Dear Readers (and backseat drivers):

I found the first house I want to rehab. Would you let me do it?

It’s a single-family house in Newark, which is the kind of property I want to specialize in; and it needs a facelift, which I think provides a lot of bang for the buck.

On the other hand, it’s in a neighborhood that’s improving, but frankly, still marginal.

Readers who want to play along can go to; it’s #2083653.

There are 250 properties listed on the MLS in Newark, but this was my favorite because (apologies to the owner and listing agent) it’s so ugly.

You can see it’s situated on a corner, and I think it looks like it has two fronts. My idea would be to give it some exterior cosmetic love to create one more dominant façade – which I think would give you a more salable house.

There’s a magazine called Jane that’s intended for women in their thirties; one of its signature features is a “makeunder,” where they take a reader model and style her with a little less war paint.

That’s what I think this house needs, a makeunder. If you painted over the cherry color on the bottom of the first story, I think it would look more like the other houses on the block – and less like it was wearing a garish lipstick.

I also like the fact that the house, a brick three-bedroom that’s not young, is on the market for $175K. There’s a strip of new-builds right around the corner that go for three times that.

Finally, there’s construction and development activity in the larger area (North Newark) that makes me think things are looking up.

So that’s my case: an ugly house, one of the cheapest in its in neighborhood, in an area that’s coming up.

My partners let me make my case – and commented that I have a good eye. But they passed on the house, and here’s why:

Around the corner from this house, near those new-builds, are public housing projects. Although in New York City it seems like luxury condos can go cheek-by-jowl with big subsidized apartment complexes, in the suburbs it’s still a negative.

And at the top of the block, there were a bunch of street kids just hanging out. Now, you’ll hear a lot about kids just hanging out in the areas I’m looking at – I’m prospecting in the land of “No Loitering” and “Beware of Dog” signs.

But to my partner’s more practiced eye, this trio didn’t look good. And he told me one cautionary story:

“We were doing a rehab like this one,” said Ken. “And we had the site posted and of course people would come and tear our signs down, but what was worse, they broke into the basement and stole the copper piping.”

“Like the Sopranos,” I said.

“Like the Sopranos,” he agreed. “And it’s tough to rip that stuff out, you need fairly sophisticated equipment, and you’d think the better class of criminal would have a least turned the water off first…”

So with fears of a flooded basement, we took this house off our list without even taking a look at the inside. Was that the right call? I’m interested in the decision you’d make; please e-mail me at

And I’m still looking for a house to rehab if you have any candidates (assuming you don’t work in N.J. yourself – I don’t expect you to help the competition)…maybe you have a friend in Newark…a grandmother who wants to sell her house…whenever you think of Jersey, think of me.

There are a lot of salespeople in this area, but I’ll be the one standing guard over the copper pipes.


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