72-Year-Old Home Surprises Experienced Real Estate Agents

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:40:12 PM ET
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No one ever really knows what goes on behind closed doors. Sometimes, neighbors come up with tall tales to explain why no one seems to ever enter or leave a particular house. Some families live in their homes their entire lives without changing a thing, while others are constantly renovating and making improvements.

That uncertainty explains why Carla and Gladys Spizzirri, sisters who work together as real estate agents, were a little apprehensive when they got a call from a 96-year-old homeowner who was ready to sell. Would the house be a dilapidated dump, a diamond in the rough or something spectacular?

The Perfect Duo for the Job

For the Spizzirri sisters, real estate is a family business. Gladys has more than 30 years of experience, and her sister, Carla, joined her in the field in 2009. The Spizzirris work for a Toronto branch of Keller Williams, a very successful real estate firm.

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They have seen plenty of wild real estate deals over the years, and the dynamic duo has the expertise to sell any home. In 2014, they got a call about putting a local home on the market. Although it seemed like a typical request, the sale of the home would turn out to be extraordinary.

The Mysterious Caller’s Name

The potential client was a woman named Joyce. Her address was 148 Jane Street, which the agents knew to be an older but promising neighborhood in West Toronto. There was also something else extraordinary about Joyce. She was 96 years old!

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Carla, the sister who answered the call, noticed that Joyce spoke very clearly for someone who was just a few years shy of being a centenarian. Compared to other older people Carla knew, Joyce was very on top of her game. Age ultimately proved to be one of the least unusual things about Joyce.

What's Wrong with the House?

With all the necessary information collected, it was time for Carla and Gladys to work their real estate magic. They started to run comps on Joyce's home. In non-business terms, that means they started trying to figure out how much her house was worth, based on what similar houses sold for in her area.

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Given the location of the house, it was clearly an older home, so it could have had unique features to make it especially valuable. Aside from the promising location, something Joyce said worried the sisters a little.

A Potential Problem

Over time, Joyce's neighborhood had been through many changes. It transformed from a neighborhood full of families in starter homes to a wealthy, trendy neighborhood with both businesses and homes. Other houses in the same area had easily sold for top value.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Yakaites/Pexels

The Spizzirri sisters had a lingering concern about Joyce's home. She was 96 years old and had lived in the house for most of her life. For the past few decades, she had lived there alone. Had she been able to take care of the house?

A Unique Detail About Joyce's Home

As Joyce continued to talk, she quickly dispelled any ideas that the house would lead to a big sale. She had been in her home for more than half of her lifetime — 72 years, to be exact. Why was she moving after all those years?

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Wander/Pexels

That question made Gladys and Carla very nervous. Why did Joyce want a major change so late in life? Had she been able to properly maintain the home? Or was it falling down around her? They knew there was a strong possibility that Joyce was selling the home as a last resort because it had fallen into disrepair.

Could Joyce Be a Hoarder?

Gladys and Carla found out that Joyce had been living in the same West Toronto home since 1942. In all those years, she hadn’t made any repairs to the home. It was highly unlikely it hadn’t needed any repairs in all that time.

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The Spizzirri sisters had seen plenty of houses, and they knew one thing to be true. People typically accumulate more and more things over time. Because Joyce had been in her house for more than 70 years, she could have collected enough things to become a hoarder.

Reason to Panic

Although the sisters had already agreed to sell Joyce's home, they were beginning to panic. If the house truly hadn't had any major repairs in more than 70 years, it would almost certainly be in bad shape and impossible to sell as-is.

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It could cost as much as $20,000 per room just to update a home based on style. Joyce's home quite likely needed extensive repairs. With plenty of things to update and a possible ton of fixes, the numbers weren’t adding up. Who would want to buy a blast-from-the-past home in disrepair in a trendy neighborhood?

A Very Promising Estimate

As much as the cards seemed stacked against the Spizzirri sisters, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Suppressing their concerns, they ran another set of numbers on Joyce's home. Before seeing it, they felt it was worth around $968,000.

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Photo Courtesy: Maklay62/Pixabay

Although it could be a tough sell, Joyce was sure to make a huge profit from her one-of-a-kind home. The sisters presented their numbers to her, hoping she would be excited, but Joyce divulged more troubling information. The newest development put another spin on things.

Hitting Another Roadblock

Almost anyone on the planet would have jumped for joy to find out that their home could be worth $968,000, but Joyce wasn’t very excited. In fact, she responded to the news by declaring that she wasn't so sure she wanted to sell her home after all.

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Photo Courtesy: Immortal shots/Pexels

Was she too nervous about moving? Joyce was nearly 100 years old, and she had been living in the same place for longer than some "elderly" people had even been alive. The thought of leaving her long-time home could be painful. What was holding her back?

