It is apparently common practice in Texas that after the option period expires and the final contract terms are agreed to, the buyers, sellers and their respective Agents meet at the subject property for the “Buyer’s Meeting”.

Our Buyers, a young couple moving to Texas from California, came prepared with the list of 18 things their “Inspector” (remember “Chip” from the previous post) had indicated were wrong with the home….and they wanted to look at each of these 18 items once again.

So I took them on the grand tour of the house, pointing out each of the items Chip had said were problems (that in fact were not problems), and explained to them why that was the case.  I showed them what a sediment trap looked like on a gas line and where the two that Chip missed were actually located, along with the adjacent dryer on the Freon line that Chip said was also missing.   I explained what a thermal overload was and that when they got tired of paying for all the energy that was passing out the ceiling around their recently uncovered can lights, they would be perfectly safe moving the insulation back into place.  I showed them how the side panels of the jacuzzi were attached via silicon caulking and how all it took was a razor blade to cut the caulk and access the pump and motor.

But of all the 18 “defects” Chip and his crew had pointed out, my two favorites were these:

Apparently the pest inspector told them if you turned off the lights in the attic and could then see daylight, then this was a potential place for rodent infiltration to occur.  So we did that, and Mrs. Buyer quickly pointed out all the light coming in along the soffit line…….you know, where the soffit vents are located!    So I took them outside and showed them the soffit vent, which consist of a series of holes about the diameter of a pencil lead.  I know rats can scrunch down to fit through a very small opening, but a pencil lead?

But my absolute favorite was the wiring in the power panel.  Apparently Chip almost had kittens when he saw that the power leads to the two A/C Units used Black and White wires rather than Black and Red wires, and that the White wires had not been “tagged” to indicate they carried power.  “Tagging” consists of marking the end of the white wire with either black marker or a piece of electrical tape to indicate that yes, this wire in fact does carry power.  Doesn’t matter that its attached to a breaker switch that is staring you in the face, you need to indicate that it’s HOT by putting something black on it. 

When I asked my electrician to do this, he broke out into laughter and just stood there shaking his head.  (He went ahead and did it for me anyhow).  When I explained this to the buyers, at first they didn’t understand why this was so funny.  So I asked them if they had to tatoo their kids names on their foreheads to remember them, or after a while was it just obvious which child was which.  I think I finally got through as Mrs. Buyer commented “oh, it is that obvious, isn’t it ? “.

At the end of the tour, I suggested that in the future they should hire me as their inspector, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.

Anyway, they are nice folks, and I hope they will enjoy as many happy times  in our home was we have over these last 13+ years!

Anybody know where I can buy a used Garage Door threshold?  It’s almost getting chilly out there.


The dreaded Option Period.

Just after you have gone through the gut wrenching agony of negotiating a reasonable price for the sale of what is probably your most valuable asset, the potential buyers get a week to find reasons to chip away at the already agreed to price.  This is known as the Option Period.

During the Option Period, buyers will typically contract with a Certified Home Inspection Professional (I’ll just call him “Chip”) to go over your house with a fine tooth comb and ring up potential repairs whose estimated price they then will want you to apply as a reduction in the sales price.  Unbeknownst to my particular buyers, I’m a fixer, not a payer, so getting more money out of me (and especially out of Nancy) was not going to come easy.

So “Chip” shows up at the house (while I’m in North Carolina moving Ryan to his new place) and the trouble soon begins.  Let’s start with the condition in which he left our house!  Grease and dirt all over the Master Bathroom tub, and the valve handles on the tub had been removed and reinstalled at random angles.  I thought it was a prank!  Stuff had been moved all over the place and just left wherever he last touched it.  And there was a trail of paint chip debris that circled our living room and ran across a couch and a chair.  What had they been doing in here, playing frisbee?

Three days later (we were told it would be two at most) we get “the report”.   “The report” consisted of 6 pages of general home areas (doors, ceilings, grade, HVAC, etc)  with indications for each topic as to whether they represented “deficiencies”.  No details of the alleged deficiencies, just an “x” by the word “deficiency”.  This was attached to 54 pages of randomly selected code documents, many of which had nothing to do with the 6 pages of home areas, and NONE of which had to do with the code that was in place in 1997 which was when the house was built.  So at this point I’m thinking Chip’s approach is “I found something that was not right with your house, you have to guess what it is based on the attached code documents that don’t apply to your house, and then go fix it”. 

I failed to mention that theses 60 pages of documents were emailed to my realtor from the buyer’s realtor as 60 separate attachments! Are you kidding me???  Our Realtor, Nancy Benevides is such a professional as she combined the 60 separate documents into one before forwarding to us.

