Monday, December 10, 2007

Home Owning Apocalypse

It's not the American dream, it's an adventure! At least that is what I tell myself.

I long ago started hating the house we currently live in now. As hates go it’s a small thing brought on by equally small causes but they are well earned. But as with many things the fault rests with me for us buying the place. One of the many requirements to adopting an orphaned Chinese girl was for the baby to have a room all to itself. I guess the reason for this was to insure that the parents receiving a baby had the financial means to care for it. The home Dragonwife and I owned at the time of us starting the adoption process was a nice three bedroom house that we had built right after she and I were married in 1993. That house had a wrap around front porch, a huge extra room where the garage would have been we used as a sun room/den, and a corner lot with a good sized front and backyard. Instead of staying at that house Dragonwife and I reasoned that we needed an extra bedroom for guests, a bigger kitchen to store Dragonwife's odd and varied collection of cooking/torture devices, and with the neighboring school district far better (as compared to what is normally in South Carolina) than the one we lived in then we began fixing up what we had and began looking for a new house.

A few tense and crazy months went by as we fixed up the house getting it ready for being listed. Dragonwife wanted it ready for a spring listing and some of her less admirable traits surfaced as we worked to meet that schedule. My mother-in-law came to help one week with making new curtains and I swear she and I came close to taking out a contract on Dragonwife who seemed to be channeling a combination of Martha Stewart and Hitler's personalities in her demands and expectations. As I wrote earlier one of the requirements for adoption was a room just for the baby. An in-home inspection by the American adoption agency handling our paperwork would be making sure we were meeting all the needed steps. That inspection was tentatively scheduled for the following fall and whether we were moved or not after that inspection we were frozen in whatever house we lived in until we had the baby. Moving before we had the baby would require a new inspection and amended paperwork delaying the date we would get the baby. The last month before the house was listed was a busy one with me, along with my co-workers, working to get the new manufacturing plant I was employed at operational. The manufacturing plant I was working at made fiber optic cable and this was the 2000-2001 time frame right before the telecom bubble popped and Tom Friedman and I each in our own way started finding out that the world was flat. He would go one to write a best seller and I soon would be laid-off but I digress since that is a whole other post.

As we fixed up the house weekends would have Dragonwife, a much younger Spoilboy, and me cruising around looking at the various houses in the area we wanted to be in. Several times we found the perfect house and walked out of it each time hoping that it would still be available when we were ready. Luck, fate, or a seriously demented god would not have it and each was slapped up the very next time we rode by the place but we hoped that when our house was ready a new perfect place would be found. Luck, fate, or god went on to a new more demented trick because our old house was listed on a Wednesday and we had a contract on the house with a buyer two weeks later. It was now a race to find a new house that met all of Dragonwife's needs before the new owner's brought the county sheriff to the door to have us thrown out. Now after work during the week and all weekend Dragonwife would be buzzing neighborhoods with our realtor trying to once again locate a house with the proper color, builder, size, location, style, floor plan, and any number of other factors. Dragonwife had worked herself into a shark-like frenzy shooting down a whole host of homes for the strangest of reasons that made no sense to me. Our realtor, in my opinion, while doing a great job getting our house sold completely failed in guiding Dragonwife to a set of reasonable expectations with all her requirements. One exception during this period was a house that met everything Dragonwife wanted except price. About 12,000 dollars separated the owners of a very pretty yellow two story with bay windows with our highest price we would pay. The house in question had been on the market for several months and Dragonwife and I made our best offer hoping it would be taken. They turned it down flat. A little over a year later we rode by that house again seeing that the occupants were having a yard sale. After stopping we soon learned that they had just bought the house from the very people that turned us down. The previous owner's marriage went from bad to worse and were forced to sale the house for far less than the offer we made. Dragonwife and I that night had many margaritas over that whole misguided affair.

