The dream house for a family in Rexburg, Idaho turned into a Halloween nightmare. The rural five bedroom home on two acres for less than $180,000 seemed like a great deal to Ben and Amber Sessions with their two young sons and a baby on the way in September 2009. Then snakes started coming out of the woodwork…and all around the house. Three months later in December 2009, one day after the Sessions’ new baby daughter was born, they moved out never to return.
The strange thing is in 2007, the family before them, Neal and Denise Ard, sued the couple who sold them the same house and the real estate agent because of the snakes. The price when they bought the house was $189,900. Their suit was dismissed in a year. The snakes were so bad then that the Ards had the TV news come film the situation. Watch the attached video from YouTube.
The Sessions were given a paper to sign when they bought the house saying “snake problem”. They were told that the couple before them used snakes as an excuse to walk away from their mortgage. The Sessions followed the Ards’ example and had Animal Planet televise a reenacted story on the house in their “Infested: snakes, spiders, and ants” series. Now the Sessions have declared bankruptcy, the snake house was foreclosed on, and JP Morgan Chase Bank is dealing with it.
The house was listed with Todd Davis, listing specialist and associate broker, Realty Quest at $114,900 in December 2010. In January 2011, the price was lowered to to $109,200 and then taken off the market. Davis estimated the house’s worth at about $175,000 if it came without snakes. Davis asked the bank for a house inspection to determine how to solve the problem. The bank’s inspector first estimated about 400 to 500 snakes were at the home in December, but later assessed it at multiple thousands of snakes.
Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, a Chase spokesperson in Seattle, reportedly told a business columnist for Dow Jones Newswires that the bank has a contract to have the snakes trapped and released away from the home. She said, “We plan to seal the foundation and install a barrier around the foundation to help prevent future access. A report will be issued by the contractor to be provided to any potential buyers.”
It has been suggested that the home which was built in 1920 may have been invaded by the snakes while it was being remodeled in 2006 and was left open. Rob Cavallaro, wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and presenter for the Teton Regional Land Trust, says the home was probably built on top of a winter snake den or hibernaculum, where snakes gather in large numbers to hibernate. In warmer months they spread out to find food and bear young but come back to the den for warmth when the short cool days return. The garter snakes are not poisonous but do give off a malodorous secretion when predators threaten. The Sessions claimed the well water tasted like the snakes smelled.
The moral of the story–real estate agents should encourage potential home buyers to have a home thoroughly inspected by a well-qualified inspector with complete written reports and pictures. Home buyers should use their own real estate agent to represent them and attorney to advise them before signing papers that mention a “snake problem” or any legal documents at all. If a price on a home sounds too good to be true, it may very well be a snake pit. But if you happen to be a herpetologist and like living with snakes, this may be the home for you. There is probably not a mouse, frog or lizard for miles.
View the attached slide show of snake-free pictures of the innocent looking home.