By this time it’s now around 11:30 pm, I figured I’d wait until the morning  to ring Chip up and see what’s going on.  So at 7:05 am the next morning I gave Chip a buzz and discovered that “The Report” was actually just Wave 1 of “The Report”.  Wave 2, which contained the specifics of each alleged defect, had been emailed to the buyer’s agent yesterday, but apparently had not made it through cyberspace to my agent.  After a few additional phone calls, it magically arrives into my inbox.

Now the fun really begins, and after reviewing the 18 topics offered as deficiencies, I grouped them into my own set of categories:

  • Cosmetic
  • Safety,  and
  • Stupid

Lets start with a few of the Cosmetic issues:

  1. The entry door to my detached garage does not have a threshold.  It never has.  It’s not air-conditioned space!  Are you concerned that the heat in the garage will escape into my back yard?
  2. The north side of my house does not have roof gutters.  This allows water to fall on my driveway.  Has my driveway complained about being waterboarded or something?

Then there were the Safety issues, some of which were legit (and we fixed) and some were just plain Stupid.

Some of the Legitimate Safety Items were:

  1. Insulation covering can lights in attic and a safety cable needed on the attic stair springs
  2. Tree limbs touching the roof
  3. Two wires not labeled properly in breaker panel and two main electrical feed connections needing “Noalox
  4. Clothes dryer exhaust duct needed cleaning

All of these were corrected, but there were still Stupid Items trying to masquerade as Legitimate Safety Items, like:

  1. If you stretch your arm WAY around and through the bathroom door and into the adjacent room while taking a shower, you can touch the  light switch for the bath room.  THIS IS WHY THIS LIGHT SWITCH IS IN THE NEXT ROOM!  This raises several questions.  Was it dark when you started your shower and now you need light?  Or have you seen too much while in the shower and now you want it dark.  Either way, if you go this far out-of-the-way, while soaking wet, to extend your arm into another room to touch a light switch, maybe natural selection should prevail.
  2.  Our Garage Door has a lock on it.  Our Garage Door has an opener on it.  Regardless of the fact that the Garage Door opener can be disengaged with the single pull of a rope or the push of a button on the controls, these two facts created a conflict for “Chip”.  Aren’t garage doors suppose to stop when they meet resistance?  Don’t worry Chip, you haven’t seen any resistance yet.
  3. And the buyer wanted us to upgrade our electrical service from 150 amps to 200 amps.  Not a safety issue, but I keep wondering what they planned on doing with those extra 50 amps?  No worries, I’m not going to do it.  If they want 200 amp service, THEY can have it installed.

And now, the just plain STUPID items on Chip’s report:

  1. The Water Heater is missing the correct water connections.  Wrong.  Good thing I kept the packaging for these.
  2. Gas lines to the HVAC units do not have sediment traps.  Isn’t that the pipe pointing down in the picture below. 
  3. The A/C Freon supply line does not have a dryer.  Are you this blind? Did you even go into my attic?
  5. The Jacuzzi tub has no access panel.  hmmm.  Maybe that’s why the side panels are attached using SILICON rather than GLUE!
  6. Our garbage disposal uses a plug-in power connection (which is local code and common practice) rather being hard-wired using conduit.  Next time you need to change a garbage disposal, which would you prefer?  And why doesn’t Chip know that this is local code?
  7. And best of all…….the Toilet Room in the Master Bath has an exhaust vent (whew!) but no Air Conditioning vent (Oh my).  Possibly you should consider that if you are spending enough time in this room to the point that the A/C from the rest of the bathroom does not meet your needs, you have other issues.  And doesn’t the air from an A/C vent ultimately flow from there, across the house, and into the return air vent?  That doesn’t pass the “smell test” for me!

So after all the hand wringing, emails, claims of “which code is which”, and other assorted whining, and after I spent $250 for an electrician to tag two white wires with black tape (OK, he did shorten two A/C power leads as well), the only two remaining required “repairs” are a pest inspection and an A/C Service call just to appease the buyers.

But not a penny off the sales price!

Kudos go out to our Sugar Land Realtor (Nancy Benevides) and our Electrician (Rick Kuhn – Sugar Land Electric) both for going above and beyond the call of duty over these past few days.

Oh, and the Buyer’s Agent!  Would you believe Nancy (Mills) caught their Agent (I now call her “Crazy Ilene”) parked in front of our next door neighbor’s house with the engine running watching me clean out the dryer vent?  I’ve never had a stalker!!  Plus it scared the bejeebers out of our neighbor’s little girl.  An apology is certainly in order (to my neighbor’s daughter, not to me).

And why doesn’t the Seller have the “Option” to jack up the selling price during this same period for all the things they fix that Chip didn’t find?  It just isn’t fair.

