Susan Graves of Century 21 Alliance in West Chester responded to a recent column about fixer-uppers with a video of one of her listings in Modena, a tiny borough (535 people) in Chester County.

I don't usually write about properties under $20 million, but I was curious to see what constitutes a $45,000 listing these days in horse country, as Graves focused much of the video's first three minutes on location.

The house is actually a twin, built in 1910, and the owner did most of the interior demolition work and installed new windows.

If this place had been in the city's Spring Garden neighborhood during the housing boom, you couldn't have touched it for under $300,000. (The market's coming back, but we aren't there yet.)

If you're handy and being close to the Thorndale station is your thing, it wouldn't be a bad investment for a first-timer, although you won't have the time to drive over to Strasburg to ride the train anytime soon.

From my own experience, I know fixer-uppers consume most of your free time. I recall how tough it was balancing job, family, and everything else.

Robert "Rocky" D'Entremont is an agent with Alloway Associates Real Estate in Vincentown who has owned an old house in Mount Holly for three decades.

At 68, he decided he didn't have another one in him, so he prefers his to the ones for sale along High and adjacent streets.

D'Entremont stressed that the three houses he's selling on High Street these days aren't fixer-uppers, and they have price tags showing that.

"They are all beauties," he said.

D'Entremont does have some observations on old-house buying that I'll share, because I think they are worthy of consideration by buyers and agents alike.

First, "someone who wants to get into an older home needs to have his eyes wide open," said D'Entremont, adding for emphasis that he or she "needs to be an old-house lover to begin with."

The price range for such a house has to match the ability of a buyer to maintain it, he noted.

Most buyers cannot afford to overpay for older houses, because they cost so much to keep going, he said.

Buyers who do so often find themselves struggling to keep up with the mortgage when an unanticipated expense crops up - a furnace that needs to be replaced in the dead of winter, for example.

"It has been tough to sell older homes" during the recent downturn, D'Entremont said, because prices have been so soft with so much for sale, and so much of it underpriced.

One problem with selling older houses for what they are really worth: the home inspection.

"The inspection beats up the seller so much that he has to submit or the sale dies," D'Entremont said.

"It really hurts the entire market if the sale happens this way, since the settlement sheet shows a depressed price," he said. That affects the comparables, and "it kills the market for everything."

Old houses and new houses alike.


Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472,, or follow @alheavens at Twitter.