Friday, December 27, 2013

Lessons from a First-Time Homeowner

Three days in the new house, and it was leaking like a sieve.

It all started . . . well, I don't even know when it started.  

My husband and I have lived in an apartment for almost seven years, and in that time the apartment has needed copious repairs left unattended by three different management companies.  We've had many a sleepless night because of noisy neighbors who like to exercise at 2 a.m.  We've been unable to enjoy having a yard, a garden, or equity of any sort.  So, about three years ago, we decided it was time to buy a house.  We looked at a lot of bad houses and some good houses, and five we had under contract fell through for one reason or another.  We took several months off from even looking while we dealt with other family matters.

Then we saw this cute little log cabin that was built in 1942.  It was in our price range and looked to be in pretty good shape.  We had the home inspected, and it passed inspection.  We closed, and it's now ours.  Here is what I have learned in the first week.

Lesson One: Home Inspections

Everyone knows you can't skip having a house inspected.  However, not everyone knows about the little clauses.  Have the home inspected when it's raining and go into the attic with the inspector, even if he doesn't seem to like that idea.  Our inspector has a nice little clause in his report that says if it isn't raining on the day of inspection, he can't be held accountable for reporting leaks. He is not responsible even if there are four of them in four different rooms, even if there are obvious signs of rotten wood in the attic, and even if you ask outright.

Furthermore, improperly vented gas water heaters can kill people.  However, there are warning signs, like dizziness, headaches, and vomiting, that all happen before death.  Tell the inspector if you're feeling sick in the house, and then maybe he won't forget to tell you hot water heater is in such bad shape it may kill you.

Lesson Two: Honest and Ethical Sellers

Unless you know the person, do not buy a home from an investor/landlord if at all possible.  They do not care about repairing or maintaining things the right way; you know, little things like carbon monoxide vents and other non-essentials.  Be especially wary if at the closing table the seller refuses (all of a sudden) to pay for the home buyer warranty they agreed to pay for in the contract.  Buying a home from an investor/landlord means re-fixing all of the things he told you were fixed but weren't fixed correctly, so now have to be un-fixed and re-fixed, anyway.  Luckily, although our seller did a lot of damage, the love of the previous owners still shows through in one or two places. 

Lesson Three: Big Repairs and Added Costs

If the Home Depot 30-year transferable warranty on a roof sounds good to you, go with them.  However, try to get the salesman to throw in some tarps.  Otherwise, Home Depot will let rainwater flow into your house for 3 - 7 weeks while they "plan" for your new roof, or you can pay them another $500.00 for some tarps.  Home Depot will also be happy to sell you all of the new drywall, insulation, fixtures, and flooring you'll need to repair the damage caused by continual leaking.  On the plus side, the customer service representative who answers your panicked call will be friendly, unlike the person who answers calls for the county.

UPDATE!  Home Depot will be coming out to tarp the roof free of charge.  I take back my sarcasm.

Lesson Four: Water Water Everywhere

When the county says it takes 1 - 5 days to have the water turned on after submitting an application, plan on it taking another 1 - 5 days for them to actually read the application.  In a pinch, however, the rainwater that's accumulating in the new buckets purchased at Home Depot can be used to force flush the toilets while waiting for water.  Showering is trickier, but again, Home Depot probably has everything you might need to build an outdoor solar shower that filters and heats rainwater. I'm sure Home Depot even has bottled water to sell you with a smile.  On the other hand, the person who answers the phone for the county will not smile.  Not even once.  They just don't care.

Lesson Four and a Half: No Water Anywhere

When the plumbers come to replace the hot water heater that is vented improperly and killing you slowly,  double check the meter box at the street when they leave.  If they leave it open the day before the temperature plummets as they are hightailing it out of your home before you ask them to do something else,  the main line will freeze, leaving you with no water anywhere, again.

Lesson Five: Support from Family and Friends

Speaking of people who care . . .

After you buy your first home, your family and friends will be an invaluable source of comfort, inspiration, and assistance.  We have had to begin an online fundraising campaign to help us pay for a new roof, something we were not expecting to have to do for another three to five years; but, even friends of friends have been offering advice and good vibes.  We've had several friends offer to help us move.  Even the real estate agent stepped up to the plate and took care of the home buyer warranty when the seller refused, and I'll give you her name if you ask for it.  This outpouring of support has been enough to give us the strength to deal with the county, with Home Depot trips, and with the numerous calls from contractors each and every day.

I'm sure when we look back on this in a few years, when everything has been paid for and it's time to start new projects, it won't seem so unrelentingly awful; I won't feel the need to curl up in a ball and cry.  In the meantime,  however, I hope our family and friends know and understand just how much we love them and appreciate them.  They've undone a lot of mental damage done by damaging people.  With that thought, I can unfurl, dry off, and deal with this.

If you would like to purchase a fundraiser CD, crochet hat, afghan, online course, or mug, please see our GoFundMe page.  Even positive comments help more than you can imagine.

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