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Nightmare Home

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By:  Jason Pederson

Dardanelle  -  The dream of home ownership has turned into a financial, emotional…even physical nightmare for one Yell County family.

Are they victims of bad luck, a bad decision or bad intentions?

George Ragsdale is a disabled army vet who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Since he gets anxious in crowds, he bought a home for himself and his family out in rural Yell County.

"The house was beautifully done," says Ragsdale.  "I mean they have everything nice and clean.  And they're big rooms.  So that's why we wound up coming this way."

A land appraisal report written this summer shows the home Ragsdale paid $152 thousand for two years earlier is now worth negative ten thousand dollars…the cost to tear it down.

The appraiser concluded "…the dwelling holds no market value."  

The reasons why are numerous.

"The mold under the house," is one problem described by Ragsdale.  "The structure of the house…are the two major…well I can't even say that.  The electrical is another issue. There are fire hazards in the attic."

Ragsdale hired an inspector to check out the home before he bought it.  If these major problems existed at the time, they were missed.  The inspector did note the presence of mildew under the home…in the crawl space.

It was more than mildew.

A mold analysis conducted by a Florida company found Curvularia…a very rare tropical mold…under the home.

Although Ragsdale can't prove it, he believes this mold is responsible for his kids' health problems.

"Our eight year-old son…our eight year-old son developed cancer after the first year of living here," says an emotional Ragsdale.  "One of our other sons has high mold allergies and it causes him to have ODD and ADHD problems…higher than what it normally was the first year that we moved here.  My daughters (from a previous marriage, they live out of state) come here and they break out in basically hive-like spots. So they can't stay here very long with me."

The home's former owner also built the home on Alpha Road just off Highway 27 between Dardanelle and Danville.  Ragsdale also suspects…but can't prove yet…that the former owners knew of the home's many failings, including the septic system.

"We moved in that day…that we closed…and we found that the toilets and sinks were being back-flowed with raw sewage," recalls Ragsdale.

A septic system report has revealed that the lot the home sits on is unsuitable for a standard septic system.

The seller disclosure form asked about septic problems.  

It also asked about flooding, drainage or grading problems or if water had ever stood on the property.

It asked the former owners about defects in mechanical, electrical, plumbing, appliance, heat and air, water, sewer or septic systems.  It asked about the roof and if there had ever been an unsatisfactory perc, groundwater or soil test.

In every instance, the answer given was "No."

But another inspector concluded this spring that in addition to the mold problem "...the house also has multiple plumbing, electrical and workmanship issues. The septic system is improperly sized and installed. And there are code issues with the electric system throughout."

Ragsdale believes the former owners lied to him and his inspector failed him.

He's just having trouble proving it.

"The evidence that I have…you know as far as evidence, in my mind…is good enough evidence," says Ragsdale.  "But as far as in law and in court…it's just not there.  I'm close.  But I'm just not over the fence yet."

Ragsdale says bankruptcy is not an option.  Neither is moving as he says his credit score has been severely damaged.

This home was on the market for over three years.  Ragsdale is hoping to find someone who considered buying the home but discovered problems and decided not to buy.  That, he says, would prove the previous owners knew they were selling him a nightmare.

Air date:  November 22nd, 2010