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**Bank repo buyers discover
house built of railroad ties
George Warren Last updated 2 hrs ago Posted:
PARADISE, CA - They don’t build houses like they
used to-- and sometimes that’s a good thing. A
couple that bought a bank-owned home built in
1945 has discovered the house was made of
salvaged railroad ties.
“I would guess from a lot of research those are
about 1935 railroad ties,” said Mike Ledbetter as he
peered at the side of the house exposed by the
addition of a dual pane sliding glass door.
Ledbetter, 47, and his wife Daphne closed escrow
on the house on Red Hill Way in Paradise last
December. They first realized the exterior walls were
composed of stacked railroad ties when they began
remodeling in March.
The exposed ties show marks left by rails and holes
from the spikes.
Ledbetter said the unorthodox construction material
didn’t seem to pose a problem until summer heat b
rought eye-watering creosote vapors inside the
home. “If you walked the railroad tracks as kids
playing by trains, you would know the smell,” he
Although various websites tout the benefits of
building homes with railroad ties, the Environmental
Protection Agency says creosote is a suspected
carcinogen and there are no approved residential
uses of lumber treated with creosote.
Property records show the house was repossessed
by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation
(Freddie Mac) in June, 2009. The Ledbetters bought
the home from Freddie Mac for $65,000 cash six
Lenders are exempt from many of the real estate
disclosures required by state and federal law.
“Because they foreclosed and didn’t live in the place,
they didn’t know anything about it,” Ledbetter said.
“So they can walk away from it with their hands
The Ledbetters’ experience points out the
importance of a thorough home inspection,
especially when the transaction involves bank-
Photographs recently taken under the house reveal
the railroad ties. A home inspection almost certainly
would have done the same thing.
Ledbetter said the couple chose not to order a home
inspection because they thought the pest report
paid for by the seller would be adequate. “We were
trying to save money,” he said.
Ledbetter said he’s exploring several options to deal
with the smell, including disassembling the house
and selling the ties as landscaping material.
The old house could be replaced with a
manufactured home on the half-acre property. “I
really like the lot,” Ledbetter said.
by George Warren, **