The Need to See More

At that point, Gladys and Carla had only seen a picture of the outside of Joyce's home. It looked good enough from the exterior, but they absolutely needed to see the inside to get a better idea of the situation.

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Photo Courtesy: 12019/Pixabay

Location is extremely important in real estate, and that is why the sisters knew the home would still be valuable, in spite of the potential disaster inside. Even the best real estate agent can’t sell a home without the owner's permission, of course, and Joyce was becoming more apprehensive the more they talked.

Overcoming Mixed Emotions

It only made sense that Joyce was nervous about selling her house. It was more than just a house — it was her home. It was the place where she had made memories with her late husband. Where would she live after all those years?

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Although Gladys and Carla could sympathize with Joyce, they wanted to make sure she was making the best decision. Was she really against selling her home, or was she just being sentimental? They talked with her, and Joyce finally agreed to let the sisters see her home.

Expect the Unexpected

Gladys and Carla were understandably nervous when they arrived at 148 Jane Street, Joyce's address. Experience told them that Joyce was probably a hoarder living in a dilapidated home, but they were still excited about the potential for a million-dollar listing.

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Their jaws abruptly hit the floor when Joyce opened the door to her extremely unique house. It was like a time capsule. The furniture and stylings were perfect specimens of decor from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Joyce wasn’t a hoarder. Her home was as immaculate as a museum.

Details of the Stunning Home

All the walls in Joyce's home were painted in beautiful pastel colors. Some rooms were lavender, others were pink and some of the most captivating rooms were painted a bright robin's egg blue.

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Aside from the pastel walls, the wallpaper and carpeting in each room were carefully color-coordinated. After taking it all in, reality set in. Although Joyce's home was pristine, there was still a problem. The house hadn’t been updated in decades. Surely, the appliances couldn't be in working order, could they?

Getting Back to Reality

The sisters had to look past the beauty to find potential issues that could hinder a sale. Regardless of how good everything looked, getting an older home up to sellable standards could be extremely expensive.

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Photo Courtesy: Cal David/Pexels

Just maintaining a regular home costs about 1% of the price of the home. Breaking down the math, it usually takes about $1,000 to complete basic maintenance on a home valued at $100,000. Joyce and her husband bought the home in 1942, so maintenance and improvements could cost much more than they originally paid for it.

Are There Any Problems?

Gladys and Carla could only imagine the love and care Joyce had put into making her home a place that she and her husband enjoyed. She obviously worked hard to make each room cozy, and she put even more effort into keeping it that way for so many years.

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As a home ages, it takes more and more work to keep things in working order. Rather than simple maintenance, older houses often needed worn out parts replaced. As promising as the house seemed, there was one room that concerned them.

The Most Important Room

Buyers are usually very concerned about the kitchen. Joyce revealed that she had remodeled her kitchen back in the 1960s, but that didn't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. That was decades in the past.

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In most cases, appliances only last around 15 years at the most, but Joyce's home was a special case. World War II and a serious recession both took place during the early years of her life, and she learned how to make resources last. She invested in maintaining her home, but that wasn’t the only investment she made.

The Most Valuable Part of the Home

Joyce's furniture was quite possibly more valuable than the home itself. It had all been purchased in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and she had kept it in pristine condition. Every plate and chair she purchased over the years were truly an investment in her future.

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Photo Courtesy: Sammsara Luxury Modern Home/Pexels

Of course, Joyce never thought about the return on her investments. She simply bought the furniture and decorations she wanted for her home. All these years later, Joyce's home was filled with antique gems. She was sitting on a cash cow!

A One-of-a-Kind Gem

Although the decor in Joyce's home was very outdated, she picked the perfect time to sell. Rather than being called old fashioned, decor from the ‘50s and ‘60s is now referred to as mid-century modern. The era is very en vogue, and having this type of "old fashioned" furniture has become quite the fashion statement.

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The Spizzirri sisters realized that Joyce's home was worth far more than they originally thought because of the furniture. When they did more research, they discovered that many of Joyce's furnishings were actually original pieces.

A Passion for Decorating

Why did Joyce go through all the effort to design and maintain such a unique home? Although the home looked almost professional, she never had a career as an interior designer. Back when she was still working, she was a seamstress.

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Photo Courtesy: P.R.R./Pexels

Joyce says that style and individuality were always important to her. That's why most of the walls in her home were painted a soft pastel pink, which is one of her favorite colors. The home was certainly stylish, but would a buyer love the decor as much as Joyce did?

The Right Buyer Out There?

Despite all their initial reservations, Gladys and Carla were quickly falling in love with Joyce's home. Each room had a personality of its own, and the curtains, wallpaper, carpets and even seat cushions were all meticulously matched.

