes in the ceilings indicating the roof was in decent shape, there was carpeting throughout the first floor covered original hardwoods, the house was reasonably wide for Philadelphia standards, the neighborhood was good, and the numbers made sense.

After purchasing the house we spent a couple weeks trying to get the house empty. I got quotes for junk removal crews, anywhere between $4,200 and $8,000 to haul everything out. We opted to sort through the house and sell things as we went to reduce the amount of junk I would have to pay to have hauled away. As we sorted we learned so much about the previous homeowner, Amanda, and her sister Pearl.

Amanda was a seamstress that worked at a clothing store in New Jersey most of her life. The little bedroom in the middle of the house had her sewing machine and hundreds of articles of clothing. She had two wardrobes exploding with garments, three closets bursting open jammed with clothes and heaps across every room. I offered people to come get clothes from the house and one vintage clothing reseller left with 20 trash bags full of clothes. In the basement there were clothing racks with vintage coats and two piece outfits. Because of the condition in the basement many of them didn’t survive, but what was protected in good condition I was able to salvage. Salvaged items I sold on Etsy or Poshmark to vintage clothing enthusiasts.

We think Pearl was a doctor since there were a lot of medical books left in one of the bedrooms. Amanda had a painting of Pearl and a few gifts with Pearl’s signature left on them, like this daisy embroidery framed art piece. After seeing some of the sentimental items left by Pearl, I thought it would be a fitting gesture to name the project after her.

I was able to sell over 50 items on Etsy, a handful through Ebay, Facebook Marketplace but the bulk of it in person to casual buyers or re-sellers. We had a couple weekends where we arranged the items in somewhat of an organized fashion and let people walk through, often with bins and armfuls of stuff to buy. After those couple weekends were up we donated about 4 large bins of items to Goodwill and took a couple more home to our apartment so I could continue selling them online. I took high quality photos for Etsy and Ebay and sales were great from June to September (in September I decided to quit).

My overall sales from the household items ended up being $2,387.95. In the end I’m not sure that the monetary gain was worth the effort and time it took to sift through everything, but it made for an interesting story and respectful way to dispose of Amanda’s belongings. It was fascinating to learn about this lady who clearly took very good care of her home and collected all kinds of beautiful items.

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Hi! I’m Kristy Pedersen. I’m renovating houses in Philadelphia and sharing the process one step at a time.

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