Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Lost The House.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster. 

Sometimes when you are dealt a serious blow, theonly thing that gets you up again is a hard drink and good poetry.

We are withdrawing our contract on the house. It isn’tours.  We don’t want it anymore. The inspection went terribly. Everything that could be wrong with the house is.

Which is especially heartbreaking because we are still in love with it in away..mostly the idea and appearance of it, but the place is adeathtrap, as we discovered yesterday.

We left work early to attend the inspection.  A lot of people don’t go to their own homeinspections because some inspectors are uptight about it and people don’t wantall the flaws pointed out to them, but Eli and I are the opposite.  We wanted an inspector who was willing toteach and we wanted to learn all we could about our house and house structurein general.  And boy, did we learn.
Our inspector was awesome—thorough and smart andhumorous and kind.
He didn’t hesitate to answer our questions and put them in layman’s terms.  We made sure he doesn’t do any kind ofcontracting on the side because that is a conflict of interest. ALL he does isinspections, and he specializes in old homes, so he was able to tell us bylooking at the exterior how he believed the roof had been built, and sureenough when we climbed into the attic he was right.
The inspection should have taken about 2 hours andit ended up taking 4.
Because this house has endless problems.

At first, the issues with the roof made Eli and I nervous, but we figured “it’san older house, they all have similar problems, we can fix it, and have theseller pay for it.”
But then the issues started stacking up and there were not any positives tocounterbalance them.

Dead trees that needed to be removed, towering trees that endangered the house,and ancient tree roots disrupting the foundation.  No rain gutter, sprinklers next to the houseon one side, and the flashings on the roof were done improperly and evenmissing in places (which means rain gets into the roof and attic, which = waterdamage).  Not pretty.
So then we go inside and the owners are there and they are kind of stingy.  I understand it is weird having strangersgoing through your home trying to find problems with it, but you are sellingyour house, so it comes with the territory. Attitude is unnecessary.

So then we find that the ceilings in one room arelath and plaster and a bit unstable and generally looking like they may fallin.  Yet the other ceilings are not lathand plaster!
You can feel where the front of the house has settled, as you pass over thishump and start to walk downwards a bit. Which the inspector said is normal in all old houses.

What is not normal is the “peak” in the front office, where it sloped downwardat 3 angles from one random hilltop! And the ceiling in the closet was filledwith large, deep cracks that they had not bothered to fill. 
Then we move on to the water.  NO WATERPRESSURE.  The shower would be theequivalent of standing in a gentle rain and hoping it washes the shampoo out ofyour hair.  The bath would take 2 hoursto fill on cold—by turning it to hot, you just got a measly little drip.  So if you have 4 hours to fill the tub….
Then we get to the electrical.  The wires are crap.  They mixed old, cloth-covered ones from the1950s with new wire, but not in the bestway and involving far too much electrical tape. After looking for 40 seconds the inspector could tell it was notprofessionally done, but more of an “Uncle Eddie” job—when people have theirunlicensed handymen relatives take care of major home undertakings and they cutcorners and don’t pull permits for work. Which is suspicious.
They also hadn’t grounded the majority of the 3 prong outlets in the house.
Eli and I were both starting to get major anxiety atthis point, but we plowed on with the inspection—after all, we paid this guy$300 and wanted to get the whole story.

And so, onto the attic.

What we thought was cute old hardwood floors that we could refinish when werevamped the attic were actually structurally unsound and improperly installedin the attic.
They had spliced dozens of ancient wires in the attic as well, and not properlyhoused them, so they are a major hazard, and there was quite a bit of moldlurking about, possibly due to the roof issue with water.
And the roof was not in compliance with new roofing law, which it had escapedby being re-done 3 years before the new law came into action.
So instead of adding the necessary and safe pieces to the roof, they just keptadding shingles.
We could see the original wood shingles through the attic ceiling. It waspretty wild.

It also had not been shored up properly, so there were a few 2x6s haphazardly jammedup under the peaked ceiling to keep it from bowing.  And God only knows what other issues werehiding behind the multitude of junk the owners had dumped up there.
At this point Eli and I were sick to our stomachsand had that awful foreboding feeling.
It was clear that the “fixing up” the owners had done was not done right, andfor bottom dollar, and the owners before them hadn’t rebuilt the house right tobegin with.

This is probably the proper moment to tell you whatother shocking fact we discovered—the house was listed as being built in 1955but…. It was built in 1906. Surprise!
Which explains a lot.
We looked at those very old, historic homes early on in our house hunting, andsoon decided we didn’t want anything older than the late 1940s, and we figuredwe were safe with this one, from 1955. Well, 1955 if you subtract 49 years from it.

