June 03, 2005

Of Parrots And Real Estate

So what does a parrot have in common with the deal we've been working on our dream house?

They're both dead.

Stone dead.

Definitely deceased.

Bleedin' demised.

Passed on.

No more.

Ceased to be.

Expired and gone to meet the maker.


Bereft of life.

Resting in peace.

Pushing up the daisies.

Their metabolic processes are now history.

Off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile. IT IS AN EX-DEAL!!

We instructed our agent tonight to send a notice of termination of the purchase contract to the sellers of the "dream house" upon which we recently made an offer (accepted by the sellers). We're still in the initial option period, so we're only out the small option fee and the cost of the home inspection that took place yesterday. The inspection (done by a neutral inspector we hired, i.e., not recommended by either of our brokers) revealed several flaws, each of which would be reasonable to encounter in a 25-year-old house, but all of which together indicate a long-time lack of maintenance.

We're talking basic home maintenance here: fixing leaks, monitoring drainage, replacing rotten wood, addressing minor plumbing issues, making sure improvements are done without compromising the house's structural integrity. That, and the fact that in a termite-infested neighborhood they never had a standard annual termite inspection and as a result have six active infestations in the house. They should have done the termite inspections and adjusted or replaced gutters to prevent water damage and drainage problems as responsible home owners with any sense of pride in their home.

But they apparently didn't have much pride of ownership in their house until it came time to sell. And they want a premium price for an un-updated house with some serious underlying flaws. We could have put all those flaws aside if we had gotten the smallest amount of relief on the price and agreement to perform a detailed repair punchlist.

No deal, though, since we had unreasonable sellers, represented by an a$$hole of an agent, who refused to replace the rusting gutters and rotten wood, or to do a complete termite treatment on the house (with six active termite infestations). They wanted to spot-treat the termites and "repair" the rusted gutters. We've seen those kind of "repairs" done on houses that were being sold before -- essentially bandaids. Or clown makeup.

And we know what we're talking about, as we have performed the basic repairs and improvements necessary to keep our house sound during the 10 years we have been here. Not only that, but we have updated it, so that it looks modern, not dated.

We had already stretched ourselves on the offer price -- the new house was listed at well over the highest selling price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood over the last year. We had signed a contract at a price per square foot just about 20 cents per square foot less than the highest recent sale based on the potential we saw in the house (it's on a corner lot along one of the most desirable streets in the subdivision and has a great layout and perfect configuration of bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, and storage. And a nice pool, to boot).

Oh, and did I mention that our offer on the house is the only one the sellers have received over the last seven months?

After their agent came back offering a band-aid repair and no monetary relief, he really iced the deal when he told our agent, "tell the Laniuses we are doing the honorable and generous thing." What's honorable about a cosmetic repair that doesn't address the underlying years of neglect??!

Idiot. F**k head. A competent agent doesn't inject emotion like that into a deal. Or only does it under explicit instructions from the principal. So we have essentially told them to go f**k themselves with their "honorable generosity" and are taking our house off the market. At least until another house with the right amount of space opens up in our neighborhood again.

Oh, and the kicker? We received an almost full-value offer on our house in the middle of the house inspection and had to decline it.

Better to ride this roller coaster and get out now than to suffer in a Money Pit.

Posted by JohnL at June 3, 2005 11:41 PM

Bummer. On the other hand, run, don't walk away, from a house with active termites.

No other houses you would consider moving to?

Posted by: owlish at June 4, 2005 01:24 AM

When we were looking to move we found a dream house that we were stretching to afford until the inspection found the roof needed replacing. (And we were using an inspector recommended by their agent!) The seller offered us about a third of the roof cost and we walked away.

They later sold for less than they would have gotten if they had paid us for the roof. They had the gall to call us a year later and ask if they could have a copy of the inspection report. it seems they are being sued by the new owner over some moisture problems in the basement.

We eventually found a house that had some minor issues beyond being dated to the pre-Brady era! We got it for a great price. We got an estimate for the repairs and the seller agreed to deduct it from the sale price. We of course pocketed the money and did the repairs ourselves.

Do not give up.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at June 4, 2005 08:02 AM

Owlish, termites in our neighborhood are no big deal; literally everyone has them or has had them (including us!) There was no apparent structural damage from them. It's just that the sellers refused to do a whole-house treatment or to replace the wood that was creating a conducive condition for them. There aren't any other houses yet for sale in the neighborhood; we have hints of about three coming on the market in the near future.

And we are totally inflexible about neighborhoods. We know most all of the families here, like the elementary and middle school, and like our "oasis" of trees, hills, custom homes, and creek in the middle of suburban conformity.

Posted by: JohnL at June 4, 2005 10:08 AM


Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds really familiar. We're not giving up, though it is a bummer to take our house off the market after getting such great response in such a short time. We expect to be back in the market really soon (and our erstwhile buyers are looking for a right-of-first refusal on our house, so we should be able to move our house really quickly when we do find the right one.

Posted by: JohnL at June 4, 2005 10:08 AM


I feel for you, though they did know who they were dealing with, didn't they?

When I bought my condo, I learned they were going to hold an open house a few days after I saw it (I saw it the morning it came on the market), I put a bid that expired the day before the open house. When we went to closing (my bid was accepted), and the seller and I finally met, he laughed and said "Only another attorney would have framed the bid that way."

Posted by: Lysander at June 4, 2005 09:23 PM

JohnL, as Tycho once said, there's a whole skill tree involved in owning a house that I havn't invested in. And having seen your neighborhood, and not having met any neighbors, I would say it's pretty nice.

Good Luck.

Posted by: owlish at June 4, 2005 09:42 PM

John, It's probably a good thing that you didn't take the offer. I would have insisted on a complete fix to the termite problem. You will find another house. Where in Texas do you live?

Posted by: Lucy Stern at June 6, 2005 01:21 AM

"Clown make-up," I like! Too bad about the whole business, though. What a pain.

Posted by: Robert the LLama Butcher at June 6, 2005 07:26 AM

Actually, sounds like you dodged a bullet with this one. I bet that there would have been issues deep within the house (can you say, roof?) that would have only turned up later. Places where the sellers painted away evidence of leaks and did not repair, for instance. No, in this case, I'd say your first loss (option and inspection) is going to have turned out to have been your best loss. Something else will turn up.

And the really good news? Sounds like you priced your house absolutely correctly. And who knows? Maybe the potential buyer for your house will still be there later.

Posted by: RP at June 7, 2005 03:54 PM

Lucy, thanks for the comment. We had planned on not signing any contract to sell our house until we knew for sure we would have a place to move into. We live in Plano.

Posted by: JohnL at June 7, 2005 03:55 PM

RP, That's exactly how we feel now looking back on it. We could probably sell our house and find another great house in Plano, but we are intentionally staying in this neighborhood, for reasons that you would totally understand based on your post today about the birthday party you and the GC went to.

Posted by: JohnL at June 7, 2005 04:08 PM

I totally get it. I bet you'll find what you're looking for and I respect your reasons for staying close to a neighborhood you like.

Posted by: RP at June 7, 2005 06:41 PM
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