Saturday, June 25, 2016

The House Is Ours (Probably)

So it's all over.  The original sellers--the ones who walked away from the deal on Monday night--have come back to the table.  All has been forgiven.  The band and trumpets are sounding.  The parade grounds are filled.

Here's what happened.  After our disastrous and dispiriting Monday night, we moved on to a new house.  We began to have our realtor feel out the new seller about terms and conditions.  (I should say that this second house was one we'd seen on our house-hunting trip last month, and that it had always been our second choice).  We spent all of Tuesday mentally adjusting to the idea that the new house--Swimming Pool House, as I call it (because it had, in the back yard, a giant greenhouse.  No, no)--would be, if not as good as the first house, still perfect acceptable.  It was smaller, yes, and a little more generic.  And there was no real backyard.  And we'd never wanted a pool.  And it was haunted by the ghost of Stonewall Jackson.  And there a pit of iron spikes in the middle of the master bath.  But other than, that, you know.  It was fine.

So we had mostly gotten our minds around the idea that Swimming Pool house was going to be our new home.  And then, on the same day our agent had been dispatched to Swimming Pool house to do some scouting, he got a call.  The original sellers--from the First House--had a new offer.  They would give us [substantial sum] off of the price of the home if we'd come back to the table.  In money terms, it was a clear home run.  Even adding in all the repairs we'd have to make, we'd be getting the house at a great price.  The only consideration was the sellers themselves.  Had their lack of forthrightness in disclosing the plumbing situation the first time round ruled them out as someone to do business with?

In the end, we decided it hadn't.  Maybe they aren't the most ethical people out there, but given all the many, many inspections we've performed on the house, there seems very little chance that it could have any other hidden problems.  I should also say, though I don't want to go into details on a semi-public forum, that we've since learned something about one of the sellers that has made me reconsider my earlier judgement of their lack of ethics.  They have some other big things going on in their life-- troubling things--and it's possible they weren't so much unethical as...what...distracted?

Anyway, point is, we got the first house--the one we wanted--and we're feeling good.  Tired, emotionally, but good.  There's now the issue of effecting a large amount of repairs and remodeling in  the relatively brief window between the time the Sellers depart and we move in.

But that's a story for another post.  Or, more likely, several.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Or Did It?

The sellers have changed their mind.  They've just come to us with a new offer, to rebate us a significant amount of cash--more than we'd asked in the beginning.

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How the Home Purchase Fell Through

There is no joy in ANCIANT land; our home purchase has fallen through.  Yesterday was a dark, hard day.  It was 110 outside, for one thing, and even though we had the AC on inside it was still sweltering.  Plus I hadn't slept well the night before, and all day I felt kind of dizzy and tired.  And then, the house....

As you know if you've bought a house, throughout the process of escrow buyers have several opportunities to exit the deal.  Contingencies, they're called.  For us the only relevant contingency was Inspections.  Inspectors come out to look at the property.  They make sure it's structurally sound and they identify any hidden problems.  If there are problems you ask the seller to fix them (or, more often, you ask for money to be taken off the price off the house, which you then use to make the necessary repairs).

Last week, our realtor had a number of inspectors come out, and we hadn't turned up anything major (there were some termites, and there were mild drainage issues).  But he wanted also to get something called a HydroStatic test.  This is a test in which they pressurize your outgoing water pipes and see if there are any leaks.

It's not a test everyone effects; most realtors will get a basic inspection report and maybe on top of it, a structural report.  But our guy (who's fantastic, btw--if anyone needs a realtor in (CITY) let me know)--gets as many inspections as possible.  In part, he wants to do his due diligence, but he also wants to increase his own bargaining position going into the inspection negotiations (the more things you can find wrong, the more you can ask for).

So, he wanted the HydroStatic test.  And the sellers, at first, refused.  They had to sign some kind of waiver to allow the Testing Agent to go in and pressurize their pipes, and somehow last Friday they "couldn't be found" in time to sign said waiver.  But our realtor pursued them, and he got it set up so that the test would be done yesterday--Monday.  Which was the last day we had to negotiate our inspection contingency. 

The HydroStatic report showed that the pipes on the left side of the house (site of the Master Bedroom) were leaking fluid into the area underneath the home's foundation slab.  This was very bad--and something that has to be fixed.  (If not, you risk softening and ultimately destroying the foundation).  The cost to do so was twenty thousand dollars.  And this, at least from our point of view, was not a negotiable repair--you can't move into a house where water is pooling under the foundation. 

Well, you can, but it seems stupid.

