Author Archives: Silk Cords

Four Years…

Yep, 4 ‘Glorious’ Years…

This was actually about a week ago. Things have just been a mess here, and I didn’t get around to this sooner.

It’s hard to believe I’ve actually been here this long, and how little I feel I’ve accomplished beyond dealing with a never ending, ever escalating series of disasters that keep me from doing any real writing.

Follow the Evidence, Ep. 3 – Mudjacked

Yes, time for another personal / house drama update. O_O And another round of follow the evidence!

When I last left off here, I was complaining that our lawyer had some… unorthodox practices. Seems that the whole “fill in the blank” rough draft of lawsuits is normal for him. This based on talking to another client (who had referred us). Perhaps it’s about saving billable hours, maybe it’s about getting a client to think about what they’re really doing and / or asking for.

It’s only the rough draft that’s done this way however, AND the lawyer assures us that HIS inspector was just speaking casually in his report. “Walkthrough” supposedly meant walkthrough by an inspector.

At any rate, I dropped off a thick binder full of evidence, documenting everything we’d found and had misrepresented to us, along with a ton of supporting photos:

I categorized it all and separated it using old school tabbed divider pages also. When I dropped it off at the law office, the legal assistant said they should hire me to organize their paperwork, lol. I told them I was available. 😛

After raising a little hell, we FINALLY got the engineer’s report back later yesterday (Monday). It called for 37 footing pylons to stabilize and lift the walls as well as boosting up the entire foundation with high density foam. Since I already know from talking to the initial inspector that those pylons run $1500 each, we’re talking $55,500 just for that. Then we have to add in the foam, repairing and leveling the foundation and new flooring. What I suspected would be a $60,000 estimate is likely going to be over $100,000. I’m supposed to have an official estimate later this morning.

Let’s not also forget that we have to add in asbestos abatement to the mix as well so that it’s safe for the workers to do their thing.

Mudjacked!

Here’s where it gets “fun”. If you’ve ever used that spray foam in a can sealant that home depot sells for sealing openings where faucets come through the exterior walls, etc… you’ve probably seen how quick it decays. Give it two years and it’s rotting out.

Because of that, I decided to do some research on this foam that they use to support foundations. Turns out it’s supposedly good indefinitely (must be great for the environment), but the ground underneath it might still continue to shift or erode. Ergo, most places that do this treatment offer a 25 year warranty. The site I was reading up on this mentioned that is superior to “mudjacking”, and was taking it’s place as an industry standard.

So I got really curious there and decided to start researching. Mudjacking is a similar, but older process that uses a mix of wet mud and sand mixed with just a little bit of portland concrete to firm it up. It looks something like this:

It took about a minute to hit me… Deja Vu: the feeling you’ve seen this someplace before.

I can’t be 100% certain without testing, BUT I’d bet dollars to donuts that tan stuff underneath the THIN foundation edge IS mudjacking mix.

That means that somebody, likely the seller, was aware of and concerned enough about the foundation issues to try to jack up and support it. That’s a MAJOR failed disclosure, and a huge one for our side of the lawsuit if we can establish that fact, or even put doubt in the judge or jury’s mind(s).

It’s a MAJOR expense if we can’t get the sale rescinded. That’s our goal at this point as opposed to any sort of monetary judgment. I have little doubt that everyone we’re suing will either hide assets or declare bankruptcy to avoid paying any sort of judgment. Right now, our ballpark estimate is around half the value of the house, maybe more in repair costs.

And on top of everything else… when we were down there yesterday, the thermostat was not working. More money, more money, mo…

Friday Night 80s – Round 7

It’s that time again! A little bit of 80s music and movie mayhem. Tonight, we’re going back to the Future… err past? 😀

And with that, a little bit of music from the movies as well:

And for those of you wanting something a little more rocking:

Meals Monday: Steak Fettuccine Alfredo

I’m battling to get back to a normal routine the past few days. Part of that is I did make a concerted effort to create a nice dinner for us last night. That offering was Fettuccine Alfredo (with my homemade Alfredo sauce) topped with steak. Note the sauce recipe is towards the bottom on the linked to post.

