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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

The Ongoing Saga of Bart Simpson Road

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

The Ongoing Saga of Bart Simpson Road

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forest for the trees
For the record, Bart Simpson Road is what we call the house in Manchester. It's really not on a street called Bart Simpson Road, but the name is similar, and it makes for an easy nickname to remember it by.

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.

Yeah.

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.
  • Looking good, looking good. I like the idea of a French drain system that obviates the need for a sump pump. There's just something kind of classy about that. Does Bart Simpson Road have an underground oil tank, or have they had that removed, too?
    • So far as I know, there was never one to begin with. It heats with electric baseboard and woodstove.

      I like the idea of French drains if only because I trust gravity more than mechanica anyway!
  • Woohoo! Awesome!
  • What the heck is a French drain system?
    • *snicker* I had to ask the same question. This Wiki article explained it nicely for me (though I wasn't comforted by the fact that they felt it necessary to illustrate with a poorly functioning example! :^D)
      • I see, comparable to drain tile, though it seems that it is more gravel and the actual tile may or may not be present.

        I could use one of those.
  • [Keanu-Ted Logan]Most excellent news![/Keanu-Ted Logan] The lot (trees, etc.) really does sound perfect for you & B. French drains are great! When water poured into the basement of our Very First House in Madison (came in around the pipe for a free-standing tres moderne Jetsons-style fireplace), my DH dug out a French drain by the foundation. It worked perfectly. The basement stayed dry for the 8 years we lived there. So that sumpish pump is a moot point, most likely.

    Congrats on the new abode!
    • Thank you! We're thrilled, needless to say. ;) I'm also pleased to hear of a positive experience with French drains; I'd honestly never heard of it before. Bobby was on the phone with our real estate guys, and we were both rather like, "What the f*** is a French drain??" Wikipedia was my friend on that one.

      It sounds like an effective solution, and I tend to trust good ol' gravity more than machinery anyway ... and Green Me feels that anything that doesn't require electricity to use is even better!
  • When can I come to visit?

    No, honest - against all odds that sounds like it's ending up to be a really okay deal. Go you!

    • Well, we don't have a bed for the guestroom yet, though that's on the agenda. However, there will be a futon in the study, though with your bad back, that might not be a good idea. ;)

      And honest too ... you're welcome to visit whenever you'd like. I was thrilled to finally have a guestroom so that I could have out-of-state/country friends and family stay properly with us, i.e. not living out of our study/dining room. ;) Maryland is a great place to stay to see the eastern side of the U.S.: We're an hour outside of Washington, DC and less than three hours outside of New York City, and there's the beach and mountains literally right down the road ... shall I send a travel brochure for Bart Simpson Resort? ;)
      • Guestrooms are good. I enjoyed having one, LOL! We still need to get a new guestbed for the library.

        One day I'll definitely come over. :-)

        I'm looking forward to hearing how the move's going and all! (Will there be pictures?)
  • Hmmm so no sump pump fixing and the radon problem solving (or am I reading this wrongly?)? What is it what you can actually do about the latter? For the rest, I'll repeat my earlier *squeee* I gave you ;) *hugs*
    • The radon will be fixed; they run an exhaust line from the basement to the outside to remove the gas. Fixing the foundation cracks will also help with that, in all likelihood, as this is an easy way for radon to get inside of the house.

      The sump pump doesn't need to be fixed on account of the French drains, which is fine by me: I'd sooner trust in gravity than machinery, and it's much greener, as it doesn't require electricity to run!

      So thanks for the congrats; we're thrilled. A bathtub that drains, no yapping dog next door ... heaven on earth! *hugs back*
  • Congratulations!!
    Radon... never heard of radon testing in houses here (or other buildings for that matter). I don't think I want to find out what the radon readings in our lovely overcrowded city are.
    Congratulations again!!
    • Thank you! :^D

      The radon might not be as bad as you think; all areas are pretty much equally susceptible, even really new and modern houses. Testing for radon is a pretty new thing in the U.S. too. Until recently, the risks of radon exposure weren't really well understood ... at least not enough for the slow government to get involved with it!
  • Congrats! The copper pipes and the sumpless sump pump can wait, if the sellers are willing to deal with the other problems (especially the foundation cracks and the radon issue, which are probably related).
    • Thank you! That was our feeling too, on the pipes and sumpless sump pump. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, it is said, and they were willing to fix the really urgent and expensive stuff. We're ecstatic ... and quite relieved!
  • Excellent! What great news, Dawn. :) (This is the first I've heard about your move that involved a potential house... I've just gotten the wireless router, and am catching up on Ye Fliste.)

    I am the same way when it comes to environment: the house *must* be at a good, leafy, foresty location or I'll feel trapped. My dad has been making slight noises about us moving, and my sister and I immediately burst into protests: "But the yaaaard! We won't have one, we'll just have a postage stamp!" Even my mom (who has proclaimed that she does not like the way our house is laid out, loudly and often) agrees, and thinks we should add on to the house rather than move. We currently have half an acre, and most neighborhoods in this area do *not* have that much space, not by a long shot.

    Besides: a smaller property would mean that more neighbors would get annoyed with our dog, and we certainly can't have that.
    • Thanks, Allie! (And congrats on the wireless ... I don't know how I lived without mine! ;)

      We have about a half-acre lot as well. I grew up on almost two acres, so I need my space. I'm a bit of a misanthrope, I'll admit. ;) I don't like being close to other people; I'm too easily annoyed. I don't like to hear other people's music, arguments, pr0n (as is sometimes the case with the guy next door). Just my own. ;) And pets are an issue as well, with Alex being a big dog, he needs room to run around, as do the Elves.

      When we looked for the house, we cared more about the lot/yard in all honesty than the house. We were willing to do repairs on the house ... but we were not willing to live elbow-to-elbow with other people. Odd priorities, I'd imagine, in this era of ginormous houses on tiny lots, but that's the way we are, and we got our wish. :)
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