We were down to two weeks before the contract on our old house would close forcing us out into the streets. All possible options boiled down to the restrictions placed on us by the home inspection even though I floated the idea of moving into an apartment while building a house that Dragonwife could deal with in the mean time. As Dragonwife went back out the following weekend to look some little voice in the back of my head told me to keep my mouth shut when she came back later asking me to ride with her and see the three houses she had visited that day. In fairness I have to add that I shot down a couple of houses earlier in the search for not having a fence since at that time we had two dogs and Dragonwife had some elaborate plan about caring for them while we were at work that I just didn't think would work. The three houses she had saw that day all had fences and met most of her demands. The first one she showed me was good except it had a huge drop-off just on the other side of the backyard fence into a kudzu dominated abyss that I could see Spoilboy or the future Miss Wiggles falling into the second watching eyes drifted away. The second was nice but I felt needed far more work than the price they were asking called for but it was the one we should have taken. The third, and the one we bought, looked nice at first but we should have looked just a little harder to see the things that would have had us running away from the place. Its one true beauty was that the front and backyard were nicely landscaped. It a fit of utter stupidity when asked which of the three I liked I tried to joke that the third was the one that "spoke to me". I have yet to live that one down and more than likely never will, even with myself. Dragonwife, who hardly ever listens to me to begin with, made an offer on the house that was accepted far faster than I liked.

Like the Bush administration signs of how much of a disaster the new house would be were there from the beginning. With the buyers of our old house breathing down our necks to get out the sellers of the new house wanted more time before they moved out. They said that the home they were building would not be ready for at least a couple of weeks leaving Dragonwife, Spoilboy, and me conceivably flapping in the wind for at least one week, but some sort of agreement was arranged with the sellers even though I felt their attitudes were in the wrong place. Separate from the adoption home inspection we hired an inspector to check the state of the house we were buying. The expensive inspector provided us with a nicely printed report on the house with only a few minor items to be fixed. One small footnote in the back of the report raised both Dragonwife and my eyebrows. When the inspector went through all the sellers kids was each taking a nap in separate rooms preventing him from checking those rooms. It was then I wished we had added the precondition on a good inspection because if we had I personally would have halted the whole damn sale. Dragonwife, who I expected to raise holy hell, wimped out and said just to live with it. When the sellers moved out we did our final walk through and were stunned to see all the damage that pictures and furniture had hid from us, our realtor, and the inspector who by this time was beginning to think had been paid off by the sellers. The numerous family pictures that literally almost covered the walls hid a galaxy of small and medium holes as pictures were moved and added. Small floor rugs on top of the carpeted floor through out the house had hid the fact that the carpet was real loose and had been installed badly. Carefully placed items in the kitchen hid stains on the flooring in that room. And the couch in the living room had hid a rather large hole in the wall behind it.

After all the schedules of the buyers of the old house, sellers of the money pit we were moving into, and ours were juggled a date to move was set. I know God had a part and a good laugh on this one item since the moving date fell on a National Guard drill weekend for me and no, neither my First Sergeant nor battery commander saw fit to allow me to skip drill that weekend s I could be home for the move. The best I was able to arrange was my First Sergeant grudgingly allowing me to leave one hour early, around 4:00pm that Saturday afternoon but I had to be in formation the regular time Sunday morning. Dragonwife had already hired a moving company along with asking her parents to come up and help with the move as I sat in class after class that Saturday listening to how to apply a field dressing and which aircraft was friend or foe along with other classes because the security of the United States absolutely required my presence. I got home just in time to help transport the dogs over along with the lawn tools and mower. The following days would reveal that when electrical devices were plugged in the outlets had so badly been installed that they were also pushed back into the wall as something was plugged in. Removing the curiously over sized outlet cover would show not a neat rectangle cut into the drywall where the outlet rested but a hole that looked like the builder had just punched a hole in the wall with a hammer were he thought the outlet might go. Outside flood lights were burned out, windows were badly installed, and a whole host of other items were found as we settled in. Home improvements began almost immediately and I'm sure I am the reason this godforsaken area has had an explosive growth in the number of Lowes and later Home Depots.