What a CRAZY 7 days. 

 Now we’re off to continue our apartment search, and hopefully to begin packing.

After several exchanges addressing variety of issues, it finally came down to two points:

1 – No, we won’t have the house professionally cleaned, including carpets, before you move in, and

2 – Yes, we do plan on keeping our dog for the 5 days we lease the house back from you while we move to our new location.

With those two minor points resolved, we have a signed contract in hand.

Home inspection is Tuesday, but I’m not expecting they will discover anything of any consequence.  Brother Terry suggested I break one of two things just to give the inspector something to find, but I going to route of  “if it was broken, I’d have fixed it already”. 

I’m sure he’ll find something.  They have to justify their expense by suggesting something has to be fixed.

If all goes as planned, closing is August 26, and move out is August 31.  With that, Step 2 will be complete. 

Step 3 starts NOW (we have to move somewhere!).

I realize it has been weeks (maybe months!) since my last update, but with the tornado in Tuscaloosa on April 27, and the complete lack of traffic looking at the house, writing about all that negativity just depressed me.

But we actually received an offer yesterday that has potential!

We’ve had a couple of exchanges with the potential buyers, and pretty much narrowed down to a price point, so now all that remains are some throw-ins the potential buyers are asking for, like our patio furniture.  ( I never can say that without remembering the old joke…..what’s Irish and sits in the back yard?   Patty O’Furniture!  I didn’t say it was a GOOD joke).  Problem is, our patio furniture is Nancy’s lone gift from her deceased grandmother, so there is significant emotional value here.

I’ve offered our counter top depth fridge instead. 

Let’s see if they bite on it!

If we get past this hurdle, the saga will continue as scheduled.  If not, we’ll probably take the house off the market in August and wait until next season (after 1st of year) and our “test drive” of lake living may be just a short stroll this year rather than a marathon.

Hopefully today will bring some good news.

With the recent tornadoes in Alabama and across the south, my heart hasn’t really been into blogging about our adventure.  Add to that the low number of showings in Sugar Land, and you can see there is not much to write about.


Since you took the time to visit my blog site today, I’d like for you to visit one more page, and consider making a contribution to the Red Cross.  If you use this link, it will take you to the website for the Mid Alabama Region of the American Red Cross.  As you drill down the pages, consider pointing your contribution the West Alabama Chapter.

God Bless You.

Blogging about our adventure will resume in the next week or so.

Energized by the possibility of a showing anytime between 8 a.m and 8 p.m., Monday thru Monday, we have begun a way of life known as “not really living in your house”.  Laundry is washed ever day so as to maintain an empty hamper, and once clean clothes are folded they are immediately put away. Sinks are always empty. Walkways and driveways are always swept.  Grass is cut twice a week. Music is left playing (inside and outside) whenever we are away. Flowers are perfect.  Fountain is full and running. 

I fell asleep in Sugar Land, and woke up in the Magic Kingdom!

The disappointing thing so far however is the lack of traffic.  We went on the market and became available for showing last April 2.  Two showings April 3 for a total number of showings to date of……..2.

When Nancy and I went to work earlier this week the parking lot at Lifetime was about one-third its normal occupancy.  We were actually able to park right by the front door (I know, when you are going to work out, you can walk a bit from your car to the door).  But it was eerie, like the rapture had come and no one woke us up for it.  Very weird.

So we wrote it off to low head count in Sugar Land this week.  Even our Realtor mentioned that showings were down, and that we have taken off like a “herd of turtles”.  Last report from Centralized Showings Service said around 3 per week in our price range.   With that said, we were still able to make good use of our time away from the Magic Kingdom last Saturday by helping Mel and Ethan on their remodeling project (see The Dominion Project).  Nancy painted, and I helped Ethan replace the ceiling in the half-bath next to their kitchen.  Mel’s last blog (Where’s my Motivation) has some good pics of the destruction/construction.

By the way, all the photos you see this time are examples of the two dozen or more “table talkers” strewn about the house in strategic locations.  They point out all the special things about the house, and other than making you feel like you live in a museum, they really are a great addition to the showing process.

Open house this weekend on Sunday.  All comers (nosey neighbors and all) are welcome!

So how did we end up selecting the small rural community of Cold Springs, Alabama, as our retirement location especially after all the grief we have given Nancy’s parents over the years for “moving out to the boonies” in Hot Springs Village, AR?  Well, it all starts with (Lewis) Smith Lake. 

I must confess, I grew up less than 90 minutes from Smith Lake, and never even heard of the place until about 5 years ago.  We had vacationed on Lake Lanier (northeast of Atlanta) a few years prior, and I think that, and the scourge of hurricanes on the gulf coast, pointed us to the concept of lake living.  A passing conversation that Nancy had with a sorority sister introduced us to 500 miles of pristine shoreline stretching over 3 north Alabama counties, aka Lewis Smith Lake.