Keep in mind that we had to have all this negotation finalized, and a final number agreed upon, by 6 pm on Monday night (8 PM central time).   We've just gotten the HydroStatic report at 5 PM (our time).  We have an hour.  So this is a very hectic and tense time (in our sweltering, sweltering house).  Remeber, we not only asking for the pipes to be fixed, we're also asking for a lot of other smaller repairs (drains, termites, etc).  And we're trying to decide, as we wait to hear from our Realtor, the minimum amount we would accept in repair allowances.  They've already promised to give us money for the termites (that's about 4k).  We're assuming they're going to give us the money to fix the pipes.  But will they give us any more?  They should but how much more?  That's what we're wondering.

The answer is: zero much more.  Not only will they not give us any additional money, they're refusing to give us enough to cover the plumbing fix.  Their total number turns out to be 8k.  That's for everything.  The termites, the pipes, the drains--all of it.  So that's very bad.

And that's not all.  Our HydroStatic guy has had, for some reason, to have a phone conversation with the Seller.  What he reports back to our realtor is that the he believes that Seller KNEW THE PIPES WERE LEAKING FROM THE START.  HydroStatic can't prove this conclusively, of course; the Seller hasn't come out and directly stated that he knew--to do so would be admitting to an illegal fraud.  But based on the Seller's deep familiarity with HydroStatic testing, and judging by some very pointed 'in the know' questions Seller has asked, HydroStatic guy is confident the Seller knew the whole time.  He's been trying to con us, in other words.

Later, the Seller's Realtor ("Sara") concludes essentially the same thing.  This is after the deal has collapsed; she has called our Realtor to apologize for how it all went down.  She was acting on behalf of friend, and she had no idea that they were up to something.  But now, in the light of what's been discovered, she's gone back over their interactions and put together other fragments of their conversation, and she thinks it smells bad.

(The Seller, I should note, just to finish up on the scintiallating 'pipes discussion'--has had their house partially--but not entirely--repiped three years ago.  So they're likely to be very cognizant of the pipage situation in their home). 

Anyway, it's all very sad on many levels.  I feel great anger and rage against the sellers, who have revealed themselves as liars and frauds.  I'm sad we didn't get the house.  I'm sad and weary that we have to go through this whole process again.  And I'm glad we have a good realtor, who was able to ferret out this deception before we got took.

From the start of our interaction with these sellers, my wife has been calling them 'squirrley.'  And I have been saying she was wrong.  But I was wrong.  She was right.  I guess she sensed from the outset, that they were no good.  And, credit where it's due: she was right.  I think it just never occurs to me, in these situations, that people will deceive you.  I think I assume that everybody in the world is like my parents, and they all act with integrity, and that their word is their bond.  [That to me, is what it is to be an adult.  It's certainly what it means to be a man.  Integrity.  Your word is your bond.  All that good stuff.]  So I'm kind of a loss when I learn people are otherwise.  Which, I suppose, shows how naive I am.    

A final note--now that Sara knows about the plumbing leak in seller's house she is obliged, legally, to disclose said leak to any new potential buyers.  If she fails to do so, she could lose her license (and Sara, we're confident, is an honest person; she's on the hook for any of this).  What that means is that the Sellers are going to face the same negotation about fixing the plumbing with whoever they find to buy the house.  Now, possibly a new buyer might accept the leak--they might not insist on the repairs being made.  But that seems unlikely (would you buy a house knowing that water was leaking under the foundation?) 

The Sellers could get around this problem by firing Sara and bringing in a new agent.  Doing so would make it possible for them to continue to hide the information about the leaking pipes to new buyers (the new agent would presuambly not have been told about the plumbing problem).  However, our agent has already indicated that, should the Sellers puruse that parth--should they fire Lisa and hire a new Agent--he will make sure and be in touch with anyone who enters into escrow to buy the house, to make sure they know about the leak.

Also, we're going to where they live, these sellers, in Wyoming, and burning down their house.  At least that's my thought.  And the land will be sere and dark wherever they may dwell, and their children shall eat the crusts of broken bread, and locusts and plague shall be their comforters, in their dark streets of Babylon.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

It's All Been Forgiven

Temperatures today reached 107.  Tomorrow they're projected above 110.  Yesterday I played tennis in 97 degrees.  That was bad, but bearable.  But 107 is not bearable.  I saw a couple walking their dog at 330, on their way back from the gym, and I was filled with anger.  Subjecting the bare paws of an innocent dog to the boiling pavement, it's unacceptable.  Probably the owners were just stupid, but stupidity is not justification for cruelty.

I spend at least an hour a day watching TV and freaking out.  LA is starting more and more to feel like an apocalypse.  I don't know why, but I have this impending feeling--something bad is about to happen. An earthquake.  I don't know.  I watch TV every day to find out what's happening with Trump.  I'm unable to accept that he's become the nominee, but if he becomes president--it's unthinkable.  That IS the apocalypse.  No words can delimn what a disaster he would be.

