Recently, the wife and I started looking again for a house. New job, interest rates super low (and possibly going lower) and prices still dropping to sell, we figured it was time. We’ve looked before, and have slowly educated ourselves about the real estate process, mortgages, and home issues plus we’ve watching copious amounts of HGTV and Holmes on Homes. Still, none of it prepared us for our first attempt to purchase a house.
We found something which hit on many of our requirements. It was priced pretty well, was in a great location, had a fenced in yard, a deck, and advertised a lot of core updates (new roof, new HVAC, new windows, etc.) We put in an offer which was only $10k below their asking price but with closing costs included. They countered with $5k under plus closing costs. Deal. That was was easy! Now all we had to do was go through the formality of the home inspection.
The house is a Dutch colonial with a roof over the house and garage. It was advertised as having a “new roof over house and garage.” First thing the inspector said was the roof over the garage wasn’t new, so right of the bat, we’ve got a fraud issue.
Into the house and we have a leak from the HVAC unit. Next, the concrete around the bilco door is cracked, tarred and poorly patched and set below the ground rather than above. The sellers admitted that during “heavy rain” they got flooding through there. What’s “heavy”? I don’t know, just like I don’t know what’s under the tape on the chimney, so that had to be replaced. Then I spotted on a pipe with some black rubber thing and asked if that was a patch. The inspector told me that that wasn’t used for patches, but for where two pipes are joined, at which point we both saw there was no junction there. This time curiosity got the better of us, he opened it and sure enough, a hole in the pipe.
Further down the pipe, in the crawl space, we could see tape wrapped around another spot. Awesome! Apparently tape is the answer for many things for these sellers, since under every sink there was tape around pipes plus another no-no, flex tubing.
All in all though, not too shabby. It sounds worse than it was, and all totaled would be about $5k-$7k to fix. However, we ran into some shit prior to even negotiating the fixes. First, since we peeked at the pipe “fix”, it then started to leak and the seller had a shit fit. Personally, I think that was an act to cover the fact that he got caught with a bullshit patch. He called our inspector, screamed at him, and then claimed this nice old guy screamed obscenities at him and hung up. Unlikely, but again, who knows? Then we got fed a sap story about how the seller’s father just died suddenly so he’s stressed so we should be understanding. Thanks to the power of Google, I found just how subjective “just” can be, since the date of death was about 6 weeks prior. Next, we went back the following day with a plumber to both look at this leaking pipe and to get an estimate on all the plumbing issues. Well we got there and the doors and windows were open. What’s wrong with that? There was a radon test being done, and the instructions left for the sellers explicitly stated you can’t have the doors and windows open for 48 hours. Wtf?! Now the radon box has to be reset, which means the nice old guy the seller fought with on the phone has to go back to the house. Problem. Luckily though, our realtor knew how to reset it so with his blessings, she did and the test was renewed (although without 48 hour surveillance, who knows if they abided by the instructions).
So now it’s addendum time, where we as buyers send an addendum stating what issues we need resolved after the home inspection. Well we couldn’t even get that started because their realtor was unreachable. She had to go away but promised beforehand that she would be reachable by phone or at the very least, her assistant would take calls. Much like the claim about the roof, those claims were bullshit. Our realtor finally did get theirs, and due to all the days that had passed, had to get the dates for addendums to be pushed back, so the first addendum was to change the date for addendums. Ridiculous. After that, our realtor tracked theirs down to give them our addendum in person, in hopes of eliminating as many potential shenanigans as possible. It was short and sweet and just referenced the inspection report, which had price estimates, and said everything there had to be repaired by the sellers.
Before I get to their response, let me fill you in on some other fun facts of the story. Our realtor had to reset the radon box, remember? So the day came for her to go and do that, and their realtor said she couldn’t do it that day. After hunting her down, our realtor (quite the bulldog, which is awesome) forced her to let her in to reset the damn machine that day, since we had a deadline for the radon test. Next, apparently we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t reach their realtor. Neither could the sellers, and they actually started calling ours, and at one point told her that they were willing to do whatever it took to sell the house because they couldn’t wait to move on (they already have another house and are moving out of state). We eventually had to have our realtor’s boss call their realtor’s boss to try and resolve all this nonsense.
Alright, so finally we get their response to our demands and it’s absurd. For the plumbing, they claimed they had a better estimate from another plumber. That’s fine, except they claimed the bullshit patch was done by a licensed plumber, so that means the seller either lied or he hires shady plumbers. Red flag. The roof? They said they were willing to work with us to address it. Wtf does that mean? Red flag. The chimney? They said they wouldn’t address it because the tape on it is metal tape, and therefore the correct tape for a chimney. It might be the right tape for metal, but tape isn’t the right answer for the situation. Nonsensical reply. Red flag. Bilco door? They wouldn’t address it since it only floods during heavy rain. Again, wtf does “heavy” mean, and is it in any way related to “just”? Needless to say, we restated our demands, only with the added note that the roof was advertised as new, so it should be new. To make sure they understood we weren’t fucking around, we also sent them a release from contract form, basically saying sign one or the other. The response? “Good news, your buyers are getting exactly what they want,” was the message on our realtor’s phone. It continued though, “we’re releasing them from the contract.”
The story we’re getting is the sellers felt they were being more than accommodating. That’s a riot. It’s impossible for us to know if this mess is due to the sellers, their realtor, or both. We’re inclined to believe it’s their realtor. One damning bit of evidence, aside from the sellers having to call our realtor since theirs was unavailable most of the time, is the postponement of the appraiser. With negotiations not going well, our realtor wisely postponed the appraiser’s visit, since we’d have to pay for it if the deal didn’t go through. She called their realtor to let her know and more importantly, to let the sellers know since one of them had to take off work to be there. She never told them, and the seller missed a day of work. Nice. Did she blame it on us or our realtor? Who knows? Did she try to cover her ass by blaming a lot of things on us? Who knows? Did that color the negotiations? Who knows?
The whole exercise was VERY depressing, and not just because we didn’t get the house. It’s depressing because it was yet another reminder of how people suck and we’re at their mercy. I don’t look forward to the day I’m old and in some hospital or home relying on the competency of some doctor who’s looking to make a tee time or score with the nurse and who probably cheated his way to a degree or had daddy write an endowment to the med school, and the nurse I’ll also be relying on for many things but may have gotten his/her degree from some cheesy nurse-tech school, or perhaps schooling is being optimistic. It sucks! Everyone sucks, and the ones who don’t, who aren’t complete idiots an are both willing and able to not just help you out but simply do whatever it is they’re responsible for correctly are too few and far between.
Oh well, we found a decent realtor though, and I suppose furthered our educations on real estate. There, I found a bright side.