These Absolutely Unsellable Homes Are Home Insurance Nightmares

We’ve all heard stories about bad septic systems and lousy foundations. We may have lived through a busted pipe or a roof gone wrong. Fortunately, horror stories like these usually have happy endings. We dial up our insurance agent and get the money we need to clean up the mess.

But what about the rare cases when a house is, well, hopeless? Uninsurable? On the outer fringes of homekind?

These eight tragic homes — including what may be the worst home on any street — may have started with all the right intentions, but most insurers would give them the boot if their owners wanted insurance policies.

Did You Know? There are homes that are almost impossible to sell for reasons that have nothing to do with their condition. Realtors call them stigmatized properties. Stigmatized homes often were the scenes of violent crimes or documented hauntings that spook potential buyers.

1. I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll Blow Your Tree House Down

Tree house

Takasugi-An |

This exotic residence by Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori scores big points for originality, but the Big Bad Wolf would have a field day here. The foundation is two trees and there are no real walls, just particle board. Fujimori probably wouldn’t get many safety points for that second-story ladder floating on tree bark either.

Safe to say Fujimori would need to relocate to the forest floor if he wanted to get a policy with State Farm.

2. 3 Beds, 2 Baths With Jail Cell

2 bedrooms

Vermont house for sale | Zillow Gone Wild

Something about this quaint little Vermont house doesn’t sit right. The floors are straight. The beams look sturdy. There don’t appear to be any lurking roof issues that would deny coverage.

Wait a sec — it must be the creepy jail cells in the basement where Freddy Krueger has probably been living for the past 15 years.

Home jail cell

Home jail cell | Zillow Gone Wild

Home jail toilet

Home jail toilet | Zillow Gone Wild

OK, technically a few scary, rusting jail cells aren’t going to bar you from getting a home insurance plan (unless you have some exotic plumbing issues insurers don’t typically cover). But you could easily end up on a stigmatized property list, which will make it harder for you to sell your mini-penitentiary no matter how cute your walls are.

Our advice? Convert the personal prison into a rumpus room for the kids.

3. The Lemp Mansion

The Lemp Mansion

The Lemp Mansion |

Haunted houses can be a tough sell. Just ask the Lemps, the St. Louis brewers who now haunt their own lovely 33-room mansion at 3322 DeMenil Place. (Four of them took their own lives in the house between 1904 and 1949, and they now supposedly roam the place, spooking visitors.)

Just for the record, insurers probably wouldn’t balk at Chez Lemp, since ghosts can’t mess up the roof or plumbing. Getting down to brass tacks, not only could the Lemps use some quality home insurance, but they should also probably consider a vacant home policy.

FYI: How much value can your haunted house lose on the market? According to a recent study in Hong Kong, up to 20 percent!1 If you have a ghost living in your attic, you may want to keep it under wraps like they do in the movies.

4. Hey, There’s a House on My House!

Hengyang shopping mall with extra homes on top

Hengyang shopping mall with extra homes on top | Reuters

These Chinese developers thought they could get away with building their homes on top of an existing structure — and, well, they kind of did.

The homes on the bottom are actually a shopping mall in Hengyang. The subdivision on top never got demolished. In a pleasant twist of fate, the illegal rooftop luxury dwellings now host the migrant workers who built them!

Don’t try this at home. There is no insurer between Topeka and Shanghai that will renew a policy for your double-decker house.

5. Honey, There’s a Highway in the Living Room

Nail house on the highway

Nail house on the highway | Reuters

The owners of China’s “nail houses” don’t care what the city says. They’re not budging — even if the city builds a highway — or two or three — right through their living rooms.

A nail house is definitely the sassy homeowner’s ultimate parting gift to any municipality that thinks it can strong-arm its residents off their rightful property.

As far as getting this four-lane abode insured? Our experts say you’d be playing against the “house” on that one. Your dwelling coverage includes cars crashing into your property — but not if it’s a daily event. On the other hand, you may be able to snatch up a home insurance and auto bundle, which you’ll definitely need (for oncoming traffic).

Fun Fact: The reason Chinese people call the homes that won’t go away “nail houses” is that they’re like the stubborn, spiteful nails sticking out of planks on the ground at construction sites.

6. Floorless in Kentucky

Kentucky fixer-upper house

Kentucky fixer-upper | BEX Realty

You see a moldering Civil War–era heap with no floors or ceilings being devoured by the jungle. BEX Realty in Kentucky sees home, sweet home.

Kentucky fixer-upper floor

Kentucky fixer-upper | BEX Realty

We call this an “extreme fixer-upper.” (Insurance companies would probably call it “extremely bulldozable,” and they’d rather insure the Trash Heap from “Fraggle Rock.”)

The biggest issue here — besides no floors, walls, or ceilings and a rainforest in your bedroom — is probably mold. Not sure why that’s such a concern for insurers? Our definitive mold guide will tell you.

7. Wile E. Coyote Lives Here

Serbian boulder home

Serbian boulder home | Reuters

Nothing says “country living” like a cottage teetering on the edge of a rock in the middle of a ferocious river. Rivers aside, you’re probably wondering: Wait, could you actually sell this boulder home?

Maybe. But only to Wile E. Coyote.

For the discerning insurance agent, though, the deal breaker would be the single stilt holding up the south face of your bungalow (and its proximity to rushing water). Homeowners policies don’t always cover water damage. In this case, it’s a near guarantee Linda from Lemonade Insurance would give you a hard pass.

8. The Worst House on the Street

Run down house

The worst house on the street | Future Home Realty

You may look at this charming, mold-infested retreat nestled in the floodplains of Zephyrhills, Florida, and think: Sure, that’s pretty bad, but it’s no Kentucky fixer-upper (see above). And you’re right. Until you read the realtor’s own description.

“The roof leaks, the floor creaks, and there’s a terrible draft,” says Philippa Main of Future Home Realty. “And by that we mean the inside is open to the outside because several windows are broken.” The foundation is also “detached,” per Main, and the house’s “bizarre and ominous energy” makes it the perfect “place to stage your next post-apocalyptic zombie movie.”2

Any takers?

Just FYI, your insurance provider may be able to live with a few broken windows and a creaky floor, but not a rotten foundation. Not sure how to identify one? Read our homeowners’ guide to foundation repairs.

Did You Know? The Sunshine State sees plenty of bad weather, including hurricanes and flooding, making it riskier for insurance companies to insure houses there. If out-of-control Florida premiums are driving you crazy, check out our top three picks for cheap (quality) home insurance in Florida.

Runner-Up: The House of Statues

House of Statues

House of Statues |

Can your insurance company refuse coverage on the basis of questionable taste? No. Unless your giant, porcelain King David is blocking a fire exit, you should be OK.

We recommend the owners of the Las Vegas House of Statues invest in a little security though. Cramming your home with tchotchkes may attract thieves, and I don’t see any of our favorite home security cameras on the walls.

Just in Case

Unsellable properties may be funny to read about, but getting sucked into a money pit is no laughing matter. If you’re ever on the fence about investing in a fixer-upper, stay there until you’ve done your due diligence.

And don’t forget to figure in insurance costs. Most houses are eligible for homeowners’ policies, and most of them need it in some shape or form. Here are some tips for determining how much coverage you need.

Citations only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Economist. (2019, Oct 31). Haunted houses have a chilling effect on the property market.

  2. Future Home Realty. (2022). 37913 Avoca Avenue, Zephyrhills, FL 33541.