The real-estate sector is still red hot, as one recent listing proves.
A recent listing on Zillow Z, +3.23% went viral recently after users spotted the highly unusual photos of a property that was ablaze. Despite its burnt status, which is likely to require extensive repair work, it went under contract within the week.
The story of the Franklin, Tenn., mansion, which was listed earlier this week for $1.5 million, photographed with flames coming off the roof, indicates that the housing market is still full of keen, interested buyers.
The Zillow listing’s photos show how extensive the fire damage was, as some of the rooms were filled with black soot.
“TRAGIC TOTAL LOSS by FIRE, of a CLASSIC MANSION !!! Sold As is !!,” the listing read.
After seeing his house go up in flames last September and dealing with the fallout, the owner, Danny Duvall, had decided to sell. He used these pictures below in the listing, which he took himself.
“What you don’t see is eventually, those four dormers on top of the house just collapsed and fell into the home,” Duvall said in an interview with MarketWatch. “And you can imagine how we felt when we watched that happen.”
The listing was picked up by the popular “Zillow Gone Wild” Twitter account, which blasted it out to thousands of users on the platform. Duvall said 2 million people have seen the listing.
Duvall is a retired custom homebuilder with over 30 years of experience. He had bought the house in 2020 and was putting the finishing touches on remodeling the home, when it caught fire.
He recalled having lunch when he got a frantic call in the afternoon about the fire.
“On the way over before I could see the house, I saw all this building smoke. And I had just finished the house… This house was millions of dollars. And so all of a sudden, I come over the hill, I see the flames are coming through the roof,” he said.
“When I clicked that picture, I was in the middle of just crying my eyes out,” Duvall said. “I clicked that picture thinking, I just lost everything … it was tragic.”
After dealing with investigators, insurance companies and lawyers, he decided to sell the house and move on. His wife is the listing agent.
They declined to share how much they purchased the house for, and how much they sold it for.
“What I can tell you is we’ve had a major loss, and we’ve already settled with the insurance company. [But] we’ve still not been made whole,” he explained. “We want to put it behind us.”
The couple had published the listing on Tuesday, and received 15 calls in the first hour. By Friday afternoon, the house was under contract.
The mansion’s fast-paced sale indicates that despite the housing sector being in a recession, many home buyers are still on the prowl, looking for good properties. But there simply aren’t that many homes for sale around.
Backstory to the fire
The Franklin mansion was badly damaged by a fire in September 2022, according to Duvall.
A local news outlet, which reported the story then, said that a construction worker inside the house had called 911 after the fire began to spread and was admitted to a hospital for his injuries.
Duvall said that the young man has since recovered.
The fire was sparked in the middle of a room that they were finishing up. It soon turned into a fireball, and the worker had run all the way through the house and out of it.
Choosing the picture of the mansion on flames to be the anchor photo on Zillow wasn’t a marketing ploy, Duvall said.
“It all came out of passion, and emotion, standing right there, watching a huge investment of my life go in flames,” he said, recalling his thoughts when he saw the fire. “We just put our heart and soul into it for two years… [and] I just worked two years for nothing.”
“It was amazing mansion with a lot of detail inside.”
Got thoughts on the housing market? Write to MarketWatch reporter Aarthi Swaminathan at firstname.lastname@example.org