Real Estate Woes

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.

Next, while on the roof the inspector saw there’s a chimney with tape. What’s under the tape? Who knows? Who cares? I’m not buying a house with a chimney held together with tape.

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.

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14 Responses to “Real Estate Woes”

  1. Well, I guess I'll have to wrap up the house-warming gift. It's brand-new set of fine China. (Um …OK, it's really plastic, made in China). But hey, it had just a few cracks. Oh, and did I mention that one cup handle is held in place by a wad of chewing gum?

  2. See, this is why you'll never sell your house. You're too honest.

  3. Looks like it was roofed over about 3 times, haha, I recently put a new roof on my grandpa's house and had to remove about that many layers and start over, it's a lot of nails to pull out of there in order to get down to the boards, kind of a big and messy project. As far as fixing the exhaust vent (hopefully not a chimney) goes, that should have been a simple $20 trip to home depot to buy new ducting, but the duct tape is still okay if you happen to be a cheap ass mofo. Using plumbers putty to patch corrosion (is that due to grounding the outlets to the pipes?), haha, that is very cheesy workmanship.

  4. In DE, you're allowed two layers for a roof, and then you have to tear off and start over. Naturally, it's cheaper to throw on a new layer than start over, so a new roof is great because you shouldn't have to worry about it for some time and then when you do, you can just throw a layer of shingles over.

    They kept saying chimney but yes, it's an exhaust pipe. I don't care what it is, you don't fix anything with tape.

    Here's the deal with the pipe. It had one of these over the hole. It looks like what he did was slap some sealant over the hole, slice this rubber connector down the middle in order to fit over the pipe, then while the sealant was still tacky, he put it on and tightened. Instead of using the band on each end though, he just used one band, in the middle over where the hole was. I suppose you could find a cheesy plumber who would do this, but it looks more like a "homeowner special". How the hole got there, I don't know. The pipe is right over the bilco doorway, so I could see carrying something in or out and hitting it perhaps.

    To the defense of the seller, two of the sinks he installed came from Home Depot with flex tubing already attached to the drains. Shame on you, Home Depot.

  5. There's a reason we're not moving for a long, long, long, long time. At least all of the repairs I make, or have made to our house are entirely up to code, I know that there are no surprises coming when we finally do decide to sell. I'm only sorry I can't have that confidence for the next house we might end up buying.

  6. I would document everything I would do, but that's me (I do that with my car). My career has been about virtually building things, real world things, so I scrutinize every little detail. If I were to work on something, I'm going to do it correctly and not cut corners. I'd rather not do something than do it half-assed.

    I just finished up a term where my students had to build a room complete with various objects so I've got weeks of engaging in high criticism of minutia prior to this house searching so I'm tearing through properties pointing out what looks wrong. Now, slowly, I'm starting to learn about more than mere surface errors but things which are evidence of larger, perhaps unseen errors. The thing I've learned through my work and reinforced by teaching is if someone did one thing half-assed, chances are good they did many other things half-assed, so one shitty thing in a house makes me doubt the quality of every other thing in the house.

    Yesterday we went into a house that had the kitchen remodeled. I stood back and thought the countertop wasn't level. The agent there adamantly argued how it had to be, and I have to admit they did a great job of covering it up. Looking more closely, I saw that they benefitted by a slight sag in the ceiling so the cabinet there was a smidge lower. They also ran the tile off the countertop line, so it looked level and there wasn't any more or less tile in any one spot either. I gotta find a pocket sized level to bring with me for now on, or a marble. I could see it wasn't level, but senses have to be corroborated, right? ;)

  7. The best thing that happened is they let you out of the contract. If I had a dime for every time clients contacted me with stories exactly like yours for houses they actually bought, and were able to find satisfaction from the seller after the fact, well, I'd wouldn't have a dime.

  8. Flex tubing, that gets clogged up more easily right?

  9. There's no trap with flex tubing. There could be, sorta, if you take the time to shape it but if you're that caring, you wouldn't be using flex tubing in the first place. Also, I'd guess it's not very durable.

  10. I'm out $550 for the inspection and radon testing, though. Yes, it's better than the alternative. The $550 hit is making me super critical now when looking at other houses.

    Btw, I'm going to push for a home warranty. These clowns surprisingly agreed to one (cost was about $400).

  11. I bought a 2 year old unfinished house in which I currently reside. After the papers were signed, the previous owner walked off with the stacks of building materials that had been explicitly included in the contract. The lawyer got me some compensation, but not complete. Three years later, it's mostly finished. But I have yet to start the master bedroom, with its concrete floor and unpainted walls. My wife recently suggested moving. I told her, "good luck."

  12. I'm quite amazed at what people will do. Years ago I rented a house with a buddy of mine and the landlord wasn't going to include any appliances, as in no stove or fridge. His excuse was that he kept having tenants make off with them. I got him to compromise and provide a stove (we found our own fridge).

    This house just went back on the market, and they're advertising that the roof is new. That's fraud, plain and simple. I feel like crashing their next open house, or setting up my own box of pamphlets.

  13. As I read the post, I kept thinking, "Please don't tell me you bought the house!"

    Perhaps the owners got their maintenance tips from that world champion handyman, Red Green.

  14. Just thought this article should be of the utmost interest to you Phillychief.

    York U researchers find anxiety may be at root of religious extremism….religion is actually an emotional disorder, logic takes a back seat to emotion apparently and thereby can not disarm it alone.

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