Tag Archives: Real Estate

Am I Back?

7 months since my last post… I’m not going to apologize for the absence either. It’s been a fairly brutal time.

The house situation that occupied so many of my posts the last year is now close to resolved. Evil won also, as it almost always does nowadays.

The mortgage company foreclosed on the house, it was supposed to go up for auction 3 days ago but we haven’t heard anything YET. It’s a double edged sword at this point. If they didn’t cover the balance, we’ll be forced into bankruptcy. IF they did, Then we will be free and clear at the expense of somebody else being defrauded by the mortgage company.

Make no mistake also. The reason the mortgage company chose to sell it at auction vs listing it with a realtor is because there’s no legal obligation to disclose ANYTHING to a buyer when a house is sold at auction. This allows the bank to make as much money as possible and to screw over any buyer.

Truth? If it’s some developer or professional house flipper, I don’t care if they got screwed. Speculators and REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) people are responsible for much of the insane inflation in home prices. They don’t care that they’re pricing a growing portion of the population out of the market, only how much money they can make in the process.

THEN… There Was the F’ing Lawyer

What do you call a hundred dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

If you’ve heard that joke before, you probably recall the answer being “A good start”. At this point, I’d call it an environmental disaster. THAT is how little I think of lawyers anymore.

Ours took 10 months, and had only accomplished managing to lose a default judgment motion hearing regarding one of the defendants (the home inspection company) blowing off the lawsuit and refusing to respond to it. At the 10 month mark, we wrote him expressing our concern that he hadn’t even gotten initial discovery filed yet with one party, AND the other party replied to discovery saying that they couldn’t answer it because several key documents were missing.

He refused to answer anything via email and insisted we come to his office. When we did, he said if we didn’t have any faith in him, we should fire him and then he threw us out of his office.

Well, guess what?

I want to file state and federal BAR complaints against him, but he’d probably just weasel out of everything.

The New Wrinkle / Where To Go From Here?

So a new twist came about while I was playing Everquest 2. I met another player who claims to be a high ranking member of the North Carolina Democrat party’s Progressive Caucus. He offered to help with our situation and made a phone call or two.

So far nothing back from his connections (it’s been days), so I expect ZERO will come of it. Politicians, Activists and Lobbyists are all the same in my opinion:

Nothing in it for them, they’re not interested.

It DOES leave the question of where to go next though… Do we try to fight and expose things to the media, etc? Is there any point to that? The house is sold and the statute of limitations has run on the lawsuit, so even if we could find the one in a trillion lawyer who wasn’t afraid of work, we’re out of luck there.

I’d have to erase nearly everything house related here and create a separate site. Nobody is going to take a wannabe author who tried to use erotica to jump start their career seriously. It’d outright be weaponized against us. Everything nowadays is the politics of personal destruction after all.

Anymore, I’m feeling like the world doesn’t want saving nor remotely care what’s right or decent. Everybody is too busy looking for a free ride and to blame others for the problems they helped create themselves.

So am I back? I don’t know. The burnout factor now is massive. I felt like the blog here had a Return on Investment in negative numbers even before I disappeared as well.

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…

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…

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.

Follow Up: Following Evidence

Yes, time for a short update to yesterday’s post on Following the Evidence.

Two things happened today. First, I went down to the “new” house and did some more digging in preparation for meeting with a different attorney. My suspicions were confirmed about the door that the seller added in:

My picture was crooked, BUT you can see the bubble in the center shows that the threshold for the door IS level. BUT… when you put it on the floor near the threshold:

We’ve got some seriously uneven floor there. The ONLY way to get that door assembly level was to compensate for the uneven floor / foundation. Ergo, the seller HAD TO know that the house is sinking.

Side note; that MAY be asbestos flooring that was underneath the carpet also. Yet another thing to have checked.

We bought a tripod to put our laser level on, and assuming all was done correctly, I got some interesting readings from the various rooms of the house. The den is by far the worst area for foundation issues. There are other problem areas however. The other end of the house SEEMS to have the front corner rising and the back corner sinking. Both by just an inch or so. The entire center 1/3 of the house seems to be pretty level.

Notice I’m hedging my words here a little. The reason being is that I re-checked the wall which was in yesterday’s post, and this time it read as level. My best guess for the difference in readings is that yesterday the laser MAY have had it’s switch stuck in the ‘lock’ position, which would have kept it from self leveling.

I can’t help but wonder though, if that whole portion of the house is sinking, why is it only showing on two walls running North – South and NOT on the East – West running wall that connects to both of them? The sinking extends beyond the East-West wall by at least 15 feet, so something should be showing with it as well.

