Home Ownership, fraught with Danger
I would guess that one of the largest problems with home ownership is plumbing.
You have the simple things like flappers in toilets or valves that leak. One of the most common is a plugged up drain or toilette.
What if all of the drains stop draining?
This happened in a starter home and the cost to “augur out the main drain” was $65. A year later I moved to a home that was three times the value. The main drain stopped draining and I called the same plumber.. Same procedure and the cleanout was even easier to get to. Big company… $365…
The list is endless and the prices match between the old house and the new. Re-seat a commode with a wax seal $60. New house $250. Lesson, “location matters!”
2 Cents for your $40
One rather expensive outfit came out to unclog a drain and while he was here I ask him about a commode that was rocking a little bit. He told me for $40 cash, he would fix it.
I was paying for the other work by credit card and was put off by the “cash comment” but I agreed. I handed him the $40 and this man took two pennies out of his pocket and placed one under each two front corners of the commode between it and the tile floor.
It worked, “for a while” and I felt like I had just been taken to the cleaners.
This is probably one of the largest frauds perpetrated on a new home owner.
Purchased a house with a 5 ton air-conditioner, had the house and unit inspected prior to purchase. One month after we moved in the compressor went out. After calling the home warrantee folks they did not exactly “spring into action.” Keep in mind this is Texas and we have two seasons, cool and hot!
During the first week of the outage a person showed up to examine the unit and determined that it was indeed dead.
Two weeks later it was determined that it would have to be replaced as they could not economically repair the unit.
The following week some guys come out to replace the compressor. Their unit which collects the old Freon looked like it had been beat with a hammer and when I asked what happened to it, they said it had fallen off of the back of the truck! It looked it. While I stood there they tried for hours to evacuate the old Freon. I left, only to go inside and watch from the window where they cut the lines which was followed by copious amounts of white cloudy gas leaving the pipes. Their Freon capture device was for show.
After the unit was replaced they vacuumed out the lines and released the new Freon and turned on the new unit. Four weeks from start to finish. Problem: during the day the unit could not bring the house down to anything below 80, it never shut off, and even during the night 76 was a milestone. Oh, you could hear this thing for several houses away in each direction! It was horrible!
At this point I contacted an independent contractor who examined the installation and determined that they had replaced a 5 ton unit with a 4 ton. The Carrier that I had when I bought the house was a now a Janitrol “builders special.”
The unit was doing all that it could do, he suggested I look into more insulation and better windows to assist the unit unless I wanted to replace it.
My electric bill was topping $600 a month and we were not even into the hot months yet.
The Janitrol was a 10 seer reciprocating compressor which is technical jargon for inefficient and bottom of the line. Never mind that it was undersized for the home, and the coil.
Bite the bullet:
New Carrier 5 ton unit and matching heater $13K
New insulated windows $10K
More insulation $3K self-installed.
Another nightmare about to unfold…
While the modifications worked, you could now cool the house and the unit would shut off during the day there were still issues with warm rooms and cold rooms and, we had a wall under the unit have the paint literally sag off of the wall. It would seem that the primary drain was not working and the water from the condensing unit filled up the pan and ran down the wall.
The company who came recommended to me had just changed hands. I called them for warranty work and the first thing I heard is “we don’t sell Carrier.” My heart sank as now I am looking at paying someone else to fix whatever is wrong with this new unit, or so I thought.
Unlike most who would give up; I wrote a letter to them with a copy of the invoice and insisted that they send someone out.
The owner called me; he was sending a “comfort specialist out.” True to his word, the next morning there was a knock at my door and a rather attractive lady, all of about 5 foot nothing was standing there. I showed her the damage to the wall, the paperwork from her company and without too many more words she was up in my attic examining the work with one of her folks.
While she did not cuss, I expect that profanities might have been zinging around in her head. Without any quibbling she said, the guy that did this moved on and this was one of the reasons why. Nothing about this was installed correctly and if I would allow her; she would have her folks out to remove it, and re-install it perfectly.
It is difficult to find companies that stand behind their work and product and let me tell you, I don’t know how much money they spent on this but, that installation is a work of art. I gladly pay the yearly contract and they come out and do what needs doing for a small price.
I have her personal cell number and I have had to use it twice, both times she was Johnny on the spot, and oh by the way, she is the owner of the company!
I can see clearly!
The windows were another project with mixed results.
As a homeowner, one tends to go to the hardware store and start asking questions. That may not be the best advice I could give here.
Without thirteen pages of profanity, let’s just say that it took several visits from different contractors to get the windows installed and caulked correctly. Hardware stores sub-contract to people who for the most part are looking to fatten their wallet, and not necessarily on the up and up.
Dust dust and more dust.
When it came to the insulation, I decided to do it myself by renting the machine and buying the material. While it was a mess, I have lowered my electric bill to around $200 a month, after the addition of a pool.