On our first trip to look at property, we tried to hook up with this young hot-shot realtor with White Pepper Real Estate, but his schedule didn’t match ours, so we ended up with this crotchety old guy with another firm who shall remain nameless.  Needless to say, we did not meet with him again after our first visit, but he did give us exposure to areas of the lake where we DIDN’T want to buy or build.

Then in Fall 2007 we connected with Justin Dyar of White Pepper Realty, and the rest is history.  And I really mean HISTORY as Justin took us on numerous property hunting trips spanning 3 1/2 years.  Come to think of it, it also spanned three of Justin’s cars!  You could not ask for a better Realtor or someone who knows the area any better.  Justin really is “Mr. Smith Lake”, and we are also happy to call him our friend (and soon to be our future neighbor as he is building just across the lake from our property).

I have to wonder if his commission covered his gas for all those trips!?!

During the course of our search looking at probably over 100 properties, we also spent four different vacations renting homes on the different areas of the lake.

There was the week of Thanksgiving spent at Smith Lake Retreat .  The lot was too steep for our liking so the hike to the dock was a cardio workout, but the owner actually bought an air card (Verizon) for us to use while we were there as ours (AT&T) had marginal signal strength.  Smith Lake Retreat is on the west side of Pigeon Roost Creek, just north of Big Bridge and Ryan Creek Marina (I’m loving giving all the local landmarks….Justin will be proud!)

The Pointe - Lakeside OfficeIn 2008 we rented “The Pointe” for a week, which was on an awesome point lot overlooking Ryan Creek.  It’s located  about half way between the Dam and Big Bridge.  Beautiful water (Ryan Creek is my favorite part of the lake), beautiful sunrises as the house faces east, and it has a covered outside deck that Nancy and I used as our “Lake Office” while we were there.

I actually “met” the owner via the Smith Lake Community Forum.  They are from Florida, and are trying to sell, but they’re wanting a wee bit more for The Pointe than the Mills are willing to cough up.  They had the best web cam view on the lake, but with them trying to sell, it doesn’t appear that they are keeping in active anymore.

Good Luck with that bball4364.

Looking down Emerald ValleyWe also spent a week in 2009 at the very other end of the lake in Winston County, just outside of Houston (AL), in the Emerald Valley Estates subdivision.  Although we had made a previous offer on a pair of adjacent lots (one on-water, one off-water) a year earlier in that same development, our stay confirmed our need for a big water view and a BIG motor on the boat!  (Thank You God for answering “no” to the prayers during that negotiation).  I know Ryan can swim faster than the boat that came with the house would travel, but it only having a 40 HP motor got me out of a “not wearing the kill switch cable” ticket of the lake during that trip.

Lakeside ParadiseLast summer we tried the Jasper Side of the lake and rented “Lakeside Paradise” for a week.  This location, just off the Smith Lake Dam Road, is a good approximation of the distance we will be from “civilization” when we build at Rocky Springs.  Our hosts (Roger and Jane Cleveland) were just phenomenal, and if you are ever needing a place at the Lake (and all our bedrooms are occupied) I highly recommend their property.  They are located in a cove off the main body of Smith Lake between Duskin Point Marina and the Dam.  Our two lessons from that trip: 1) It can get hot at Smith Lake and 2) Two family rooms lead to kids on one floor and parents on another.  Note to self – our lake house will have one family room.

So with those 4 stays over 3 1/ 2 years, we’ve really tried out a variety of properties and locations on Smith Lake.  Nancy and I set out 20 criteria when we began our lot search, and our place in the Cold Springs community (we’re in a development called “Rocky Springs”) met 19 of them.  If I can just get internet service other than satellite there, we’ll be 20 for 20.

So where is exactly is Rocky Springs?Nancy Looking for Bottom

The mailing address for Rocky Springs is actually Bremen, AL.  Bremen is just north of AL Highway 69 between Cullman and Jasper.  As you travel west on HW 69 from Bremen, you enter the community of Bug Tussle (yes, I am serious, but it’s also known as Wilburn).  Just before you reach the Bug Tussle IGA (you can’t make this stuff up) take a right on to County Road 54.  After passing the Cold Springs Missionary Baptist Church, you take a left on CR 68 and hopefully by the time you get to that point I’ll have signs leading the way.

If you REALLY want the details on where we are headed and what it looks like there, check out my Photobucket Folder for Lot 24, Rocky Springs.  Browse though the still shots first to get your bearings, and then view the videos.  Yes, I did geek out doing this .

We had two showings in Sugar Land today.  Progress!