Want to find an underpriced standalone fixer-upper in Wicker Park? Well, here's one: A wildly irregular, 1,950-square-foot place built in 1881 just went on the market for the low, low price of $400,000.

Here's the catch: The corner lot building is in the full embrace of the El at its surfacing point at Hermitage and Wicker Park Avenues. You’ll hear and feel every train as it passes beside and just below—but, hey, it's not as bad as having trains flying above, as with most El-adjacent dwellings.

“A lot of people that doesn’t bother, and some people it does. I’m not here to waste anybody’s time,” says listing agent Jane Wenger of Wenger Properties.

I’ll try and extend the same courtesy. This is not likely to be a place that appeals to urban transplants, young families, investors, or anyone who values silence. There isn’t any dedicated parking and no room for any—ever. So if ease of car ownership is high on the checklist, kindly remove yourself from consideration. The target buyer would ideally have a strong liking of trains, along with the patience, vision, and the roughly $100,000 it would take to improve such a challenging property.

One major challenge will be dealing with the outcropped triangular stairway. It has minimal headspace, tight curves, it's not built to code, “and it never will be,” says Wenger. A few other issues:

  • The doorways are without doors.
  • The main level’s side deck needs a total replacement.
  • The roof deck is on a considerable slant.
  • Some windows need resealing.
  • Parts of the kitchen are standard Ikea.
  • The upstairs bedroom level doesn't make sense—an oversized bathroom takes a greedy cut of bedroom and office space.

Fixer-uppers get a lot worse than this, and the property certainly has built-in virtues. Each level is a separate space with four or five large west-facing windows and exposed brick. The two upper levels have hardwood flooring. The home can be further integrated with the reconstruction of the stairwell, or further compartmentalized with the reinstatement of doors. “Sliding barn doors could lend a cool industrial feel,” says Wenger. The English basement (mostly above-grade) has almost the natural light as the other levels and makes for an excellent studio space.

The side deck may be throwaway, but the frayed rooftop has about 600 square feet of sloping deck ringed by built-in seating, planters, and composters. The 360-degree views capture the dense cityscape—punctuated, of course, by the Blue Line. 

With the exception of the stairwell, the three-level, 1,950-square-foot home dates to 1881, and so these bones are ones you’ll want to work with. The seller’s asking price has dipped $10,000 from the April 11 listing—and it's a long way from the 2008 purchase price of $482,000.