If I were going to do this again I would use something better than a dust mask. Matter of fact, I don’t think I would ever do it again. While I got the job I wanted I breathed out dust for weeks!
When purchasing a house make certain that you have a good inspector inspect everything, including the roof. This home had cedar shake under composite which I did not think too much about. In retrospect, I would have negotiated a new roof.
There was evidence of past leaks in closets ceilings, which I spotted, not the inspector.
When I was talking with the inspector in earshot of the homeowner regarding the roof, she went into a frenzy, and started yelling! What is all this talk about the roof, it is fine it is new! She was beside herself and I guessed that was not the first time she had heard this.
Sure enough, I had to have the roof replaced as it leaked during heavy rainstorms, which was another $10K
TIP: bring a UV flash lite with you and use it to look for mold and or mildew! Anything organic will fluoresce giving you a clearer picture of past or present damage!
Enough? Naw, more plumbing woes…
During one rather hot summer about 5 years into the home ownership I noticed doors sticking, windows not working right, and cracks in the drywall.
I called one of my friends who happens to own a company that does civil engineering. He put me in touch with a lady who came out with a line level. She determined that parts of my home were sinking and others were rising up.
She suspected that there was a leak of some sort under the foundation.
By this time I had found a plumber who I could trust and had him come out with a camera. Long story short the drain pipes were rusted out and there was simply dirt for the bottom part of the drain. The drain from the utility room also contained the drain for the air conditioning and that is where there was lift.
When the ground gets wet it swells and actually jacks the house up into the air doing all sorts of damage.
I called my agent who called the claims office who sent out a company that they hire to do leak detection.
When I asked the guy about the lifting of the house he told me that it was surely the shrubbery outside doing it and not the huge amounts of water under the house. He was spouting the company line taught to them by the insurance company.
I called multiple foundation “experts” and that could be a book all unto itself! These folks for the most part, are crooks! just about as bad as the roofers that follow the hail storms..
They send out “sales folk” who try to scare you into doing something with them and only them and you had best do it quickly as your home is fixing to break into multiple parts and then you would need more than a foundation, you may have to bulldoze and start from scratch.
Yes, I embellished the story a little but not much. They were all over the map however they all did say one thing that was consistent; the parts of the home that were up in the air were caused by water under the foundation.
The insurance folks sent over their engineer to detect why I was having issues and this was interesting as well. He had soil pulled to test for its “plasticity” well after the plumbing folks had been digging for sometime and had it pulled from areas where there were no water leaks, just tunnels that were made to get to the bad pipes.
Even the lay person can see from this chart that if you pull the sample to test from a part of the “dig” that was not near the leak the results will of course be skewed in favor of the ….wait for it….the insurance company!
I contacted the agency that regulates these folks. They reported that they had several complaints against this guy, he sides more with the insurance company in most of his cases.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Get your own independent specialist, these guys work for the insurance company and I suspect that in order to continue getting business from them, they must find for the insurance company most of the time or when they can cast a shadow of doubt.
Insurance is a necessary evil, and they are not your friends! They don’t care about you in the slightest. They care about revenue and since they can’t come break your legs, or burn your business or house, if you don’t buy insurance; they simply screw you on the back end! Like they might pay off, but then drop you.
My house was once hit by lightening. It did about ten thousand in damages. They paid off less deductible, but then cancelled my fire insurance! I had to purchase higher priced fire insurance through another carrier! There was no fire but since it is under the fire part of the policy guess what, they are not smart enough to differentiate between the two and Viola! These folks are not cute lizards with English accents or plucky ladies with a name badge. These folks are bean counters with attitude!
I could continue on but you get the point. Shop your insurance and get a deductible that you can live with, should you need it. Shop your insurance often as these guys buy business every now and then; so why not take advantage of lower rates.
There is no cheese in this maze!
A housing development company purchased some land that has been a field for years recently. After clearing the land of trees, brush and all of the other vegetation the lands inhabitants came into our neighborhood. We have been run over with rabbits, coyotes, bobcats, snakes, rats not to mention mice, raccoon’s and opossum’s.
While sitting in my office I heard the unmistakable sound of something in the attic. Making a note to contact the pest control folks I thought little more about it. A few days later opening up my closet door I was met with what looked like a cat toy at first until I realized that it was a dead rat! Well, mostly dead; the rat found the cat or the cat the rat and its neck was broken pretty efficiently. Not bad work for a nine month old kitten. There was no blood, no fuss no muss, just a dustpan and broom and out to the trash.
Later that night there was another one that was discovered just outside the closet, this would be the female of the two, also with a broken neck. This one was dead.