And THEN There Was The Lawyer:

Without going into a ton of particulars, this lawyer was a good deal more optimistic regarding our chances. There couldn’t be any commitments just yet, as we’d forgotten our paperwork, and he said he’d want to have a contractor that he uses look at the house to determine what he can offer expert testimony on.

So, what the case is going to come down to is what can shown that the seller at least SHOULD have had reasonable knowledge of, and therefore an obligation to disclose.

He MIGHT be able to play dumb about the termites for example. They were inside the wall. HOWEVER, a neighbor says he was warned about termites, and the seller had the carpeting up to do work, so an argument could be made that he might have seen a crack in the slab and termites.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the side door and the windows. I’ve already proven in this post that he had to make corrections for the foundation sinking in order to install those doors and windows correctly.

Things are also looking pretty good for building a case against the realtors and the inspectors as well.

Reality is we’re not going to know anything until Monday on the paperwork end of things. I’m delivering that in the morning. Regarding the physical condition of the house, that won’t be until Friday.

So, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The primary question is what kind of light.

Follow the Evidence! :D

Yes, a Grissom-ism from CSI… Hell, THE Grissom-ism

What am I talking about? The battle with our “new”, should be condemned house.

The last few days have been rough, so I haven’t posted anything much beyond replies. First, we went to a lawyer that had a killer rep for litigation. All we got was excuses for why it was perfectly OK for everyone involved with the transaction to screw us over. Georgia is a “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) state, and the lawyer tried to tell us that excuses blatant fraud and breach of contract. He even looked me straight in the eye and told me that realtors have no fiduciary responsibility to their clients. BIG mistake there. I was a realtor. I know the state and national standards for realtors.

As best I can figure reading their body language, the two lawyers didn’t want a case that wasn’t an easy, no work win, and they actually enjoyed the idea that some out of state people got screwed by a local.

We’ve found lots of other stuff wrong with the house at this point. One of the most severe turned out to be a potential good though however. Half the house has MAJOR foundation issues:

that’s the beam from an auto adjusting laser level. You can judge how much the house is drooping via the width of that picture. 2 1/2 Cinder blocks. Roughly 2 1/2 feet or 3/4 of a meter. If you go the entire width of the house, there’s a 5 to 6 inch drop from back to front. 15 cm for those elsewhere. We had called a foundation repair company to look at the place when we saw cracks in the outer wall:

The company representative, who seemed very knowledgeable, was freaked out by what he saw and rescheduled for next week when he can bring the company’s head structural engineer with him to figure out the best fix.

So WHY on Earth is this GOOD news you ask?

Because, the seller bragged on putting a new door in that wall, as well as new windows all over the house. Here’s where following the evidence comes in. A door and window won’t mount, much less open and close in an opening that’s shifted sideways diagonally. The seller had to extend those openings to allow for the door and windows to fit. Ergo there’s no way he could NOT have known the house had foundation issues and bad walls. Of course, he said exactly the opposite on his Seller’s Disclosure paperwork.

First piece of proof:

Look at how wide and tall that trim work is around the door. I guarandamnedtee you that when I pull that off, there’s going to be a massive gap around the door with uneven measurements around it. THAT so he could make the door fit despite the sinking corner of the foundation.

The window has the same kind of trim:

It ALL explains why he demanded to redo the threshold for the door himself as part of our closing contract. Can you say fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract, boys and girls? 😈

He also had to have gotten a look at the substandard foundation for the outer wall while putting that door in:

Now you see, that’s about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of concrete with mud underneath that’s been compacted to clay. Thing is, the building standard AND legal code for a concrete slab foundation is a minimum of 4 inches thick IF you’re going to put nothing heavier than a single story wood building on top of it. Thicker is better when you’re dealing with the weight of stone walls.

So all of this LOOKS LIKE gross negligence on the home inspector’s and appraiser’s parts as well.

Follow the evidence to the logical conclusion.

Well, we’ve got an appointment with another lawyer this afternoon. If he says we still have no case, I’ll have to say Georgia is more corrupt than a third world banana republic.

Today’s the first day I’ve felt good in two months.

Too bad (for him) that Bubba was too stupid to think us dumb city folk could understand what it takes to properly frame a door or window.

It’s a Stone Building…

So, OF COURSE we have… TERMITES!

Yes, the latest round in the bad comedy that refuses to die; our new house.

Well, a bit of background: Intuition told me (partially based on the condition of the electrical outlets in the room), that we needed to tear down the wood paneling in the den. We needed to know if there was anything bad hidden back there…

Well, sho’nuff…

I thought it was just dry rot at first. It’s a 62 year old house after all.

