Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Moving Experience...
(an ongoing series) — Part 10

Once bitten, twice shy: The truth about Potatoheads
Meh…I dunno. I was going to use this next segment to take a poke or two at someone. I was going to get in the face of the guy who was poised to buy our house and then suddenly did an about-face.

It was all going to be in good fun, but not completely without malice aforethought.

Basically the guy pissed me off. He pulled the rug out from under Michelle and my feet while we were in mid-stride, strolling down the yellow-brick road to homeselling happiness. And not only did he upset our applecart, but I’d be willing to bet his own wife was none too giddy about his apparent snap change of direction.

I really wanted to let my righteous indignation fly like a flag over his orange toupee. I wanted to poke fun at his pacemaker; take a few shots at his liver spots.

I mean, how dare he find fault with my house! Sure there were a few…okay…a lot of routine, maintenance-related repairs the initial home inspection revealed that needed to be done, but we were willing to make it right. Even before the inspection we had agreed to a $1500 allowance for such repairs. Surely he couldn’t figure there’d be anything beyond that, right?

Um, that would be a big negatory there, good buddy.

Apparently those old bones were singin’ a song only 89 year-old jet-setters can hear, and it was telling him to walk away.

Realty Gal April even asked him point-blank, if all inspection issues were alleviated, would he change his mind, but he simply said, “no.”

And while he was within his legal right to do so, when I heard about that, I’ve gotta tellya, I was a little steamed. I mean c’mon; the seemingly arbitrary way he just decided to fold up the tent would’ve even left Mother Theresa a little hot-under-the-habit.

In my few encounters with him over the phone and briefly in person, the guy seemed old, cantankerous and pretentious. What was his deal anyway? His wife adored our house. We thought the repair issues would be a mere formality. Even the candid opinion of the home inspector, who he himself had hired, was one of puzzlement. “I think he just expected the house to be perfect,” the inspector would later say to me.

At the time we of course declared his feelings capricious. He made no counter-demands, which seemed suspicious. But now three weeks later, his decision seems downright propitious.

Did Mister Potatohead know something that even the home inspector didn’t? I’m not so sure that I even want to know the answer to that question right now. All I know is how impotent all my ‘righteous indignation’ feels at this point.

And I’ll know what I need to know, soon enough.

In about three hours from now my house will be besieged by licensed contractors and repairmen as I conduct a one-day-only, all-out, no-holds-barred tag-team maintenance hootenanny to finally, ONCE-AND-FOR-ALL make my house sale-worthy.

Bulletproof, my ass!
Remember last post when I was saying we were setting up the counter offer to the new buyer to make our deal bulletproof, i.e., impervious to the continual bleeding of money from incessant ‘fix this/fix that’ requests?

Well last Friday we received the results of the second home inspection for the new (and hopefully eventual) buyer of our house. Today is when we find out if it will cost us a few hundred bucks or the full $1000 dollars we stipulated to, for “major structural, non-cosmetic repairs” in the final counter offer we signed last week.

Today I’ll only be taking estimates for the work that needs to be done, but we decided to go ahead and take care of a couple of other things the new inspection turned up that were missed the first time around. It hasn’t reached The Money Pit status yet, but I’m beginning to wonder.

I mean, the only reason we were so willing to offer even $1000, after having already spent nearly $500 to address the main issues in the first inspection, was because we believed that we were pretty much done; there wouldn’t be anything else that needed to be fixed; we were merely indemnifying ourselves from being nickel-and-dimed any further by cosmetic whims of the new buyer. Surely it would preclude us from any other large-ticket repairs…right?

And that would be yet a another big negatory there, good buddy.

Apparently as luck would have it, a brand, spankin’ new crack has appeared in the cinderblock foundation on one side of our house. That crack was not there two weeks ago. It’s not too serious-looking from this layman’s perspective, but it is definitely noticeable, and certainly needs to be repaired.

This summer the entire Midwest United States has suffered through the worst drought I’ve seen I’ve seen since I left California. It’s been wicked hot, particularly the past week and a half, with temps averaging in the high-90s to low 100s and no rain to speak of.

Those meteorological conditions are apparently bad news for home foundations because it causes the earth to become compacted and far less pliable, resulting in zero give in the case of any kind of seismic movement. And believe it or not, the largest fault line in North America runs right along the Mississippi River. Not that we ever experience earthquakes here, but it sure makes you wonder.

A co-worker of mine also last week discovered a huge, serious crack going all the way up the side of her house, through foundation, side brick and around the chimney, which is physically pulling away from the house. She’s looking at major bucks to have it all fixed. The culprit, she was told? The drought.

So while it was far more than surreal that she announced her bad news the same day I found out about our own, I’m sure neither of us felt a whole lot of comfort in the process. And I’m sure she wouldn’t mind my saying that I hope mine isn’t going to cost as much as she already know that hers will.

