When the House Itself Says Trick or Treat

Most of us have been there, many more than once.

You spend months searching for that perfect house, submitting bids and finally winning one.  You do the home inspection, arrange for financing, and eventually close the deal.  You move in, anticipating that some cosmetic updates will be required, such as painting, curtains, maybe floor sanding or new carpeting.  You may even set enough  of your now limited funds aside for replacing the old lead pipes with copper or PVC (depending on the building code in your area).  After all, these  upgrades are what make that house your home.

It isn’t very long, however, before you discover that most of those major updates detailed on  the realtor’s listing were done by the seller on the cheap and others weren’t really done at all.  None of the windows open and all have to be replaced (ok, so this one maybe you knew about before you moved in, and maybe you budgeted accordingly).  The “new” furnace and hot water tank both fail within the first two years and have to be replaced.  Tearing up the ancient, smoke-infused carpeting reveals “original hardwood floors” that are seriously discolored by pet stains and other fluids you prefer not to think about.  In some spots, the hardwood is damaged.  In other spots, the hardwood is covered by asbestos based linoleum which could only be removed by a professional contractor with the proper environmental license.

Fine, so you go with new wall-to-wall or area rugs.  Hardwood floors are cold and noisy anyway, right?

One of the selling points when you purchased was that the roof had been redone within the last 7 years.  But the then-owner hired a fly-by-night roofer.  Long ’bout Year 3 in the house, a sustained windstorm blows half that roof off, and the roofer is no longer in business.  You have to add an entire new roof to your overly stretched budget.  And heck, as long as the contractor is up  there anyway, why not take down the old crumbly chimney?  It’s no longer needed – the furnace and hot water tank which you installed both vent out the back wall of the house.  And you weren’t happy when the town building inspector knocked on your door to tell you he saw birds flying in and out of the top of that chimney, so maybe you want  to do something about that before they get in the house?

Long ’bout Year 4, you think you’ve pretty much done anything that could possibly be needed in the house.

Then the main electric panel goes down and can’t be rebooted.  For safety reasons, it’s advisable to replace the whole thing rather than try to repair individual wires and circuit breakers.  Even the outside wires and the meter are replaced.  The house is 82 years old and that was the original wiring, with the exception that at some point the fuses were replaced by circuit breakers.  But who knows how old those are?  So, the electric gets upgraded.

Surely, you’re done now, right?


Within months of the electrical repairs, your area experiences a sustained series of torrential downpours.  The sump pump which you haven’t heard running in four years is now struggling constantly to pump water away from the basement.  You congratulate yourself that you had the foresight to purchase a home that had previously been waterproofed by (hallelujah!) a reputable well-known company which has been in business for many years.

Then, you notice a smell in the basement.  It’s not a damp smell, it’s not a mold smell.  It’s shit.  That’s right: sewage somehow seeping into the ground water.  And now that it’s late October, the heating season is upon you and each time the heat kicks on, that smell gets drawn into the house itself.  The plumber confirms your worst fears – there is a break in the sewer line underneath the house.  It is a pipe under your property, which means you own it and are responsible for maintaining it.  You can’t call the town’s street department and complain, it’s not their problem, it’s yours.  The entire system must be replaced, in the basement, under the yard and out to the town’s sanitary sewers.  The 15-year-old sump pump will also have to be replaced.  The bubbler system installed by the waterproofing company will need to be flushed and possibly repaired in spots. Once the sewer repairs are completed, grading and landscaping will be required.

A good portion of your recently revamped savings account will now disappear.

Houses are fun, aren’t they?

But at least you have  good neighbors and a decent neighborhood.  Even if you wanted to sell at this point, no one would consider a house that  smells of shit as soon as you walk in the door.

And certainly, there’s nothing more that can go wrong, right?

One can only hope.

Happy Halloween, Everyone!  May your own house behave.


I love to hear from my readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com
Images by Cordelia’s Mom/TeddyRosalieStudio

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23 Responses to When the House Itself Says Trick or Treat

  1. Marc Beebe says:

    The only reason I have survived home ownership is because I could do so much myself.
    I’ve repeatedly pointed out to others that even if you buy a brand new house, the most expensive purchase you can make, it isn’t warranted as well as a $10 toaster.


  2. Karen J says:

    Great big Hugs to you, CM!
    You see, those’re just some of reasons that I’ve decided, once again (for the first time in 30+ yrs!) , to rent an apartment.
    I’m in the process of moving into Flint! from Davison, MI.

    Have done a ton of “internal work”, on my mindset and my approach to live and everything – and I listen to Abraham-Hicks nearly every night. They’ve helped me get on a better path.


  3. That is such a nightmare! We did a lot of work in the cottage, which was built in 1847, and spent about £30,000 on double glazing, a new central heating system, decorating, new kitchen and a host of other things. Luckily, we did a lot ourselves but we lost all of that plus another £26,000 when we sold at less than we’d originally bought for. We had to have a new boiler within a week of moving here. It explained why the previous owner hadn’t ‘time’ to have it serviced. We could only have hot water when the heating was running. We have also replaced all of the window panes on an individual basis as the frames were good, and in so doing saved about £3000. Still, it’s home.


  4. Newbloggycat says:

    Fangs for the update, CM. My house is probably 60 years old and it’s not behaving. Leaks, some tiles are popping up and there’s a broken pipe in the bathroom. Hope to get it all done before Christmas. Is that called witchful thinking? Happy Halloween, my friend! 👻😅


  5. Dan Antion says:

    That is awful. The drains beneath my mother’s house had to be replaced after the original fill settled – that was an expensive nightmare. I hope your repair went/goes along well, and I heop you’re done!


  6. First, let me say that you should NEVER EVER EVER say “what more could possibly go wrong?” because it’s a jinx. It’s THE jinx. The story of our house is similar, although it took 20 years to need EVERYTHING fixed. When we moved in, we put up a new roof. We also put up gutters, except the guy didn’t know what he was doing and they never worked, so we have a lot of damp spots. vinyl siding isn’t very sturdy and not particularly protective. We had to replace the boiler because when we moved in, it was 12 years old, but last year, it hit 31 and was making expensive grinding noises. We’d already replaced the circuit board thrice. Short of tearing out the walls to fix the bizarre way the house was wired, we’re stuck with a circuit the includes the kitchen (except the range which (that god) has its own circuit), parts of the living room, and for some strange reason, the half bath of our bedroom. If you turn on the microwave when I’m using the hair dryer, one or both will explode. I know because they’ve done it twice. Now when I’m drying my hair, I warn everyone to please please don’t turn on the microwave.

    We don’t need a new roof, but be needed a new boiler, gutters, the THIRD new water heater (and because of the way the boiler works, not a cheap one, either). The 50 year-old deck needs replacing, but that’s way beyond our means. We don’t use the fireplaces anymore because it’s actually less expensive to keep the heat on a steady, low setting — currently 67 and if that’s too chilly, please put on another sweater. I’ll buy you one if you don’t have one. It’s cheaper than oil.

    We heat with oil because there IS not gas here. Consider that two towns in Massachusetts have exploded (whole towns, no shit) due to poor management of aging gas lines. We had to rebuild the well because if the well don’t work, we don’t got no home anymore. We had to replace our sewer lines the day after we moved in here. The outgoing residents ran over them with a huge truck and crushed them so our first day, ALL the toilets backed up.

    We replaced the bathroom with one of those big senior shower things so I don’t fall down trying to get into that moldy old tub, but we don’t have a bathtub anymore. Not that we used it. I could get into it, but could get out and the new shower is a wonderful addition, but probably will not be a selling point. We urgently need to redo the kitchen, but we are SO out of money. We’ve replace two doors multiple times and repaired the replaced French doors when we had the deck “fixed.” Not replaced — that was $25,000 to $30,000 (the price of wood has skyrocketed) and I just finished paying it off or will at the beginning of November. We’ve painted a couple of times and should again, but — you know — no money. Oh, and we had to replace the septic system. Almost forgot that one.

    It’s sort of like buying the house again.

    It’s all the things previous owners lied about, inspectors who didn’t really inspect. Our front gate needs replacement. The rain swelled it so you can force it open, but it won’t close. We have windows that need replacing because they ARE fifty years old. Still no money.

    Alternatively we could give up and move to senior housing except I think I’d rather be dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, I don’t know whether to laugh or to hop a plane and come hug you. We’re not ready for senior housing yet, either, so we’ll just bite the bullet for the sewer repairs (around $13,000 plus the cost of renting a hotel room that will take Puppy Cody since we won’t have any toilets for a couple of days). BTW, my daughter just bought a house that had a recently installed senior shower and no bathtub. It didn’t affect the sale price a bit. She went on Amazon and bought herself a portable tub for when she wants a good long soak. It folds up when not in use.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Note: Yes, we WERE disconnected. I wonder how many other people are disconnected.


  8. markbialczak says:

    What can I add except my tears, CM? So sorry for your laundry list of house woes.
    And reading into your WP disconnect comment with Marilyn, yes, it’s happening on both sides with me and many of the folks I’ve been following and have been following me for years. And we can’t figure out why. I sent a message to a WP “happiness engineer” who asked for details that put me off, considering their advanced technical side and the obviously widespread state of this problem.


  9. willowdot21 says:

    Oh! My goodness what an awful tale of buyer beware. I a praying hard that your luck changes soon 💜💜💜


  10. Pingback: Head Stitches | Cordelia's Mom, Still

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