Saturday, May 13, 2017

Living the Dream

As someone who likes to hold the banner of science and rationality, I've got to admit to a certain level of hypocrisy. See, while I regularly ridicule superstition after years of living in my current house I've come to the conclusion that the damn money hole is jinxed. This is where a short history might be helpful in painting the required picture.

This sad story began back in 2000 as my wife and I entered the last stages of the adoption procedure that would result in my sister-in-law and her flying over to China to pick up the baby. Because one of the requirements for adoption was that the child had to have a bedroom all to herself my wife and I upgraded our old home and quickly sold it to literally the first couple that looked at the place. We were ecstatic, my wife and I had already picked out a new house and with the buyers of our old home quickly getting approval for a mortgage we called the real estate agent to make an offer on the larger house.

Turned out the couple who owned the house we wanted had accepted a bid on theirs pretty much the same time the people who looked at our home made an offer. While there was no reason to immediately panic, my wife and I had to start looking at more houses. The trouble was that my wife had certain stringent requirements for any house we might offer to buy.

The first thing was that she was adamant about the builder, the floor plan, and the general area it was located. Numerous perspective homes that were close to mansions to me given the dwellings I lived in as a child were rejected because they were built by company “B” instead of “A.” It was the same for the interior layout, my wife refused to consider anything with an open floor plan. As for the location, at the time I didn't care but she wanted the kids to attend the best school district.

My requirements weren't as strict but because we had two dogs I rejected several houses that simply didn't have a backyard fence. One of our dogs was a large, very energetic, mixed breed black lab that absolutely could not be allowed to roam free given the rules of modern subdivisions. That fact ran counter to the subdivision I grew up where the dogs were allowed to roam and sort of became neighborhood pets. Keeping the lab inside during the day while we were at work wasn't an option because while she was a loving dog her inadvertently destructive ways would have guaranteed war zone-level devastation by the time we returned home.

Since the home we were selling was located on a large corner lot, I had some delusion about the next one being the same way. That one issue and my blatant ignorance still causes me to cringe when I think too much about it. While we did have a large front yard at our first home, it was extremely low maintenance and I simply did not consider how demanding a similar sized but more decorated location would be on my time and energy.

With these requirements, and a little ill-timed bad luck, my wife and I were finally forced to make a choice a few weeks later. We had narrowed our prospects down to three locations that neither my wife nor I really liked. The trouble was that the buyers of our old home were about a week or two away from being forced to move and they, naturally, needed us out. Now I admit, despite what I began to feel were my wife's ridiculous requirements, I made the horrendous mistake of actually giving an opinion on one of the three choices. I made matters even worse by saying the house on the corner lot with the highly manicured yards, “spoke to me.” The situation was getting quite tense given the deadline we faced and my words were a sad attempt to lighten the mood.

My wife compounded my error by making an offer on that house which was accepted by the owners. Before I go any further let me state that we did look at the interior of the house we bought on two separate occasions before making an offer. Both were haste affairs and no, we did not look anywhere near as closely as we should have, which would have dire consequences almost immediately. As for the professional inspector, who we paid for and was supposed to catch issues before all the paperwork was finalized, I have often considered the possibility that he was bribed in some fashion to ignore the obvious problems.

Making matter for more complicated, the day we had to move into the new house was my National Guard drill weekend and the leadership at my unit refused to cut me some slack so I could assist. Luckily my in-laws were there to help my wife and keep an eye on the movers we hired to deliver the big stuff. Late that Saturday afternoon I got to the new house to see the sorry state the previous owners had left things.

First off were the numerous holes in the walls that had been hidden by an array of family pictures. Given the number of holes in the walls it literally looked like that family had rearranged the display of pictures at least a couple of times a month. Secondly, and the first bit of evidence I believe the home inspector was compromised, we learned that night one of the four elements on the kitchen stove didn't work. Then there were the electrical sockets that when you tried to push a plug into them moved backwards an inch or two. Quite frankly, it wouldn't be a challenge to write several pages listing the deficiencies the inspector had somehow missed.

My wife and I were furious, but the reason we didn't pursue legal action was that we had a critical assessment coming up with the adoption agency handling our case. Pursuing a lawsuit while trying to adopt a little girl from China would have been too much. So, just a few days after moving in the new house, my wife assigned me the task of correcting any and all deficiencies I had the ability to fix. We've lived in our current money hole since then and in many ways we are still fixing things.