So then, onto the crawl space to see the foundationof this house.
There is no basement and with the other problems we had seen, as far asweak/squeaky floors, and the strange sloping going on in every room, we wereanxious to see the root cause of it, and how exactly the whole house is beingsupported.

The entrance to the crawl space was a floor latchwith stairs going down, down, down.
We all crammed into there, on the earthen floor, and were shocked by what wesaw.
It did not fulfill these structural setups...

They had completely dug out thepacked dirt under the house—the original foundation, and then had not shored itup.  So the stone foundation of the housewas resting on dirt that had not been cemented down.  There were some concrete blocks around it,but they were not even in contact with the dirt to help support it.  In short, if and when an earthquake happens,the whole thing is going to slide.  Andwith the water damage issue, it could also turn to mud and just SINK.
They did not do it right.  Not at all.
Boards that should be on end, vertically, to support the structure, had beenlaid horizontally and were providing no support at all.  The few boards that were vertical werebalanced tediously on the dirt with nothing holding them in place.
It wasn't THIS bad, but it was close.
The water heater’s pipe was rusted and calcified tothe max, there was asbestos lurking everywhere, there was dirt to wood contacteverywhere (which leads to termite infestations), violations on spacing, andthe furnace.. oh boy.  They had no airsupply to it!
The furnace is brand new and they clearly installed it themselves (another “UncleEddie” job) because any professional that installs that kind of hardware isrequired to do it safely and per the law and would not put it in there withoutan air supply tube.  

Any ventilation along the sides to the outdoors had been blocked by dirt so theplace was essentially a carbon monoxide party.
There were exposed old outlets that were not properly covered (with theoriginal porcelain tubes for wiring) that were a shock hazard, so we had tostay low.  It was a nightmare. And aspider bit me on the arm while all this was going on.
We get the official report from the Inspector today,but talking it over with him and our agent and my dad afterward, it is prettyclear that the house is a deathtrap and just isn’t worth it.
You would be better off building a new house from the ground up and doing it right than trying to fix this hundredyear old mess and fighting the original installations with the new.

There were a few places in the house where they had just merged them together,sprayed the whole thing with foam insulation, and called it good. 
It was so not good.

We don’t need to read that report to know this house is not for us.
They did a shoddy job “fixing it up”—everything they did was cosmetic to coverthe broken bones of the house.  That babyneeds new roofing, mold cleaning, rain gutters, serious tree removal, newwiring, plumbing, and a stable foundation.
Our agent even tried to let the owner know about the serious issues in thecrawl space, and asked who installed the furnace and such, because she shouldhave them come back and make the proper additions so it is actually functioningcorrectly, and she got very defensive, lied to his face, and then walked offand slammed the door.  Wow.

So we are walking away.  It is hard, but it is the right thing to do.
And thanks to due diligence and the way our agent wrote the contract, we canget out of it without a charge.  ThankGod we found out in time. That is what we keep saying. 

We could have gotten stuck with this lemon of a house—which is why you shouldALWAYS have an inspection!!  Drivingaway, I started crying, because it is so upsetting when something is IN yourgrasp… I had the paint samples in the purse, and we had been measuring for thefurniture we have in mind… dreaming about barbeques in the backyard, the hottub, refinishing the attic… and suddenly it isn’t ours anymore.  We love it, well the looks of it, but we don’t want it. It is how an awful breakup feels, when you still care for the person butyou know deep down inside how wrong and dangerous they are.  You walk away because it is best, but it isnever easy.

On the way home we stopped at the liquor store.  Eli got a bottle of Jameson and I gotlimoncello, and then we went home for a drink.
Our good friend Jeff came by to cheer us up and the three of us went out to adelightful dinner at an old favorite—Blue Plate Diner.
I am still upset about the house, and the stress isreally wracking my body, but I’ll get over it.

The worst part is the timing—it was all coming together and now that we aren’tbuying that house, it is a nightmare.
We have the loan, with our rate locked in for a month. Rates are increasing,and our lease is up at our apartment at the end of July, so we need to find anew house and get it under contract ASAP.
So that is what we’ll be doing this weekend. I’ve just got to breathe and remind myself that things work out.   Bye house, it's been real.

Like I said, a hard drink and good poetry.

Things Work Out

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn't,
Because men do what they often shouldn't,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we'd like to play-
Some of us whimper along life's way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life's all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out. 

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