The good news for us is that the crack exists on a side with only vinyl siding above it, with no brick for the crack to spread to. So with any luck at all, it’ll be relatively inexpensive to repair. However the question is “what’s relative?” Will it be $200, $600, or $1000?

But that’s not all. Inspector number two also reported active mold growth in the crawlspace under the house, albeit localized in just the front corner area near the crack. The new buyer has asked us to also fix this problem with of course, a licensed, insured contractor (as opposed to going to town on the mofo with a squirt bottle ‘o Tilex), which automatically means more moolah.

Another thing which we’d actually had planned to do anyway but that the buyer asked about, was to get a tune up on the main heat and air conditioning unit, which is as old as the house, but still works fine. That shouldn’t be more than the standard $65.00 house call — I hope.

Finally there’s the termite inspection, which we fully expect to pass, but the way things are going…oy…

So in case you want to know what my Wednesday’s gonna look like, here’s the shhhedule:
  • 8:00 AM — Heat & Air guy. He should be self-sufficient.
  • 8:00 AM Foundation guy #1. I really liked this guy on the phone; really seemed to know his stuff and asked all the right questions. I’ll probably hang with him to see what he says. I’m hoping he’s cheap.
  • 9:00 AM — Crawlspace/Mold guy. His inspection may take awhile longer, so I’ll let him do his thing. However when he’s done, I’m going to have him take me under there and show me the moldy. I want to see it for myself what I’m paying to clean up, y’know?
  • 10:30 AM — Foundation guy #2. The other foundation contractor should be wrapping up by then, so hopefully they won’t bump heads.
  • 12:00 PM — Termite guy. He’s actually returning to finish the job he couldn’t complete three weeks ago because we hadn’t finished clearing the interior walls of junk in the garage. So he’s coming back to finish and sign off on the house. Here’s hoping for a slam dunk.
  • 1:00 PM — Foundation guy #3. This appointment may or may not happen, since I didn’t even get the company’s reference until Tuesday from Leslie the Realty gal. I was only able to leave a message, requesting that they come by and take a look on Wednesday afternoon. We’ll see. I’ll be happy if they can schedule it in, but won’t be surprised if they can’t.
There! Don’t you wish you could be AJ for today?

Sheesh. I’ll really be glad when this is all over and we actually know where we stand.

Potatoheads Post-Mortum
I know this post is already longer than my average diarrhea-of-the-fingers effort, but I already had finished writing nearly a full story of snarky commentary and thoughts on the role that our initial would-be buyers played in this Great Homeselling Adventure, so I’m sorry, but I can’t stop just yet

For purposes of perpetuity, I wanted to log my remaining impressions of the couple whom I have derisively dubbed, the Potatoheads, not just because I was pissed at them, but because it’s at least somewhat related to their actual last name.

It just seemed to work for me, okay?

I suppose I revealed something at the outset of this post that I hadn’t mentioned earlier in this series. This was no young family moving into our house-on-a-hill, and that struck me as odd. But then there were a lot of odd things about that first go-through with Mister and Mrs. P.

Back in early July, the same day we accepted their offer, I got a quick education on how Mister P. rolls.

In our first telephone conversation, when I first realized that it wasn’t his son who was buying my house, but instead, an 89 year-old man and his registered nurse wife (it was somehow intimated, obviously via some pretty bad communication between agents that this was a ‘young’ couple we were dealing with), it immediately became clear that the guy might be a little difficult.

The weirdest thing was the age difference. His voice was shaky, but his demeanor clear and pointed. I don’t normally have any trouble communicating to people of my Dad’s generation, but he was different; he was pretty pushy. You got the sense that he was someone who had always demanded and gotten what he wanted.

He said he needed to come out to the house ASAP to take measurements for a built-in doggie door he planned to install into the sliding glass door opposite the back deck. He said it was really important to get the measurements soon because the custom door took weeks to order. I honestly didn’t know what to say, but I knew I didn’t want him in here snooping around, and I got the distinct impression that was at least a part of his intent. I told him I’d be happy to measure the door for him.

The conversation moved on.

He was quick to tell me how old he was, where he lived and where he’d been. Then he began to size me up, asking how old I was and what-not. He then not-so-subtly offered that he was a former contractor himself, so “watch your ear,” he said — whatever the hell that means. Perhaps he should have said, “Watch your butt.”

He went on to say that the reason he was interested in buying our house was to create a shorter daily work commute for his wife, a nurse, who works at a prominent hospital in Nashville. That’s really all we know about her aside from the fact that she has pretty handwriting, as her signature on the offer contract is the only exposure we ever had with her. But in all fairness, I really don’t have a bad thing to say about the woman. I suspect that she was as disappointed as we were about how things went down.

