Borough smart to cut asking price for hospital

When you’re trying to sell an unlivable house that needs an awful lot of expensive work — a fixer-upper, as it’s politely called — you keep dropping the price until someone comes along who wants the property and can afford to completely rebuild or maybe tear down and build a new home on the lot.

No matter what you think that worn-down house with all its problems and unusable floor plan is worth in memories, it’s only really worth what someone else can make of it.

The unused former Wrangell hospital is that fixer-upper, which is costing the borough nearly $100,000 a year to heat, keep dry and insured. There are better ways to spend money.

The borough has been trying for the better part of the year to sell the building and land for a minimum asking price of $830,000, but it’s had no takers. Not even inquiries when it was listed on a national surplus property website. Seeing the futility of going another year with the full-price sticker hanging on the front door, borough officials have recommended that the assembly cut the asking price to $470,000, which is the appraised value of the land only.

It’s an acknowledgment that the walls and roof and plumbing of the former hospital probably have no value, at least not to a developer. The value is in the land and what could be done with it. If a buyer can find a use for the walls and doors and anything else, good for them. But expecting they would pay almost $400,000 to buy the constructed lumber, plasterboard, metal roofing, wiring and plumbing was not realistic. Dropping the asking price to the land value is a smart move.

Cutting the price and turning over the sales job to a real estate agent requires an ordinance. The assembly was scheduled to hear the ordinance in first reading on Tuesday, with a public hearing and assembly vote set for Dec. 20.

The ordinance wisely states: “The borough assembly has determined that lowering the listing price accords with the public’s interest to sell the property quickly to avoid incurring further maintenance and utility costs.” That pretty well sums up the issue in one sentence.

The ordinance includes another sentence that doubles down on wisdom: “The borough, in its discretion, may entertain offers less than the listing price, but such an offer shall be justified for the purposes of economic development.”

It’s smart to leave open the option to take less than the land value if the buyer, for example, is willing to commit to building housing that is sorely needed to attract and retain new employees for Wrangell businesses. The real value in the former hospital property is what it can do for the community long term, not a one-time deposit to the borough checkbook. The assembly should adopt the ordinance, let a real estate agent work at finding a buyer, and then consider any plausible offer that helps the community.

— Wrangell Sentinel


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