Side Note here: For those who haven’t spend weeks learning building practices and codes like I’ve been forced to… Building a frame like this to mount wood paneling to a stone wall is a standard practice. The boards are called “furring strips” and APPARENTLY the primary reason for them is so you can run wiring and such between the stone and the wood paneling.

Well, as the pics show, subterranean termites SOMEHOW got through a solid concrete slab foundation, devoured the bases of the furring strip assembly, and then worked their way up the wall:

The mud tubes going up the wall are nature trails for termites… Not that they didn’t make a mess of the wood also. The first picture is about 1/2 way up the wall.

Note that despite the furring strips, the electrical was still cut into the cinder blocks and newspaper (AKA kindling) was used to sort of plug the hole.

To quote AC / DC; “It’s criminal. There ought to be a law. Criminal. There ought to be a whole lot more.” Oh that’s right, there ARE. We just don’t believe in actually enforcing building codes here.

Excessively snarky commentary inserted here.

Keep in mind that this IS a brick and cinder block house, so it wouldn’t be all that bad IF that was as far us as the little bastards went, BUT:

THAT is the ceiling. It means that the termites MAY (probably) have gotten into the roofing and / or the natural wood plank ceiling in the den. If they’ve eaten up the rafters or the plywood under the roof shingles, we’re talking multiple tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Sometimes I think God really does NOT hate me, nor have a sick sense of humor, BUT then I ask myself… “WHO gets termites in a brick and cinder block building?!?”

Blasphemy aside, depending upon how things go with attorneys we’re interviewing, this MAY all turn into a series of posts on what NOT to do when buying a house, as well as several DIY fix up projects.

OH… And before anybody brings it up, we DID pay for a pre-purchase WDP (wood destroying pest) inspection, which was rubber stamped good to go.

By the time we’re done suing people, I’m retiring to the Maldives.

My Month From Hell…

As I’ve hinted at a few times, things have been going… rough with the new house. I’m finally ready to begin to tell the story here.

So, where to start?  We looked at several other houses even after putting in the offer on the cinder block place.  Suffice it to say that nothing under $350k here is problem free.  We ended up following through on the block house after all. In case you’re wondering, the law here gives you a limited window to back out of a Real Estate purchase on top of the normal contingency windows (inspection, loan approval, etc…) before closing.

I’m still not sure if that was a mistake.  It’s been a running battle with the seller and his agent ever since.  First it was getting concessions on repairs needed, which needless to say is normal.  Then we couldn’t get them out after closing paperwork was signed.  It took a $500 a day occupancy fee to get them to clear out.  And clear out they did at that point, like greased lightning.  After that was where the real fun began.


Of the three repairs we asked for 1 was technically done, 1 was done half-assed and will need to be redone, and the third was not done at all, BUT it did have a work order falsified by a local contractor to say it was done.


Technically done was the side door to the house.  The framing at its base was unfinished, and it was allowing water in under the door and along the slab.  Did I mention it rains so much here that it makes the tropics look like New Mexico?  He put in a sill plate to seal off the door entrance, but didn’t concrete over the area he’d carved out of the slab to install the door.  End result; there’s a ditch under the carpet in front of the door.


Half-Assed done was the roof.  It’s 8 years old and not in bad shape, but the major swings in seasonal temperatures here have created “nail pops“, where the nails back out of the roof a bit.  That in turn can push up shingles partially and cause them to curl.  All we asked for was that they drive back down the nails and throw some sealant under the loose singles.  Easy job, even if a little time consuming.  Well, they did maybe 2/3 of it and used low grade silicone sealant to (sort of) tack down the shingles.  End result; it needs to be done all over again to keep the roof intact. 


NOT Done was the house electrical system.  It was built in 1959, right at the start of “modern” (ie the last version of) two wire systems that are now retired in favor of 3 wire, fully grounded systems.  So, no knob and tube or aluminum wiring at least, BUT nothing is grounded, which is horrible for modern electronics of any sort.  The seller had already upgraded the circuit breaker box to current standards and had installed 3 prong outlets in the entire house.  No ground though; he just hooked the two wire wiring to the three wire outlets and tried to pass them off as properly updated per NEC code.  Our home inspector caught that they weren’t, so we said that we wanted those outlets properly grounded as a condition of sale.  He agreed, then apparently had a contractor friend forge a work order saying that the work had been done.  “Trust but Verify” as Reagan said.  After we FINALLY got them out of the house, I went through with an outlet tester and found the only areas properly grounded were the kitchen and bathroom where he’d ran new wiring to for previous remodeling work.


