One week

What a difference a week makes … Or not.

A week ago, I was lamenting our frustrating home search, when, on Sunday everything changed -- or so we thought. That yielded to a banner week -- or so we thought. But tonight we’re back where we were a week ago -- sort of.

Here’s how it went down. Literally.

While I was looking at what we’ll affectionately call Dud House No. 19 last weekend, I noticed a home a few houses down that was marked for sale and asked our realtor if we could take a look at it. Almost all of the houses we’ve seen have been on our realtor’s suggestions, but this one was on me. That’s how we found our charming little house in K-Town -- I stumbled on it one night and asked our realtor about it -- so I thought I might work my magic twice. …

It -- House No. 22 -- had all the makings of a great house for us. It was in our ideal neighborhood (we’ve looked at five houses there now), and it was very similar to the house we let get away (which is located just a couple blocks away). It had three bedrooms and three bathrooms. A finished basement. Two-car garage. A breezeway and a big yard.

When we got our first look inside the place during a visit Sunday afternoon, it quickly was apparent the house would need a lot of updating. The home was built in 1976, and frankly -- aside from the carpet that had been replaced recently -- it appeared as though the owners hadn’t changed anything from the day they moved in. The living room had a dark panel wall. The light fixtures were dark and dated. The walls were laced with dark-stained baseboard and chair railings. The appliances came in a classic ‘70s mustard color.

But all of those updates were cosmetic things I knew Kates and I could handle, and have fun doing. Those updates paled in comparison to the size, layout and living possibilities of the home. Kates would finally have the dining room she’s long wanted. I could recreate my man’s lair/baseball room in the finished basement. The house had plenty of space for Phoebe to roam and play, including a loft area on the second floor. And I was having visions of spending summers sitting in the breezeway and coming up with ways to landscape the yard.

On Monday morning, we placed a solid offer on the home … And that afternoon, Kates was offered a teaching position at the only public elementary school in town. That deal went down like this: While Kates was visiting The ‘Ville a couple weeks ago, my college roommate’s wife’s brother – who teaches at the school and knew Kates was looking for a job -- tipped off my old roommate that a position was opening. I relayed the message to Kates and she went to work brushing up her resume. After a whirlwind process of securing transcripts, letters of recommendations and submitting her application, she was contacted about an interview. The search committee interviewed her Friday -- via Skype! How cool is that!? -- and on Monday she was offered the job. It was networking at its finest.

On Tuesday morning, the seller returned with a counter-offer on the house. We countered. He countered again. We countered again. And he accepted what likely would have been our final offer. … By Tuesday afternoon, I was delivering earnest money to our realtor and signing papers. (And I was handling all of that while navigating one of the busiest days I’ve had in my new job at the University, coordinating a series of television interviews and a series of extensive interviews for a radio station that was working on a feature story about one of our programs.)

By Wednesday, we had made some adjustments to try speeding up the sale of our house in K-Town, and we were feeling like all of the dominoes were finally falling in our favor. The clouds were parting. The picture was getting clearer.

But some uncertainty about our home offer began seeping in Thursday and Friday. Heated phone conversations. Confounding e-mail exchanges … I prayed for some signs to what we should do.

This morning, I met an inspector at our prospective home. A storm was brewing in the sky, but the property couldn’t have looked better to me. While the inspector began to jot down notes, I started snapping pictures of the yard and all the color in the trees and flower beds.
Once we’d moved into the back yard, the inspector noted some drainage concerns along a concrete patio. He found some significant moisture damage in the windows. Almost all of the screens needed to be replaced. He found some rotted siding. He had concerns about the way the air-conditioning unit was attached to the home. He said the roof, which supposedly was just six years old, appeared closer to 10 or 13 years old from moisture and a lack of ventilation. And when he worked his way inside some bushes that were hiding the front of the house, he discovered the brickwork on the front porch was bowed and ready to topple from the bottom up.

The homeowners hadn’t just gone 34 years without updating the home. They’d neglected it, too.

Inside the home, the inspector began telling me stories about a reputation he had among some builders and realtors as “The Deal Breaker” because he was so meticulous with his inspections.

We found more moisture spots in windows and ceilings. Most of the windows were stuck and couldn’t even be opened. We found leaky and corroded pipes ... Yet, as the dollars on fix-it projects continued adding up, somehow the inspector came to a conclusion that those mustard colored appliances still had some good years left in them.

The real deal breaker came after we entered the finished basement. As the inspector and I were checking a storage room, I discovered the carpet in one corner was soaked with water. We opened up the adjacent door to the furnace room and discovered the floor was flooded. With some further inspection, we figured out the water draining from an upstairs bathtub was causing the sewer to back up into the furnace room. There also was mold on the walls … If that wasn’t enough, “The Deal Breaker” told me the type of circuit breaker was a known fire hazard and referred me to Web sites like this one.

Three hours after I was taking pictures of the yard and imagining our life there, I knew we had no choice but to terminate our offer. The number of repairs had gone beyond the money we were comfortable investing in the home and virtually killed any hopes we had for cosmetic updates … And frankly, I was relieved to come to the conclusion. “The Deal Breaker” had done his job, probably saving us thousands of dollars and hundreds of sleepless nights. God had given me the sign I asked for.

This afternoon, just a few minutes after I’d returned to my apartment from seeing Dud House No. 23 and Dud House No. 24, our realtor called saying the seller was at The Home That Once Seemed Destined To Be Ours, now known as Dud House No. 22. He wanted me to meet him to point out the problems …

As I drove back to the house, I thought, Hmm, this could be a good thing. Maybe he’s willing to fix the problems and wants to renegotiate

Not so. He insisted he had no knowledge of the problems, made no apologies for what we found and showed no interest in trying to retain me as a buyer.

The house hunting has officially resumed ... But Kates has a job!

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