Given these circumstances, and several others outside the purview of this narrow memoir, it shouldn't surprise anyone why I have developed such an extreme dislike for suburban living in general and the house I live in specifically. So much that instead of the usual fantasies middle-aged men like myself entertain, I dream of winning the lotto so I can move the family and myself into another house which would allow me to burn down the one I live. Despite the numerous deficiencies, there is another, truly bizarre aspect to the house I live that often leads me to believe the place might be cursed.

As I mentioned, the house we bought had several decorative landscape islands in both the front and backyards. Somewhere around six months after we moved in two of the three pine trees that were in the backyard landscape island suddenly died. No, I have little knowledge of trees and I know both of the ones that died were probably already sick but all I can say is their appearance changed from thriving to zombie-like was so abruptly it shocked both my wife and myself. That wasn't the only issue we had with trees.

Over the course of six or seven years lightning struck three other trees, all resulting in collapses of major limbs and even trunks. Since my wife and I were dealing with demanding jobs and two young children, we never could immediately deal with the carriage of singed and broken limbs littering the ground. A fact that the neighbors, all unhealthily obsessed with the appearance of their yards in my opinion, I am sure commented upon among themselves.

A lightning strike also hit the pump used to draw well water for the lawn sprinklers. This particular incident naturally occurred during a severely hot July with August being even worse. By the time cooler weather arrived in late September my front yard had taken on the appearance of a desert. We did replace the pump the following May, at the cost of two-thousand dollars when you include installation but my front yard never really recovered.

Water heaters have also been an issue with us on our third one right now. The first water heater is another example of the home inspector possibly being paid off because while on the outward facing side it looked okay, when the tank cracked and started leaking I discovered the side facing the wall was heavily rusted. I have no idea why the second water heater cracked, it was probably the result of someone bumping the thing but even then I thought such items were supposed to be a little more resilient.

Like the deficiencies the home inspector somehow missed, I could spend a considerable amount of time listing the premature and often disastrously expensive breakdowns with things like washing machines, air conditioning systems, televisions, and lawn mowers. But the example that sums up the bad luck we've had with the house we live occurred after a heavy thunderstorm a few years back. No, lightning didn't fry anything that particular instant but what it did was trip the ground fault breaker in the garage. The place we had the freezer, which a few days before we had filled up with a couple of hundred dollars worth of meat bought at Sam's Club.

Being somewhat oblivious five or six days after the thunderstorm I finally noticed that the sprinkler system, whose pump had been replaced several months earlier wasn't coming on like it should. Yes, the controller for the sprinkler system was on the same circuit as the freezer and when I traced the issue to the tripped ground fault breaker I am happy to report it only took and extra thirty minutes for me to realize what that meant for all the meat we had purchased. In fact, the exact moment I realized all that meat was ruined I was sitting at the table drinking a beer. My reaction was a classic movie spit-take that lead immediately into a coughing fit so bad my wife thought I was having a heart attack. Once I recovered enough to explain my sudden epiphany, my lovely spouse promptly had her own bad reaction to the news.

Sure enough, even though I had reset the breaker thirty minutes before the freezer was still room temperature with the faint hint of spoiled meat becoming apparent after I lifted the lid. After that everything became a bit of a blur, so much I don't really remember taking all that ruined meat to the trash place.

This all leads to the statement I made to my wife a couple of days ago as I backed my car out of the garage, I made an offhand comment about how after all the crappy breakdown both the garage openers, which were installed by the first owners were still working perfectly. Taking history into consideration I now expect one or both of them to suddenly and totally meltdown at the worst conceivable moment. On the other hand, if that meltdown and resulting fire could somehow occur with the house empty of my family, the dogs, and cats I would be lying if I didn't say that I would consider such an unlucky event a type of blessing.


Jimmy said...

Oh man I have to agree that the inspector did you wrong, it would be nice if you could sell the place to him for top dollar "as is"

MikeP said...

Home inspectors. Don't get me started. :D

I won't blame the TWO home inspectors I used before buying this house, because I was highly motivated and would likely have taken it regardless. But like you say, you pay these people to spot things you wouldn't and call attention to things you might not realize could be an issue.

Like I said, for various reason I won't go into, I paid twice for one to inspect the house. When I was ready to move in, I discovered there were no electrical outlets in the house except in one room. The previous owners had cleverly run extension cords into the other rooms hidden by furniture and boxes of their "stuff" in preparation for moving out. Except for the bathroom and laundry room which I installed myself, I still power my living room with a big extension cord running from the kitchen.