I made certain that all of the places that any creatures could make it into the attic were closed off and the sounds stopped. A few days later there was the unmistakable smell of dead critter in the attic. The two had made babies and moved into the attic right before a cold snap, and made a nest, and discovered the cats.
Google “pest control” and people come up that lead you to believe that they will find and remove dead critters in your attic! I called and spoke with them regarding same. I made sure to tell them what I needed, and an appointment was set up.
Two days later the guy shows up, heads up to the attic and in seconds informs me that I have an “infestation!” He tells me that it would do no good to put out traps as he would only get a few dozen before they would become smart and know that it was not a safe food source and leave them alone!
Did you remember me saying that the noise had stopped?
I let him give his spiel as I was now interested at how much this “removal of some dead baby rats / mice” would cost. They don’t believe in poison because the animal will just die somewhere and the smell will be there. He tells me that the poison is cyanide and these rats can live through it. The truth of it is that the “poison” is Warfarin or other anticoagulant that taken in large quantities causes the animal to seek water where it hemorrhages and dies. Yep, that is the same blood thinner that they give us!
I am then confronted with a “free” class on rats. It would seem that they emit a pheromone that can be detected for miles. Once they inhabit your attic it is like a neon sign posted in rat for “VACANCY!” When you get an infestation it has a really bad smell that these trained “salesmen” can detect with their “good sniffers.”
He further went on to say that they make babies often and in a few days you have hundreds of them living in your attic and they carry all sorts of diseases including the Hantavirus!
These guys “the rats” are smart and they bore holes in your air ducts and use them as “super highways” defecating and pissing in them which as it dries gets blown by the air and heat into your house and you in turn breath it in and become sick! You might even die! There is no way that you can take a chance on breathing rat shit!
Bottom line, they would need to come out and suck out and take out all of the insulation from the attic down to the ceiling. They suck up the rats and their offspring at this time and “it is kind of gross to hear the rats being sucked up!” Then they spray some disinfectant. They remove all of the insulation on your air ducts and repair any damage to the air duct itself caused by the rats and re-insulate them. Then they re-install up to 4 inches of cellulose insulation treated with Boric Acid as this burns the skin of any rodent that they miss. Oh, I forgot that they kick you and your pets out of the house for a few hours while they use some sort of machine that puts a mist inside the house that kills all bacteria and or viruses.
So, the two rats / large mice that had babies somewhere in the attic that died of starvation which was supposed to cost $65 to remove them; was now going to cost $12,000.00 with a lifetime warrantee or $11,000.00 without the warrantee, and since I have an AARP card, I get another 10% off which brought it down just under Ten Grand before taxes! “When can we get started?”
Now, he said all of this with a straight face…
Please he said, look us up on the BBB or Angie’s list, people think we are great! “Think” being the operative word. Since I have heard no more noises in the attic I decided to put him off just a little while “so I could laugh without insulting him.” Truthfully I have been in the attic and seen nothing that would lead me to believe that there was anything to think about other than those two that met the cat! But, I went to the hardware store and purchased some mouse traps and rat traps.
Loaded them up with premium peanut butter, and put them in an area where there was some mouse / rat dropping. Nothing to date has tripped either trap! Now one would think that if I had a $12,000.00 infestation, that one of them would have been stupid enough to not recognize the trap, and go for the peanut butter, yes?
Get more than one opinion! As I get older I swear there must be a target on me somewhere that says, here is an old guy and they are stupid!
I am dubious about reverse mortgages…
If you listen to the commercial carefully, as he tells you that there is no hidden traps, etc he says that you can get “your equity” out of your home in the form of a reverse mortgage.
I am no math wiz but lets say you purchased your home for $150,000.00 . You paid about half a million for it with interests and such, and it is now worth $750.000.00.
If I understand him correctly, and correct me if I am wrong, you can only get your original $150K paid monthly and the “loan” is paid back once the last person who took out the loan leaves the home. When you or your spouse “last one living, dies!”
So, do they get your $750K house for whatever fraction of the original equity that they paid you back, or do the heir’s get the rest of the $150K or, do they get to sell the home for whatever it is worth, and pay back the reverse mortgage folks?
Sounds too good to be true to me and maybe you don’t give a damned about your heir’s and maybe getting pennies back on the dollar is ok with you but, if it were I, I would look into this very carefully. Fred Thompson was a politician after all!
It would make sense to me to sell the home for whatever the market will bear and go live with the kids! Make sure that they have all of the cable channels, really good food and don’t mind waiting on you hand and foot, you know, the way that you did for them! Of course, having some money in a bank account looking like a carrot dangling from a stick would not be a bad plan either.
I might add to this as I think of more. There is plenty more I am sure but those are the highlights that come to mind.
If you know anything about this reverse mortgage stuff, I am interested in your take! I have only listened to the commercial, about a thousand times, and it does seem fishy!
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