The brother has written a great review of a book about Dudo of St Quentin.  I'm sure none of you need any background about the storied life and times of Dudo.  His legacy speaks for itself!  Go to Speculum and read it.  I'll find the link, probably, pretty soon.

The new Garbage album doesn't do much for me.  Why do I keep trusting the reviews on Pitchfork?  Because I'm a fool.  Rock is an emptied-out husk, really.  It's Dixieland Jazz: its every ore has been mined.  We need the next new thing.  In an interview with Bowie a few years ago, he talked about how if he were starting out now he'd not go into music--he'd try to create something on the internet.  Not a Facebook, I don't think, but some kind of interactive art experience.  That's going to be the new frontier.  Not the Holodeck, exactly, but something along those lines.

Peaky Blinders, on Netflix, shows promise.  It speaks to me because I also ran a gambling and betting ring in Manchester, UK, in the 1920s.  (Actually I think it's set in Birmingham).

A final trivia question: under whose presidency did the greatest number of new states enter the Union?

Hint: it was NOT Millard Fillmore.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Buying A House

Last weekend we went to (Southern City) to look for houses.  We'd been searching online for the last month, hoping to find something good enough to justify flying into (City) early, but nothing great came up.  So we flew in, spent an entire Saturday looking at houses and finally found one we liked.

Since at least half the people who read this blog have already heard (or were part of) the riveting bodice-ripper that is the ANCIANT HOUSE HUNT TALE, I won't rehearse every step of the quest.  The summary is: we bought a somewhat quirky house in a very unquirky neighborhood.  At first we thought the sale would go very smoothly.  As we prepared to board the plane to return to LA, however, we learned that someone else other than us wanted our house.  Drama ensued.

Below is an email I sent to some friends describing the last few days.  Apologies for not writing up afresh; the email captures most of what there is to say about the process....

[Couple friend has sent us email saying how much they like house: this is the context]

....Thanks for your email. We have gotten so frazzled by recent events we have begun to question all our thought processes and reconsider the decision (not fundamentally, but, you know. Doubt creeps in).

The last few days have been incredibly hectic and tension-packed. On Sunday night we wrote an offer on the house, thinking we were the only ones interested. Because the house had already been on the market for a month, we assumed we’d get it for way under asking price. Then on Monday morning we learned another buyer had also made an offer. Various calls went back and forth—the sellers wanted us to be able to give them all their money at the end of June, all sorts of other stuff—and we assumed, as we boarded the plane to fly back to LA that we were going to have to make what’s called a “highest and best” offer. (Basically, both interested buyers make their best offer blind, and the seller chooses one).

We spent the whole flight trying to decide what that highest and best offer should be, while at the same time working out what would be our fall-back house if this house fell through. Then, when we landed we learned that the sellers did NOT want us to make a ‘highest and best' offer. Instead they sent us a very unorthodox (at least according to our realtor—who called it ‘amateur hour’) email in which they stipulated exactly the offer they wanted us to make. Make that offer, they said, and you get the house. Since their offer was actually BELOW what we we had been prepared to make (the money was the same, but we were going to throw in a number of ancillary inducements) we happily gave them what they wanted. We still got the house below its list price, too, but not as much below list as we’d hoped.

Then, in the last 24 hours we’ve each of us—the Wife especially—started to worry that maybe we were rushing into something, that we were buying a house just b/c we HAD to, that it was too unorthodox and odd, etc etc. This house is definitely better than anything else we saw, but is it our dream house? Maybe so, maybe not. On the other hand, are we going to find our dream house in two or three weekends? Probably not. So we’re happy, if a bit trepidatious. It’s a soulful house—not another [Southern City Neighborhood] cookie-cutter, and I think it has a lot of appeal. It’s on a huge lot, relatively speaking, but the outdoor space is a bit chopped up. It’s not necessarily a house where you have three kids running around on the lawn with a golden retriever—more like a house where you have one introverted child who locks himself in his room to memorize the name of all the French Generals of the Napoleonic wars—but, that’s probably what our child will be like. So, that’s ok. If he wants to frolic on lawns he’ll have to change families.

I don’t know if we mentioned this, but [WIFE] has recently gotten involved in providing HIV care for the Trans community. That will be one of her specialities, perhaps, when we move.  I’m very taken with the idea of introducing ourselves to our neighbors by telling them that my wife is an expert in HIV Trans care, and to please remember her when they’re referring their friends. Also, maybe, we could tell them our house will be a sometimes clinic for Trans sex workers.

Shake things up a little, as it were.