Gallons of paint for every room, new light fixtures, patched and fixed walls and windows, and secured electrical outlets later (about six months) the house actually began to take shape. Being laid-off in early 2002 along with Wiggles getting home in 2003 put a hold on a lot more improvements. With the diaspora of kids the ages of my mine from the neighborhood we began getting ready to sale the money pit. Just our luck, or maybe God again but what had been a red hot sellers market in our area up and died like Rick Springfield's singing career as the sub-prime meltdown hit. But along the way to this point we wore out two heavy duty garbage disposals, melted down one of the garage door openers for reasons I can't figure out, and suffered three separate lightening strikes on the trees in the yard. Each requiring massive cutting to remove them from view, more evidence that God is enjoying this at my expense. Due to the normal wear and tear of people living in any house I have found that I have had to repaint much of the walls I had already done and am now looking at repainting the living room again. At least the inside is done except for the living room, which I will do, and the upstairs room which we will have someone else tackle. That is if I can keep the gremlins of entropy, my children, from having me go back again and repaint or fix their latest attempt at driving me crazy before the housing market comes back. One thing I know for certain, it’s going to be a close race!


lime said...

your own personal 'money pit.'more fun than anyone deserves.

oh, as for the tie dye shirt you inquired about...i made it.

The Zombieslayer said...

Dragonwife had worked herself into a shark-like frenzy shooting down a whole host of homes for the strangest of reasons that made no sense to me. Our realtor, in my opinion, while doing a great job getting our house sold completely failed in guiding Dragonwife to a set of reasonable expectations with all her requirements.

As the son of a former real estate agent and good friends with another, I sympathize deeply with your real estate agent. It's amazing these guys don't shoot themselves in the head.

One of the houses I bought, I didn't even see. I let my father pick it out. The house we currently own, I let my wife pick out. I saw it but had no input in it. My friend the real estate agent came up in one day, wrote the offer that night, faxed it, and it was a done deal within two days. I hate making things more complicated than they have to be.

We were down to two weeks before the contract on our old house would close forcing us out into the streets.

Besides the meth freaks a few doors down, living in a motel wasn't that bad. Heh. I'm kidding. It sucked.

The first one she showed me was good except it had a huge drop-off just on the other side of the backyard fence into a kudzu dominated abyss

Good choice not to get this. As a kid, I've jumped fences many times only to learn the hard way that what was on the other side of the fence was not something good to run into.

Oh, as you learned the hard way, get a good inspector. A good inspector is worth his weight in gold.

C.Rag said...

I'm glad CockMaster & I are putting off buying a home. Everyone at the firm have been showing him houses etc. I don't feel ready & in this market if we had to get out we probably couldn't sell it.

Vigilante said...


Tequila Mockingbird said...

Lawyerman just bought a new house, it's super old and needs a ton of work, but he got it for 30,000 dollars than they had originally listed it as. he used to fix up houses when he was in law school, so this will be a good project for him.

Colonel Colonel said...

Wow, that's all too bad. Yeah, a good housing inspector is a must, and a lot of them don't really seem to know what they're doing. Our guy took four hours to go through the house from top to bottom, and insisted that the owners not be present.

But if you can get financing, and if you think you're going to be in it for a while, this is not all that bad a time to buy a house...

Mike said...

I bought a money pit back in 1994. My original plan was to live in it a few years, fix it up a little, and then sell lit. Once I moved in though I discovered that the place was one heart beat away from a disaster.

I should have sold it years ago, but it's a freaking challenge now.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: Several times I've wondered if my money pit had been some high school class project. Yeah, I've had loads of fun, enough to want to buy and live in a trailer.

