Contractor fighting Armstrong blight one house at a time
A Ford City home, believed by some to be beyond repair, is being given new life by a contractor who purchased it for $1 at the Armstrong County tax sale.
The single family home at 415 14th St. may not look like much, with siding missing on the outside and an interior in shambles. But Jason Bowser, 34, of Adrian, has a vision. Looking past its gutted interior, he sees opportunity.
“I like bringing it back and can’t wait to see how it looks in the end. It will be like a whole new house,” he said.
Bowser owns B & B Auto Salvage & Demolition and had a crew at the ready for redoing the neglected home, which still had the same plaster walls and old time windows held up by sash cord as when it was built nearly 100 years ago.
“This is the first makeover it’s ever seen … 90 years in the making,” he said.
By the time Bowser had purchased the home in September, it had gone through numerous tax sales. Other buyers were interested, but passed when learning what a fixer-upper the two-bedroom home really was, according to Armstrong County Tax Claims Bureau Director Jeanne Englert.
She works with a number of contractors throughout the county who buy houses for several thousand dollars or less from the tax rolls.
“But Jason has probably taken the least desirable of the undesirables,” she said. “He takes the ones no one will even look at.”
When he does, that’s a boon to the county, according to Englert. The county has to pay the costs of insurance on such properties and takes care of major repairs when they pose a threat to safety, she said. Contractors like Bowser take that burden off the county and return homes to the tax rolls.
Englert is impressed with Bowser’s plans to rehab the home by January.
“I give him all the credit in the world for taking this on. It is a massive project,” she said.
The project started in early October. Bowser removed more than two dumpsters full of debris from the home. He and his crews then gutted it, ripping ceilings down to the rafters and busting out the brittle plaster walls.
The home is littered with reminders of what it had been — a pile of crushed plaster in a bedroom, cobwebs hanging from rafters dotted with ceramic insulators on old electrical wiring. All that remains of the kitchen is a wall of dingy cabinets. The only evidence of the upstairs bathroom is a bit of exposed plumbing.
Bowser looks on the bright side.
“The condition’s actually good, other than it needed to be remodeled,” he said. “In September, there was a really hard rain and the basement was still as dry as could be. And there were no leaks in the roof.”
Bowser, who said he will spend about $7,000 fixing up the house, expects to put it on the market in January for about $40,000 – significantly less than its neighbors, which have a market value of $70,000.
Though he could likely get more for the home, Bowser believes its good business to turn around a remodeled house fast. He also wants to give those who may not qualify for a higher loan the opportunity to purchase one with the same value, but for a lower cost.
He plans to do the same with other houses throughout the county. He has his eyes on other homes in Ford City, Apollo and Leechburg. Bowser wants to sell them for no more than $50,000.
Bowser said he has a particular interest in getting a military veteran or a single parent into the houses he remodels.
“I want people in the area who can’t otherwise afford a home to have a chance,” he said.
From the perspective of Ford City officials, Bowser’s project is a welcome one that may stop the creep of blight in the once-thriving borough.
“What he’s doing is recreating the Ford City model home — a beautiful, classic American home,” borough Manager Eden Ratliff said. “This is what we want to see. We want to see people rebuilding homes and bringing families to our town.”
Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or [email protected].