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Photo Courtesy: Designecologist/Pexels

The house was perfect for stunning photos, but how would it fare in the bustling, modern real estate market? It was in a neighborhood known for trendiness, but Joyce's home was categorically vintage and feminine. Gladys and Carla worried that potential buyers wouldn't be able to see past the decor.

One Room Was Different from the Rest

Joyce wasn’t the only person who had lived in the museum-like house. When her husband was still alive, he asked her to design one room that was just for him. Unlike the rest of the house, that room was the only one without pastel-colored walls.

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Her husband's room was essentially a man-cave long before its time. Joyce used wooden finishes to decorate it, and she even included a fully stocked wet bar in the special room. The wet bar was yet another feature that set Joyce's house apart, but would it be enough to attract a buyer?

Intense Public Response

It was only a matter of time before Joyce's house began attracting more attention than any of the Spizzirri sisters' other listings. In fact, Joyce's gorgeously designed home attracted attention from all over the world. It went viral on social media, and news outlets wanted to know more about Joyce and her home.

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Photo Courtesy: Photo MIX/Pexels

Likes and shares don’t equate to a sale, of course, and news inquiries can be a distraction for busy real estate agents. The free publicity could attract a buyer, but it could also make the house seem like too much of a novelty item.

How Much Was It Worth?

What was the final asking price for the house? After walking through it, Carla and Gladys knew that their original $968,000 estimate was no longer appropriate. Unless the buyer had the same style preferences as Joyce, the home was going to need a lot of cosmetic updates.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike/Pexels

Despite all the potential work that had to be done, however, a buyer who purchased the furniture along with the home would gain some very valuable assets. The Spizzirri sisters had to do more research before deciding on a listing price.

Other Homes Like Joyce's

Joyce's house wasn’t the first novelty home on the market, and it wouldn’t be the last. The internet is full of viral listicles that show homes that are quite eccentric in design. Although these kinds of homes attract plenty of attention, they are difficult to sell.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Block/Pexels

A buyer must either love what the original owner has done to the house or spend thousands trying to make it look normal. The Spizzirri sisters had their work cut out for them, to say the least, but they were capable of getting the job done.

Finding the Perfect Price

Although there were no comparable houses in Toronto, other vintage homes like Joyce's had sold before. In San Antonio, Texas, a home that had all the original furniture from the ‘70s sold for $355,000. In St. Louis, Missouri, a house that was furnished in the 1950s and never lived in sold for $129,000.

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Photo Courtesy: Skitterphoto/Pexels

Where did Joyce's house fall in that wide price range? It was full of surprises, and there was one more special element for the Spizzirris to consider before deciding on an asking price.

A Price That’s a Steal

Gladys and Carla finally decided to list Joyce's home for $699,000. The home was very special all on its own, and it was also in a very desirable part of town called Old Mill. People really wanted to live in that area.

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Photo Courtesy: Bruce Mars/Pexels

Since it would be cheaper than other houses in the area, the listing would make a perfect starter home for a young couple. It would come full circle as a new couple made memories in the house, just as Joyce and her husband did. The house was perfect for a first-time home buyer.

Location, Location, Location

When someone is buying their first house, it can be easy to get lost in all the exciting features inside the home. Other people are very concerned about the exterior, but something else is even more important.

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Photo Courtesy: David McBee/Pexels

The land is the most valuable aspect of any piece of property. Identical houses in two different neighborhoods can have extremely different prices because of location. Although the house was a gem in its own right, the perfect location made Joyce's home even more valuable.

A Simpler Time

Whether she realized it at the time or not, Joyce's home was perhaps the most lucrative investment she ever made. The asking price of the home was several times the amount she and her husband had paid for it back in the 1940s.

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Photo Courtesy: Jessica Bryant/Pexels

That time was a golden era in real estate because baby boomers were starting to influence the economy. People needed bigger homes to accommodate all their children. The residential construction industry thrived at the time, and millions of working-class families owned homes for the first time in generations.

What About the Wiring?

The house was almost certain to be as lucrative for the next owner as it had been for Joyce. Although inferior wiring and plumbing materials are often expensive problems in older homes, the electrical and plumbing systems in Joyce's house met modern construction standards.

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Photo Courtesy: stevepb/Pixabay

Although the decor was a little unusual, Joyce's home was a great buy. The future buyer would get a structurally sound, well cared for house in a great neighborhood. Still, there was another mystery to be solved. Where was Joyce going to go once her long-time residence sold?

Joyce Moves On

Although it was a tough decision to make, Joyce had decided it was time to move to an assisted-living facility. She was still mentally sound, but she realized that her body would only continue to decline as she grew older.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay/Pexels

She knew she would eventually need more help, so she decided to take proactive steps. She had spent 72 years meticulously caring for the home of her dreams, but it was time for someone else to carry that torch.