As always start with fresh pasta:

Wow, focus was off there. 😦 Oh and that’s a loaf of Rosemary Parm Bread next to the pasta, courtesy of Costco. Not as good as homemade, but decent.

While the water was heating up, I stared the strips of steak sauteing in butter and garlic:

two in a row, so much for the high end camera on the new samsung

I’m throwing in the above picture primarily to show off that colander. This was right before I dumped the water. It was a Christmas present from my mom a couple years back. Super handy as it holds tight to the pot, is heat resistant silicone, and is much easier to clean up than a full colander.

Beyond that, since the camera was acting up, I’ll cut this a little short. Aside from the bread and pasta dishes, I also cooked up some butternut squash and added a touch of cinnamon to it. Viola; one almost gourmet meal:

Gibbs Rule Number 36?

Rule #36: If you feel like you’re being played, you probably are.

That’s where I’m at now with the house lawsuit. Our lawyer has been waiting for a report from his own hired inspector to detail everything I’ve already gone over in-depth. To a degree, I understand that. As much as I’ve educated myself the last two months, I’m NOT a professional building contractor nor an inspector.

The lawyer has the report now, and is apparently eager to move forward. We got a copy of the report, and TO ME, it looks very weak at best, if not outright torpedoing our case. Worse is that it backpedals on multiple things that I’d discussed with the inspector while he was at the house.

He left out the picture of the extremely shallow foundation slab, and blew off the vertical cracks in the walls, saying that the uneven foundation was just normal settling for a 63 year old house for starters. That’s HUGE, as it’s the biggest expense in repairing the house, and the keystone of the lawsuit.

Only that top grey bit is concrete, that’s a few inches of clay beneath it.

He also said that most of the problems should have been evident during a walkthrough.

Our lawyer is saying that the inspector is talking about a “walkthrough” by the previous inspector. In formal debate and even more so in law however, wording is everything. Buyers do a walkthrough. Inspectors do an inspection. If I’m opposing counsel, I’m going to pounce all over that wording and apply the proper or common meaning. Then I’m going to make it look like the buyers were idiots who didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention and are now crying over their own lack of due diligence.

The reality is, I specifically asked the inspector we first hired about the roof and foundation (among other things), and he LIED his ass off about ALL of it, telling us it was fine. Combine that with the seller having furniture and boxes hiding several issues and it was easier than it should have been to get burned.

That’s getting off track however. The main point is that I’m having a REALLY hard time believing that our lawyer wants to go to court with documentation that makes our case look so weak. I was undefeated in debate in high school and collage and I’d NEVER use that paperwork to support an argument. It plays right into the other side’s hands. My mom, on the other hand says “Trust him, he’s supposed to be working for your benefit”, etc… (and that I always see backstabbers everywhere).

Yeah, well… Guess what? The original inspector was supposed to be working for our benefit, and so was the Realtor that we hired. I think we all know how THAT worked out.

So yes, at this point I am wondering it this lawyer is just setting us up to fail while collecting thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees along the way. Gibb’s Rule #36.

While we’re at it, numbers 3(A), 8, 35, 39 and 40 also seem to apply here. To say nothing of number 13

Available as a mousepad on Etsy… And a coffee cup. Not by me.