Same general idea with the other two jobs, once checked up on.  Partially my fault for allowing closing to go through before they were out of there.  I’m going to plead detrimental reliance however, since our own realtor assured us this guy was a well established contractor with a sterling reputation, and a virtual pillar of the community (huge town of 3600 there, lol)

Side Note: Trying to translate from Legalese to English, detrimental reliance in this case means the victim followed the bad advice of an expert professional on a given matter. Such as an electrician telling you it’s OK to stick a fork in an electrical outlet, with wet hands no less. A few other circumstances apply but it’s essentially malpractice for professionals other than doctors and lawyers.


Then when we got a chance to thoroughly look the place over, the exterior windows (all but two of them were unsealed on the outside.  One of them even had ivy growing into the gap.  Personally, I can’t believe I missed all of that either.  I saw new windows, and new looking bricks with clean, well formed mortar though.  I didn’t think I had to worry about if he’d finished the job and fully sealed the exterior of the windows:

He also left two holes in the exterior walls where the old, in-kitchen hook up for the washer and dryer used to be:

Fortunately, I have many talents:

It’s actually amazing what one can do with a YouTube video or two and simply RTFM 😉

Yes, that’s patched with actual concrete for a proper, similar materials patch.  Same with the smaller nearby hole that I patched.  There are other, smaller holes that I still need to patch though.  These two holes were hidden behind furniture and boxes to deliberately conceal them.


OH, I forgot to mention that the sellers failed to inform us of a roach infestation as well.  When they finally got out, and we went to look at the place, the house reeked of cheap carpet shampoo and roach spray.  There were dead roaches all over the carpet also.  Unfortunately, this area only requires disclosure of wood destroying pests.  Ergo there’s not much we can do on that specific one.  Despite apparently cleaning the carpets, they also managed to leave the house filthy.  Even the aforementioned carpets don’t feel anywhere near clean.


What really set me off regarding the entire situation is that when the violations of the closing contract came to light, EVERYONE involved with the transaction (including our own agent) just threw up their hands and said “oh well”.  They got their money, so they don’t care.  Take advantage of my good nature and risk my possible wrath.  Rub it in my face that you did so, and guaranteed it’s going to get ugly.  So, I’ve spent the last two weeks going through real estate laws and building codes online at night after working on the house all day.  What have I found, you ask?


Well, first the renovated bathroom, all the exterior windows, the new side door, the new electrical panel (circuit breaker box), and hell maybe even the new-ish A/C system were all done without the required building permits.  The holes in the wall, the unfinished windows, the improperly wired / switched out electrical outlets (along with several other things) are all building code violations.  Digging into some of the outlets to check the wiring turned up things like this:

That’s the hired electrician sitting there, staring in disbelief

Yes, that’s gravel pouring out of the outlet.  I wasn’t sure what to make of that at first, but a little research turned up that cinder block walls sometimes use “aggregate” (pebble) material as insulation in the hollow center portion of the block.  This jabroni doesn’t even know how to keep the crap out of the ‘gang box’ for the electrical outlets though.  I found jury-rigged, mismatched and spliced together wire in other outlet boxes and wood chips from the wood paneling in others.  The electrician that looked over the house recommended a whole house rewire.  The previous owner also left uncapped gas lines where he had his grill tied into the house gas system, where there was a gas powered space heater that he removed and where the dryer was. 


Sooooo… long story short, we went from something that could have been settled easily with a “My bad, we ran out of time.  Take care of it and send me the bill”, to escalating this up to the point where I’m out for blood.  We’re going to sue the previous owner for breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation.  I’m also going to do everything I can to get his contracting license, and that of his electrician friend, pulled for the building code violations and fraudulent work order as well.  Oh yes, and go after his realtor for the same reasons as well as acting in bad faith.  Somebody’s losing their real estate license or is at least going to end up with one hell of a fine to the state department of real estate and Realtor’s Association.

SICK Cat Too…


And if all that wasn’t enough…  One of our two cats got really sick and turns out to have a massive internal cyst in her abdomen area which will require surgery.  The HIGHLY reputable vet hospital (extreme sarcasm noted, I hope) only took $1500 dollars to make the diagnosis of a cyst.  We haven’t even gotten to treatment yet. 

 
So yeah…  It’s been a hell of a month. And there’s no resolution in sight for ANY of it yet…

A friend recently posted in her blog about “letting it go”. Normally good advice but…

NOW it’s “Beer for my Horses” time: