Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homeowner Blues Times Two

There was a small window of time last year when we owned three homes:  My house in Champaign, Katherine's condo in Evanston, and the house we bought together in Evanston. The condo was already on its way to being sold then (and that sale went through without a hitch), and we hoped that my house in Champaign would sell soon after.  It didn't.

I like to joke that we had a vacation home in Champaign, but the joke is as tired as my rotting roof.  

We own too many houses. 

We're like Donald Trump, but with better hair

Since my house didn't sell last year, I hired a property management company (realtor #3) who found a tenant for me and rented out the house over the winter.  So in addition to all the ways I've made money over my life (grocery bagger, meat department clerk, pizza driver, library clerk, scholarship winner, busboy, typist, receptionist, fellow, teacher, librarian), I became a landlord.  I even changed my banking password to some variant of my new role.  (slumloard666?  99givememymoney?  You'll never guess it!)

I was a reluctant landlord, though, and renting out my house was just a way to stem the bleeding of mortgage payments and utility bills for a house I wasn't even using.  Although the rent I receive from my tenants is not enough to cover my mortgage, it helps a lot, and it also makes me feel better to know that someone was sort of house-sitting for me over the winter, when the already horrible house-selling market froze up completely.  I took the house off the market. 

Would you like to buy my frozen house?

This spring I've been trying to put the house back on the market.  We were about all ready to list the house at the end of March, but the realtor I'd been working with (#4) wanted me to sign a year-long agreement, which was way too long and everyone said was a red flag.  So I fired her and got a new realtor (#5) who I'm not crazy about but it doesn't matter because all realtors suck and if I'm going to work with one, I might as well choose one I have low expectations of from the beginning.

We were just about to list the house at the end of April, but at the advice of my latest realtor I got the home pre-inspected (I think it was probably good advice), and it came back with a whole bunch of issues.  We put the listing on hold until I could deal with those things. 

Apparently, this is how the inspector saw my house. 
So now it's the end of May and I'm hoping the house will get listed this week.  Right now, as I type, they are tearing off my old roof and putting a brand-spanking new roof on the house I will never live in again.  And new gutters. Then we'll tackle the smaller stuff.


In the past year, we have put a new roof on both of our houses.  We've also had sewer issues at both houses, requiring excavation and new pipes.  That's four major house repairs at the top and bottom of our houses.  We're getting screwed at both ends of both houses.

I have no idea what this book is about, but I couldn't NOT post this.

The repair issues have gotten so bad this spring that I actually created a spreadsheet for all of our house repairs, renovations, costs, estimates to see how much we can actually afford.  For both houses.

After all our home repairs, we will have $1.59 left over for our retirement

One of the things on the list is simply selling my house.  Just getting rid of my house is going to cost us several thousand dollars, because the market has dropped so much in Champaign that despite my down payment and the fact that I've been paying down the mortgage for five years, we'll be lucky if we sell the house for what I owe on it.  Even then, I'll have to pay the 6% commission to my realtor, hence the cost of selling my home.

I know we're fortunate enough that we can afford to sell it, because many people simply don't have the money to sell a home that's underwater.  (For the record, mine isn't necessarily "underwater", but it's hovering around the water line.  We won't know for sure what it's worth until we get an offer.)

For reasons other than financial, I love owning my own home, but anyone who tells you that owning vs. renting is a "slam dunk" financial decision is full of shit.  Every experience I've personally had with real estate has been a huge money suck.  I've lost a shit-ton of money on my house, both with repairs and re-sell.  So did Katherine with her condo.  And now our new house keeps asking for money like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  ("Feed me, Seymour!") 

This actually looks a lot like the thing growing in our sewer pipes


So every day I have to call a new repair person and get a new estimate on one of our many projects.  I'm drowning in estimates and it's a little overwhelming.  I've instituted a rule that I will only call one repair person per day.  Otherwise I would go crazy.   

Here's one big decision we need to make.  Our new home needs a new 4-foot stretch of sewer that has been run over by tree roots.  (Over the past year our sewer has backed up into the basement several times, and we've had to get it "rooted out" twice.)  The section that needs replacing is three feet underneath the concrete in our basement, which means they have to jackhammer through the (carpeted) floor in our basement, dig out the old broken clay pipes, put in new PVC pipes, and then re-cement the floor.  For this privilege of premium indoor plumbing we get to pay $2800. (First World Problem, I know.)  

However, I've hated the floor in our basement since we moved in.  The carpet is thin and cheap, and underneath it is uneven concrete that resembles rolling hills.  All the desks, bookcases, and filing cabinets in our basement are up on shims because the floor is so uneven.  One of the renovations I'd like to do some day is to level out the floor.  I called a floor guy, but he said the floor is too uneven for him to fix.  He said I need a concrete guy.  So I called a concrete guy who came out and said, sure, he can fix it.  For $7300.

One complication is that the ceiling is pretty low in our basement already, and I worry that evening out the floor would make it even lower.  It's fine for short people like us, but when it comes time to sell someday, no tall people could ever buy this house because the basement ceiling is so low.  So for an extra $3800 the concrete guy can lower the floor another 6 inches, giving us more ceiling clearance.

The ceiling in our basement: perfect for us, bad for talls.
Here are our options w/r/t the basement floor:

1.  Do nothing.  This will require us to have the sewer line rooted out every 5-6 months ($300 each time) so that it doesn't back up into the basement, which I don't need to tell you is DIS-GUS-TING.

2.  Just fix the sewer line and nothing else.  This will involve blocking off our computer desks and most of the finished basement so that they don't get covered in concrete dust, and then having the plumber jackhammer our floor, which will shake the whole house and probably cause it to come crashing down.  Oh, and will cost $2800.

3.  Since they're going to be opening up our basement floor anyway, this seems like the ideal time to have them fix the whole thing.  But not only is this a VERY EXPENSIVE option, it will also require an assload of work on our part, and a major inconvenience akin to moving.  We will have to move everything out of the basement, which includes both of our desks and desktop computers, printers, modems, telephones, etc., our entire TV/entertainment system, couches, filing cabinets, book shelves, and storing all of it in the small corner of the basement that is unfinished (i.e. the workshop.)  Then we will be without all said computer, telephone, and entertainment options during the renovation, which could take a while because we will need to coordinate between the sewer excavation guy, the concrete guy, and the carpet guy, which we haven't even gotten an estimate for yet because the first two steps are so overwhelming to contemplate.

4. The same as #3 but lower the floor six inches, which would be a better long term renovation but would add a LOT MOAR MONEY onto the project, and possibly also time.

5. Bury ourselves in the sewer and let the new owners pay to excavate our rotting corpses.

An actual image of the roots growing into our sewer line.  That's what homeownership looks like, kids!

1 comment:

asplenia said...

This post was simultaneously fascinating and made me laugh! I never saw what a sewer line filled with tree roots looked like (although my neighbor had this issue constantly -- it's like the roots just kept growing back).

BEST photo evar: "apparently this is how the inspector saw our house" -- hahaha!

This sounds like such a major pain, and why are realtors so universally shitty?!?