ZombieSlayer: Dragonwife's mom is also a retired real estate agent and even she couldn't get my wife to compromise. The biggest headache I believe out of all this was my wife's absolute unbending demand that of all her conditions was that any house we buy be built buy a certian builder, occupy a certian location in town, and have a certain design. Yes, she was very much a spoiled princess(I'm being kind) in all this.

C.Rag: That's one of the funniest things in all this. Right now due to the glut of brand new homes sitting empty Dragonwife could find many that meets her style and conditions. There is one house in my neighborhood right now for sale that the owner is adding the incentive of paying the house payment for three months for the new buyer.

Colonel: I have yet to understand why my wife did not raise a stink over the former owners screwing with the inspection. I wanted to but she just gave up. Our credit is good enough to get financing but with scores of empty new homes all around there are no buyers looking for used homes.

Mike: You sound like your in the same shape I am. I actually caught myself several times wishing my damn money pit would get struck by a meteor or something.

Beach Bum said...

Tequila Mockingbird: Dragonwife's brother lives up in Richmond, Virginia and flips houses as well. That is until the market went bad and right now he is just marking time.

Sara Sue said...

I first thought of the money pit too! Well, at least you won't be out blowing your money on worthless things like FUN!

MadMike said...

I have my own money pit in KW, FLa. Two years ago it was worth a LOT of money. Today it is worth a LOT less and I can't seem to sell it. Like you BB, God is laughing at me also. Then again I have always thought God to be rather a mean bastard so I am not surprised he is laughing.

Keshi said...

I hvnt yet bought my own place..Im not ready for it yet. But I want a place where I can call mine...some day. But if it doesnt happen, its still ok. A great many things didnt happen in this life for me. Im not sad, just being realistic. :)


The Zombieslayer said...

My condolences. You know how hard it is to meet all those conditions? Well, never mind. I guess you do.

Beach Bum said...

Vigil: Yeah, he's out to get me.

Sara Sue: My wife wants to "upgrade" in size and a few other factors on the next house. We have had some outright arguments over how stupid I think that is since we both want to do some serious traveling at places other than Disney, even though I love the place. So yes, i would rather put my money of something else. Then again I could live even more simply now if I had to compared to how we are living now.

IT Nazis had arrived at work, got to run. I will respond more later.

Beach Bum said...

MadMike: My question for you is how much is the insurance for your place in Key West hurting you? Uncle Paul's wife, Lady Einstein, works in an insurance office and she has seen long-time residents of Georgetown have to move further inland due to the increase cost of insurance. As for God, he/she/it and I really need a chance to commune. But I do it on a beach watching the sunrise.

Kesh: Read some stuff about West Austrailia and how unpopulated it is compared to other locations. I might end up down there. But as for owning your own place it is a mixed blessing.

ZombieSlayer: I can only hope and pray my wife might change her mind and just want a simple house allowing more money to travel. And I have about the same chance of winning the lotto.

Tequila Mockingbird said...

on a completely unrelated note, here is a noble and worthy charity that deserves your full support.

Anonymous said...

Isn't home ownership lovely?

E said...

OMG that was exhausting to read! I'm feeling for you. It took me EIGHT months to find a house. EIGHT. I was ready to kill myself or someone else. I felt so bad for our real estate agent who, in the end, must be making, like, 2 dollars an hour off this deal once you factor in all the crap we had to wade through to find a decent house, decently and appropriately priced, with (you said it) an extra bedroom for Bambina's impending Little Sister.
I feel for you.

Beach Bum said...

Tequila Mockingbird: I just got over to that location and will lend my complete and utter support.

Prepost Ponder: No, I would be perfectly happy in a much smaller house out in the sticks.

E: I've told my wife to just find something and then give me an address so I can move the stuff next time. Given the market we should have far longer than eight months but given her nature it might take every minute.

#####Sorry but I've been real busy lately because of the Silly Season and work. Thats the reason I've been away the last few days with only brief stops at different sites. Will be back in the swing of things as soon as possible.#########################