Given that she’s still a working nurse, vital enough to handle a daily 25-mile commute to Nashville (they currently live south of Franklin in Spring Hill, TN), one would have to assume that she is younger than he, but who knows by how much?

Can you say, “May/December?”

I do know for a fact that she loved our house and thought it was going to be her own. Nurse P. was the very first prospect to see the house when it went on the market, Wednesday June 27th. She brought her husband to bless it later, on Saturday June 30th and he apparently liked it as well…at least at first glance.

I’m certain that the entire reason they were interested in buying that house in the first place was solely for her benefit alone, both for now and most likely, the future.

She even went so far as to order new bank checks with our address on them. We received the package of them in the mail just a day or two after the Potatoheads canceled their offer. We still have them along with the bank statement that came in the mail a few days later — all unopened of course.

As I hung up the phone, I shook my head in disbelief. I felt a little trepidation even then. I really couldn’t imagine someone older than my in-laws having less difficulty negotiating our steep driveway, the steps up to the front porch, let alone the stairs up to the bonus room.

How exactly was this gonna work?

In the end, obviously it didn’t. Monday morning July 9th, was the home inspection signaling the beginning of the end.

The inspector issued a report that was nearly 40 pages long, but it wasn’t all bad news — this inspector was just extremely thorough.

Having never been through the homeselling process before, I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was pretty impressed with the guy they brought in; this guy was no butt-crack Bocephus. He was the consummate pro — better than anyone that I’ve talked to had ever seen. He was meticulous beyond belief, citing nearly every imperfection in the house, inside and out. His report was complete with photographs of each and every repair suggestion, along with tips and instructions on how to properly handle each issue, which greatly added to the document’s overall bulk.

I’ve often wondered whether or not Mister P. quite understood the fact that all that info in the report wasn’t necessarily dedicated to only detailing what was wrong with the house; more than half of it was instruction on how to fix it as well.

The inspector also made a point to mention that he considered nothing on his report alarming, a safety issue, or would in any way deem that the house was in serious disrepair, hence my certainty that the foundation crack was not there when this initial inspection was conducted.

He said that every single one of these items were routine maintenance issues and were totally in keeping with a house of thirteen years’ age. But apparently it was still too much for Mr. Potatohead to bear.

On Wednesday Jul 11th we received the news that we’d “hit a bump in the road.” Mr. P had apparently choked upon the number of items on the inspector’s list and was taking his legal right to back out of the deal. I was told that despite the $1500 repair obligation we had agreed to, he was no longer interested in buying the house — period.

Whether it was merely the length of the report, or the added fact that the custom doggie door was going to cost more than he thought (as I would later learn that Mister P. had mentioned to the inspector), something I’m sure I would consider ‘unlikely’ had spooked him.

Perhaps he took another look at the topography. He asked me about lawn services in the area; I suggested hiring a neighborhood kid to do the work, and that I’d always done my own. He didn’t seem to welcome the thought of knocking on doors to fill his landscaping service needs.

I agree with what I mentioned earlier that the inspector told me: Mister P. wanted a ‘perfect house,’ and was disappointed when he realized he wasn’t getting one.

I have no insight into the man’s current net worth, but I do know the references he continuously dropped each time I communicated with him would indicate a well-heeled man.

To describe him physically, he looks good for 89; fit, and smartly-dressed in tennis shorts and a nice Polo shirt the one time I actually met him in the flesh. He was definitely wearing a rug; apparently he used to have red hair, although his current color is snow white.

He had seen my pair of ancient Kniesel snow skis, which I haven’t been able to use for more than ten years, packed up in the garage that morning while he was commiserating with the inspector. I was getting ready to leave to work once I was sure that everyone had all the answers they needed. Mister P. walked into the living room asking about the skis and who they belonged to. When I replied that they were mine he said, “Well I used to ski professionally, in Aspen. It’s where I met my wife.”

…And it all started to make sense.

We live in a nice neighborhood. Our house is as well-appointed as most people I know would be happy with, but it’s not perfect; It’s not hoity-toity; it's non-pretentious.

And it’s definitely not jet-setter class.

Perhaps it was somehow all of this that figured into Mister P’s decision to walk away in the end. I also think there might just be something to the old guy’s ‘contractor intuition,’ that would allow him to walk away from what looked to be only moderate maintenance issues that would have been cheerfully addressed.

At the time of that first inspection, the foundation crack was either so small to be insignificant or not there at all. Could Mister P have seen it when such a professional and detailed inspector couldn’t?

But here’s the kicker: had the Potatoheads signed off on the inspection contingency and we’d had the repairs they noted made, we would have indeed closed on time and that crack would have not appeared until after the closing date.

So to be honest, I don’t know whether to be mad for our being so unlucky, or at him for being so smart…and lucky.

C’est la vie, Monsieur P.
blog comments powered by Disqus