Even better, not one inch of plumbing actually carried water. I'm still uncertain how I missed that. I toured the place three times. How the inspectors missed it...
I had to cancel moving in when I discovered it and spent the next six months teaching myself plumbing and spending every night after work over here running pipe with occasional pauses to pull out what I did wrong the first two or three times.

Those were just the two big things. Lots of little crap. Lots and lots of little crap.

At least you've had the money to make repairs. I know that's of little consolation, though.

The Bug said...

Given all the lightening hits I'd say your house is DEFINITELY cursed! Are you sure you don't live on the Hellmouth?

Ranch Chimp said...

"Living the Dream" ... what a fitting all "American" title, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) ... damn dude, that was a trip and a half read, but yaeh, for many folks, that's the flip side of the American Dream! "Cursed"? ... no man ... just "shit happens" eh? When it comes to buying stuff tough, for me, I dont trust fully any inspections or whatever, I dont care if it's on my damn car even ... I mean, folks "slip", and I understand, I want to satisfy my questioning regardless of who I may hire for advice, if I cant figure it out, I got buddies that are HVAC and mechanical plumbing contractors, etc ... I call on them for their opinion, I KNOW THEM, that's the difference between someone that "I dont know" and them, eh?. But at least you got shit figured out and know wassup now ... and you own a home at least, I mean, I'm sure you get some kind of tax advantages or whatever, peace of mind, etc ... after a little time and effort, you'll get it straightened out. My stepson bought a home from someone in nearby Farmers Branch (suburban city), after a couple years in the place, the A/C totally OD'd (yep, water heater was burned out too and busted water all over the place) ... a buddy who is a contractor fixed him up with a new system, because it cost otherwise about $10K grand for the AC, so he fixed him up on the side. My daughter had a new home built out in Rowlett (suburbia), real nice place, but lacks the character of the city for me ... but that's her thing, eh? (like everything looks the same out there, clean, nice, etc ... but lacks that "city" diversity). Another daughter of mine is like me, she lives in a apartment building off Uptown Dallas, busy central city area, real nice place, indoor underground parking, tight security, etc ... like me, she loves the city ... and her husband has a couple houses and a large ranch in Saltillo Mexico (not far from Monterrey) No, I dont own a home, the places where I live you can buy or lease, they call them condos, but it's basically like an apartment complex, I lease, many of my neighbours bought theirs ... if I buy/ bought ... that means I have to pay all the stuff to be fixed, maintenance, etc, no thanx ... it's just my wife and I, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, in a busy area of NW Dallas ... I lived and grew up in major cities, so that's all I know ... I dont like suburbia at all, I love the country though ... just go out in the country to visit friends, hunt or whatever though. Later Bum ....

Pixel Peeper said...

I'd be keeping a close eye on that garage door opener! We had one break on us...luckily with only one car trapped in the garage (the way it failed made it impossible to lift the door manually). Until we could get it fixed, my husband worked from home and I took the other car (the one that had been outside) to work.

Good home inspectors are worth their weight in gold...but they are a rare find.

Beach Bum said...

Jimmy: Truthfully Jimmy, there are times I consider the possibility I might have died and that house is a form of hell.

MikeP: I have often joked about becoming a "professional" home inspector given the crappy job that appears to be normal for them.

Ranch: I've told my wife several times that when our daughter leaves for college she and I are going to have a coming to Jesus moment. That we'll need to make plans for selling the house and moving to a smaller place that requires less work. Or, that she can stay in the current house while I move someplace I won't have to spend my remaining days doing yard work and chasing the latest broken system.

Pixel: Yeah, the spring on one of the two garage doors broke once trapping one of the cars inside.

On a side note, while I could be very wrong, given some of the comments you have written in the past there is a small chance you guys were selling your house for the move to Florida the same time we were searching for one ourselves.

Beach Bum said...

The Bug: Do I live next the Hellmouth? Probably, but not because of the lightning strikes. I'll ne nice and say I do my best to not engage with the neighbors for the benefit of them and myself.

sage said...

One of these days I am going to put my foot down and insist we move into a condo and then when I need a break and space, take my kayak and hammock and head out... Sounds like your inspector was about like mine who said he couldn't find any rot which was unusual for a house in the low country and I've been doing repairs ever since.

Marja said...

What a pain with this inspector who did a lousy job. We didn't have one when we bought our house. We knew that there was lots of work lol
We have been fixing and doing up our house for years and than the earthquake came and we could start again. Luckily my hubby is a handyman