Dumpy turned into a water park:
I wish I had images for you. But I was busy playing in the water. And by playing, I mean, yelling for a bucket and running to the main water valve to shut it off. Obviously, some previous owner let the house freeze and the pipes burst. “No problem”, I thought. I had a little experience in soldering pipes in the past. Look at what I built! Not the chair, silly, the trombone!
Yes, it plays. Exactly like you’d expect from a sweet, sweet homemade trombone. The mouthpiece is even a high-pressure fitting and the bell is ½ a toilet float. Remarkable.
So, I got my torch, solder, flux, and put my trombone-making skills to work. What I found out that day, was that plumbing leaks are very hard to discover. I can’t tell you an inspector would have found this problem. The bank wouldn’t allow us to turn on the water for obvious reasons. The bright side is that when you turn on the water, the holes become much more visible. I spent the entire day down there in that basement turning off the water, soldering pipes, and turning on the water to find yet another leak downstream from the first. Your dad told you to never let the heat go out in your house and you just thought he didn’t want to get cold. But your Dad knew something. And I learned it that day. I’m not sure how many leaks I patched when I decided to scrap the entire thing and change to PEX.
PEX is amazing. I’m not a plumber, but if I were, I’d hate PEX. It makes the job almost too darned easy. It’s cheap, flexible, easy to install inmost places, and I suspect it is less susceptible to freezing damage (still, don’t let it freeze). It took me all of the next day to PEX-ify that entire house. That is another nice thing about split-foyer houses: generally, the plumbing is all in a central accessible location and you don’t have to tear out walls to get to the plumbing.
I also replaced the main water-valve and we do have to have a little heart-to-heart about that. It is very tempting to shut off the water to the house yourself and it is easy to turn that little valve. These older houses a lot of times use a gate valve. Once they get old, they have one turn left in them and once you close the valve (shut off the water) they may strip out and never open again. At least they don’t get stuck open (usually). Be ready that once you shut off the water, you may not be able to get it on again. The city made me put in a double check valve backflow preventer and I was good to go.
I was living in this place now, and our state allows me to do my own electrical work on my house as long as it is inspected after the work is roughed in. My properties I buy now are done by licensed plumbers and electricians but this was my first property and I was in DIY mode. The kitchen light would not turn on. Checked the breaker – seems to work just fine. Pulled down the light globe and the whole base was burnt. It was like there was a fire in there and I marveled that the house was still standing. Especially with me flipping switches willy-nilly. I removed the fixture to see that there was some soot in the box but no damage. Unfortunately, the wiring was scorched and the insulation melted off in places. This is why you should never put a higher wattage bulb in than what is rated for the fixture. It can get too hot and burn.
I ended up having to replace the wiring up into the attic to fix that problem. Of course, it was a 100-degree summer day and that task finished me for the day. With the light fixed my wife could get in on the fun and we moved onto windows. There were two in the dining room that needed replacing and we did those ourselves, which was about as fun as you can spend an afternoon in your new house. We moved some cabinet lowers and got a laminate countertop installed professionally.
By now, we were doing just fine on our budget, so we decided to blow it up and hired a bunch of contractors. We got a painter for the outside of the house, a roofer to replace the roof on the house, garage, and backyard shed, someone to put in new carpet, concrete driveway and repair the sidewalk. We did some light landscaping work ourselves and fixed the chain link fence out back. I also replaced some siding that had rotted. Appliances arrived, the garage filled up with mountains of stuff, and we moved in. Is that what it means to downsize?
Some of these problems could have been prevented with inspections. Keep in mind that on a REO you are not going to be able to negotiate much with the bank. You can try, it’ll take lots of time, and you won’t get much. In the end the inspection would have made me have less surprises – I would still have bought the place. The inspection would not have helped me pay less for the property. Unless you are ready to do and pay for some major work yourself, get the inspection.
Next time we’ll go over the numbers.