OK, yes, it’s just a TV show and Gibbs is just a now retired character from the show. He was a somewhat flawed character also. None the less, many of those rules do indeed make sense. There are occasional nuggets of wisdom in the turd pile that is TV programming philosophizing.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget what Shakespeare had to say about lawyers…

The Origins of Halloween

A Reblog from Last Year. 🙂

Silk Chatters

Well, first… Happy All Hallows Eve, all. 🙂

Image from History.com

Sheree did a post mentioning how France celebrates “All Saints Day” on Nov 1st instead of Halloween. I thought it would be fun to go into the origins of Halloween, given the day and all… 🎃

The general consensus is that Halloween is an evolution of the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain (actually pronounced sow-in or sow-win. And I wonder why I have no luck with Gaelic despite my roots, lol). In reality, several cultures such as the Romans (and Egyptians IIRC) had similar holidays around this time. Samhain probably is the primary influencer of modern Halloween however.

LONG story short, Samhain was a recognition or belief that the spiritual veil between the material world and all of the spiritual realms is thinnest on this day of the year. This had both good and bad effects for the Celts…

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Going Under for the Third Time, and Regrouping

Yes, a bizarre phrasing for a title, but there’s an explanation for it. Keep reading to find out how yesterday’s meeting with our lawyer ties to my 6th grade graduation party in Northern California, AND the lessons taken from that connection.

The Actual Meeting:

The meeting yesterday morning went as I worried it might. We weren’t shot down, BUT the lawyer was STILL unwilling to commit to anything yet. He didn’t stay long either, which was also expected. His main purpose was to introduce us to the contractor he was using to do the home inspection. After that, I walked the inspector through the house and showed him everything we and other hired experts had found.

Getting back to the lawyer however, he said he can’t make any decisions until he sees the report from his inspector, AND he still insists that there’s missing paperwork from the original home inspection company. Primarily in the form of a signed contract.

More on the trip to the inspection company’s office in a minute.

So, yes, despite telling the lawyer multiple times we’re hanging on to financial life by a thread, he was non-committal. On one hand, it just plain pisses me off. On the other hand, and looking at the world through the other party’s eyes, attorneys have to under-promise and try to over-deliver. They get sued for malpractice and trashed online by most people for any perceived lack of perfect results. “It looks like you MIGHT have a case, IF…” gets turned into “You said we had a case (even though the IF never came to pass) and I’m going to sue you!”. So it’s yet another example of where the greedy and self-entitled have made life miserable for the rest of us.

So, (again) yes, I understand his perspective and need for caution here. None the less, that does nothing to resolve our short term issues. Likewise, the potential long term victory doesn’t mean anything if we don’t survive the short term disaster.

Lessons, Regrouping…

Here’s where we get to that tie-in to a sixth grade graduation party decades ago…

I kept my cool, but I was quite fed up at the point the lawyer left the meeting. After a few minutes though, a cold calm hit me and I realized if we’re going to get out of this mess it MAY (hell, probably will) fall upon us to do it ourselves.

Hell, half of the problem thus far is that we’ve gone against our better judgment and trusted “experts” instead. We let a realtor tell us about buyer legal protections and area conditions instead of researching. We let that same realtor give us horrible contract advice when we should have known better. We trusted a home inspector’s word over our own eyes, etc…

On the way home after the home inspector was done, the graduation party comparison hit me. My sixth grade graduation was a (swimming) pool party at a rather modest resort in the area. I went back to the pool area for some reason (I can’t remember exactly why) during the time food was being served in another area. I got shoved into the deep end of the pool by somebody who had snuck up behind me. Hard. Right into the dead center of the deep end.

Harmless prank right? It would have been IF I could swim back then. I had flip flops on also, which act exactly the opposite of flippers if you’ve ever tried to swim with them on.

I came up three times, gasping for air and yelling for help. Third time going down, I knew my air was running out and “this is how I’m going to die?” ran through my mind. That same previously mentioned calm, cold, steely determination hit me, and I kicked off the flip flops and managed to fight my way back to the surface and dog paddle to the edge of the pool.

I survived, but only because I got absolute determination to fight my way out of it and accepted that nobody else was going to save me.

For those who are wondering, nobody was there when I finally got to the edge. Everybody else had been in another area (indoors IIRC) eating, and the one girl who later confessed to me had ran off and left me. The prank I can forgive. She didn’t know. It took a good while to let go of the fact she didn’t grab a life preserver ring or that silly pole for rescuing swimmers though.

Instead she ran off, knowing I was in trouble but more concerned with covering up her mistake.

End of that rant though. The similarities did strike me. We’re figuratively drowning now, and it sure as hell looks as nobody is going to help us. No life guard then, apparently no life guard now.

and Resolutions:

IF I was feeling a little more spiritual at the moment, I might do same naval gazing and speculate if the whole experience today, and my seeing a connection to WAY back then was some sort of spiritual message from my subconscious, higher self, the Divine, etc… Maybe it was. Right now, I’m more worried about resolving the mess though.

After a long talk between ourselves, we decided we could struggle through ONE month of double payments (rent and mortgage) before it took too big a toll on our dwindling savings.

We also decided, after reading context clues from the lawyer, and some feedback from the inspector that it SEEMS like we have a good case. It MAY even be a matter of how many people we can sue as opposed to IF we can sue anyone. The home inspector said, for example, that when he does this kind of work for the lawyer that he normally spends four hours trying to find anything the lawyer can use in court.

That also tells me the lawyer has plenty of experience with this kind of case.

At any rate, the inspector left our place in two hours with dozens of pictures and notes, and just shaking his head at some of the things he saw. Good for us or bad? Hard to say. It definitely means the house is a disaster area, which works in our favor. It could also mean that a judge or jury could decide we should have seen it all ahead of time and it’s thusly all on us.

Getting back to that one month though… We decided that we’ll give the lawyer two weeks to at least present a planned map forward. No expectations of a guaranteed win. Life doesn’t work that way. Without a battle plan though, we have to take things into our own hands.

We’re exploring a handful of options. Trying to turn the mortgage company and their army of lawyers against all involved is one option. An absolutely MASSIVE insurance claim is another. How much would be covered is a huge question however. Lastly there’s just bankrupting out of the house and forcing the mortgage company to deal with it all. That means years of renting and fighting hard to rebuild our finances, but we’d be going in with eyes open and knowing it’s better than living in a house full of asbestos and radon with leaning walls and a collapsing roof.

The only thing I know for sure is we aren’t going down without a fight.

And Then There Was That “Missing” Inspection Paperwork…

Later that afternoon, we went to the inspection company’s office. We told them a story about a computer hard drive crash and asked for a copy of our file so we’d have all our test results to show a future buyer what we’d found and repaired. A necessary deception even though I dislike deceptions in general. The idea was to avoid getting them looking too closely at receipts or actual signed documents, as well as not tip our hand of potential legal action.

We got a folder full of printed out paperwork. No receipts and no signed contract though. No record of any payments in our bank account either. That tells me one of two things:

Either they’re complete screw ups whose oversight caused them to overlook the signed contract that covers their rear in the case of this kind of screw up, OR… There’s some legitimate deep and dirty collusion going on between our realtor, the home inspection company and others involved here.

That last bit may seem like a reach, but there are numerous other pieces of admittedly circumstantial evidence that all point that way. Proof? No. Enough to cause suspicion that something is rotten in Denmark? Yep. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

But then again, we do live in interesting times, don’t we?

Nothing to do but continue to Follow the Evidence, and keep pushing to get people to look at it. Come, Watson. The game is afoot!

Under Pressure: Our Personal “Doomsday Clock”

That slightly dramatic picture is part of DC Comic’s “Doomsday Clock” event that rebooted the DC universe for the 1 millionth time and incorporated The Watchmen reality into the main DC reality (sort of).

The melodrama is because today is the day we have our second meeting with our attorney and his home inspector at our recent purchased house. It’s no exaggeration to say that how this meeting goes is going to shape the direction of our lives for years. We’re less than a week away from a first mortgage payment on a house that isn’t (IMO) even safe to move into. In the mean time, our overpriced, it was supposed to be short term lease is up and we have to either pay even more to stay OR move out. To where though?

It’s been two months of constant searching for a clear path out, with every explored option only leading to further trouble and obstacles. For example, we got the test results back yesterday, and the flooring is definitely asbestos. The ceiling tile and attic insulation are cellulose though.

We’re rapidly running out of cash here, and there’s certainly NO way we can afford the $100,000 plus price tag on the costs to restore this house to where it should be. That does not include ANY upgrades either, by the way.

The stress is eating us both alive. At my personal worst, I had stage 2 hypertension and was slowly getting that under control. That’s gone. My spouse has a heart murmur and type 2 diabetes. We’re at the point of sleeping 12 hours a day from the stress.

Side note here; I frequently use superhero imagery and metaphors because I find in 80 years of existence, they’ve explored it all, no matter how over the top. A case and point is from the original “Secret Wars” back in the 1980s. The villains managed to drop an entire mountain range on the hero team, described as 150 Billion tons. Hulk held it up and saved the team. THAT is the level of pressure we’re feeling right now.

For anybody wondering about the exchange between Hulk and Iron Man, The Hulk had Banner’s mind at that point (like the last Avengers movie) and Rhodey was acting as Iron Man at the time.

There’s extreme stress over no direction out of this mess, there’s self-recrimination over not catching some of the issues ourselves, there’s tremendous anger at the people we hired to look after our interests and were legally and morally bound to do so. Yes, even frustration that the lawyer has been completely non-committal thus far.

The Options:

Working blind, we’ve come up with a few options or scenarios thus far:

If the lawyer is reasonably sure he can come through and win a case, we ride out whatever he has planned, SOMEHOW. Understandably nothing is ever a guarantee in legal circles. There’s a HUGE wildcard here also, since we don’t know if he can do anything about the mortgage payments while this is all being resolved.

If he says no case because the problems are something we personally should have noticed, then we’re stuck either trying to negotiate with the mortgage company to escape the house or get it repaired, OR we have to destroy ourselves financially and bankrupt out of the house.

In an ideal world, this would be so clearly bad that the lawyer would just be able to make a phone call, send evidence to the mortgage company and we could walk away. The mortgage company’s army of lawyers could then sue the hell out of everyone else involved in the transaction. As long as we recover our losses, I’m perfectly fine with that outcome.

I guess in a truly ideal world, massive punitive damages would be included also. I can dream, right? LOL.

Whichever way this goes, the wildcard of short term housing is still in full play. Long term also if we’re forced to bankrupt out of this mess.

Yeah… NO Pressure…

Guess I’ll have a little better idea in about 3 1/2 hours from now… Maybe…

Either way, today is our deadline. We HAVE to make some hard decisions one way or another. Doomsday clock is ticking, heh.

The House War Goes On…

So yeah… Not much posting the last week. Things are still pretty overwhelming here. Every time we think we’ve hit rock bottom, something else turns up wrong with the house we never should have bought.

It’s like a BAD reboot of the movie “The Money Pit”, except it’s so over the top nobody would find the story believable.

So let’s see… It started after closing when we FINALLY got the seller out, and were able to do the final walk through that we SHOULD have been allowed to do before closing.

The electrical was left ungrounded despite a contractual obligation to bring it up to code:

And once there were no longer boxes and crap blocking them, we discovered holes in the cinderblock walls:

We found windows that were installed without being properly sealed, the worst hidden by ivy:

We can’t even find a contractor that will look at the windows either. If it’s not a $15,000 full replacement job, they can’t be bothered. We did get an electrician to come out and look at the outlets and grounding issue however. When they did, this happened:

That’s Vermiculite ‘insulation’ pouring out of the wall through the electrical outlet’s box. More on that later. Right now, the biggest electrical company in Chattanooga, that even handles major industrial work, doesn’t want to touch this house.

Given the trouble with the outlets, we peeled back the wood paneling in the den and found TERMITES! In an all brick house mind you.

I got up into the attic and found that the home inspector lied his arse off about the condition of the roof. The rafter beams aren’t even flush against the crown beam of the roof:

Note the weathered look of the plywood decking on the right side vs the newer look on the left side also. Oh and those boards aren’t painted with any kind of wood stain. Nobody knows what it is yet, but the folks that have looked at it don’t think it’s black mold. You can also see wiring left hanging loose randomly, oh and the elephant in the picture; the crown support that’s supposed to be vertical is crooked as hell.

The roof itself has rotting decking, and a few rafters that need to be replaced as well, and it’s sagging in multiple spots:

The section around the chimney has actually gotten worse just in the month we’ve had the house. Why? The foundation is falling in everywhere. I already sort of covered that in my “Follow the Evidence” posts. This post is already getting REALLY graphic intense too. Suffice to to say that checking the house with a laser level didn’t find a level room in the house. Some walls were not only unlevel, they are leaning also.

We’re looking at $50,000 to $60,000 or higher to fix the foundations and walls. That will involve tearing up all the floors to add supports to the interior walls. So we’ll need to install new flooring afterwards too.

So another $10,000 to $20,000 for flooring on top of the $60,000 for the foundation and $15,000 for the walls. We haven’t even touched the improvements done without permits also… Things like the gas water heater plugged into an overhead light fixture’s socket:

THAT is why you want all work to have the legally required permits.

What doesn’t have a permit? All the windows except 1 were replaced (and left unsealed and without trim), a new side door was put in (without properly reinforcing the door way, leading to the accelerated roof collapsing), the new instant hot water heater, electrical rewiring of the kitchen, a completely renovated bathroom, a new electrical breaker box (sitting right on top of an outlet), new electrical and plumbing for the relocated clothes washer and dryer. Probably a few other things I’m forgetting right now as well.

So, then comes the kicker, part 1… Weeks later, we finally get our radon test results back…

We’re sitting at 3.13x the EPA maximum sort of safe limit for radon gas. Per other sites, that means we have a 1 in 30 chance of getting lung or some other cancer.

We also have an asbestos inspector come out and gather samples for testing. Long story short there, the flooring tile that I showed in my previous post is 90% likely to be asbestos.

Note how level the floor is also.

That vermiculite ‘insulation’ that I mentioned up towards the top of this post? Turns out that almost certainly contains asbestos as well. The primary (ie almost exclusive) mine location for it in the US up until… 1990 I think I read, had the vermiculite contaminated with asbestos.

The ceiling tiles and bottom most layer of attic insulation MIGHT also be asbestos. The technician that gathered the samples was a bit more optimistic about them.

Combine all of that with a dozen other issues I mentioned, like ant and roach infestations, and the utilities for the two neighbors behind us cut through our yard, and kind of close to the house (undisclosed easements), which in turn prevents us from doing anything like adding a garage without having to relocate the neighbors’ underground utilities, and the house is a freaking mess. We’re looking at a good $100,000 to $150,000 to make the house right, on a house valued at $250,000 (and is really only worth the land it’s sitting on).

It could even be more depending up how much asbestos abatement is needed.

A New Blogging Topic:

All of that leads me to a decision here… I’m going to start a new blog topic or series here on avoiding getting burned the way we did. I’ve learned FAR more than I wanted to about home inspections, building codes, etc… and it’s time to pass that on.

The sad reality is that you often can’t trust your realtor or home inspector to look out for you. Your realtor is all too often focused only on closing the sale and moving on to their other clients, especially if you’re under $400,000 in home value. Too many home inspectors are more interested in keeping their referral business from the buyer’s and seller’s agents to be thorough also. They won’t risk blowing up a deal to save your butt. The standard contract from the international inspector’s association includes a hold harmless clause in their contracts too, no matter how bad a job they did.

So yes, lots of new info coming your way soon.