The Ongoing Saga of Bart Simpson Road
When I last left off in the Saga of Bart Simpson Road, we'd received not-so-good news from the home inspection and put an addendum on our contract requiring several major repairs. The fate of Bart Simpson Road--or more accurately, our pending ownership of it--hung in the balance. Cue dramatic music and all that.
Because the owners effed up the radon test by opening all of the windows on the day of the test, the radon results had to be redone and were delayed as a result. We got a radon test because Joe (Real Estate Guy #2; we have two, one of whom is our future cousin-in-law Pat) recommended it if we intended to spend a lot of time in the basement. Since Bobby intends to use the basement as his Sports Palace, we agreed and got the test, never expecting anything to come of it but reassurances.
The highest acceptable rating for radon in a home as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency is 4 pCi/L. Bart Simpson road was averaging around 23 pCi/L.
At this point, we figured Bart Simpson Road was a goner for us. Bobby started collecting additional listings, and we planned to give up on this one and move on.
On the same day that we found out that our beloved home-to-be was pretty much a lung cancer factory, we also got the addendum back from the current owners about the repairs that we'd asked them to make. Now I'll admit that Bobby and I were pretty angry by this point. We felt that someone had attempted to pull the wool over our eyes. Why were all of the windows opened in a vacant house when our inspector told the owners twice that they could not be? Why was the house being marketed as being "perfect as a pin" when it had foundation cracks, a sumpless sump pump, and countless other smaller-but-still-not-ideal problems? We were certain that the owners were going to come back and tell us to go fuck ourselves or offer to fix only the small, cheap things we'd asked for.
We got quite a surprise: They agreed to fix all but two items on the list (and more on that in a moment) and--having heard about the radon results--verbally agreed to have that fixed as well.
This was Tuesday. Tuesday, Bobby and I played hooky from work, and one of the things we did was to start looking at other listings. Bobby and I have a rather interesting set of desires for our house compared to most buyers. For us, the house itself has always been second to the property and (perhaps more important even than the property) the environment. And I'm not talking living in a "good neighborhood"; by central Maryland standards, Columbia is a "good neighborhood," but I wouldn't live there if someone paid me to. I'll admit that I'm high-strung and weird about living around other people or even in certain settings. I grew up in a rural community on two acres of land where you couldn't hear traffic, so as much as I do love our home now--being as it was the first home that Bobby and I had together--I have slowly grown frustrated with living so close to other people. And when they remember to cut the grass before it gets knee-high, Howard Crossing is a nice community; certainly one of the more attractive apartment communities I've ever seen. But this kind of lifestyle just is not for me.
And so Bobby and I decided that we wanted to live as far from civilization as is reasonable. Honestly, if I were to write a bestseller and become independently wealthy, I'd be happy living in the mountains in Garrett County. Or on a deserted island somewhere (even better!) When we went looking at houses, being within sound of traffic pretty much meant that we wouldn't take it.
This was one of the things that we loved about Bart Simpson Road. It's certainly off the beaten path, in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood that's old enough that there are actually trees. (Another thing: I need trees. These modern communities without trees freak me out. People need trees ... at least, I do.) It's about a .75-acre lot surrounded by a wall of pine trees. There are three huge pine trees in the front yard. Short of moving to Garrett County or that deserted island, it was the ideal environment for us to live.
We've never been willing to become house poor because we love so much more about life than where we live most of the time. We want to travel and upkeep our (expensive) hobbies, like diving and hockey. I don't understand how people can live without trees, only inches apart from each other, and I don't understand why two or three people need six bedrooms and houses that look like fortresses. As far as I'm concerned, the least cleaning and maintenance that is required of me, the better. The lower my electric bills and mortgage, the better. I want just enough house for Bobby and me to have our space without feeling suffocated, like we do now. I don't want a lot of extra house.
So Bart Simpson Road was the perfect size for us, on the perfect lot, in the perfect environment.
It was literally heartbreaking to find out that we might not get the house. But I cowboyed up, and Bobby and I bravely set out to look at other listings. We were optimistic. We'd chosen Owings Mills (Baltimore County) as our next community of choice, and we'd found about a half-dozen listings out there.
So we went out to Owings Mills ... and it was not good.
The houses were equivalent to Bart Simpson Road in size but were older and more rundown. The environment was nothing like Manchester. It looked like the Baltimore City suburbs moved north about twenty miles. Chainlink fences in the backyards, junked cars on the streets, and every house within a mile of a major road. It was dismaying.
We came to the realization somewhere in there that for what we wanted, for the price that we were willing to pay, we were not going to get a good environment unless we moved to Carroll County or farther away. Housing prices in our area are simply ridiculous. Washington, DC was recently rated by MSN as the fifth most overpriced housing market in the US with median prices at $430,000, and this spills into central Maryland too, of course, which is only a half-hour outside of DC. Bobby had already told me that, to stay in Howard County, the only option in the range we are willing to pay is a townhouse in Columbia. And I'm not willing to do townhouse, and I'm not willing to do Columbia. A lot of Marylanders have gone so far as to move to southern Pennsylvania to escape the cost-of-living drain that is Maryland.
So when the owners came back with their counter-offer to our addendum that night, we were willing listeners. Bart Simpson Road was still a possibility.
They offered to repair everything on our list but two things. The copper pipes, they agreed, were corroded, but they'd never leaked, and so they said that they didn't view this as a priority worth fixing. And the truth finally came out about the sumpless sump pump, which we'd requested be moved indoors and into, umm, a sump: Apparently it looks old and unused because it was old and unused and hadn't been turned on once in nine years. The house has a French drain system that removes water from around the house, so they weren't willing to do anything with the sumpless sump pump either.
Bobby and I were skeptical on the last part. I wasn't eager to take a stranger on his word alone when a lie or exaggeration could cost us thousands in damages and repairs. So the owners agreed to put in writing that 1) the sump pump had never been used, 2) the French drains removed water from around the house, and 3) they'd never gotten water from the basement areaway where the sumpless sump pump was installed. We added an addendum asking them to fix the radon problem, and they signed that too. So, yes, they're making literally thousands of dollars in repairs for us, which includes fixing the foundation cracks, a few minor electrical issues, fixing a front window that had lost its seal, repairing a bathroom faucet that leaked behind the wall, getting rid of the radon, testing for and ridding the basement of any mold (which wasn't much to begin with, luckily), and rewiring the dishwasher that tripped the breaker if it was run while the basement lights were on.
In short, we decided to go ahead with it.
We were always willing to take a house that needed some repairs. As it stands, most of what we'll need to do will cost only a couple of dollars at Loews. We'd like to eventually replace the plumbing in that back room, but that's nothing urgent. We'd like to get newer appliances and redo the bathroom. But none of these things are particularly urgent, which is in fact better than where we wanted to be when we started house-hunting.
And the environment: perfect.
We got back the final addendum today. They put into writing about the drain system and signed off on fixing the radon problem. The termite and septic inspections were conducted earlier this week and went perfectly.
So it looks like Bart Simpson Road will still be ours.