This post is a part of a new series on my site entitled “Dear ______,” where I plan to write letters to sometimes specific and other times general people. If you want to read more of these, you can see the ones I’ve written thus far here.
Buying a house is definitely one of the most stressful parts of adult life, especially when facing down a seller’s disclosure. Did they tell you everything they know about the house? Are they hiding something or lying to you? Will you be walking into your dream home or a genetically-modified lemon?
I knew from the moment I walked into our current house that it would be the one we’d purchase. Rather than the typical cookie-cutter homes we’d seen before, ours was a unique home–one of two with this design. The back side of the house is a semi-circle of near floor to ceiling windows, and in the main level, we have vaulted ceilings with original wood beams. But what really sold me was the huge telescope sitting near a window.
I think you, seller, were counting on this to sell the house, and like many people, we fell in love. What we didn’t know was that you were a liar and a cheat.
We did our due diligence and hired an inspector. Even though we later found out the hard way that they’d missed several things they shouldn’t have, we thought ourselves safe. The inspection came back & the only major issue with with the breaker boxes. Both boxes had major code violations that could burn the house down at any moment–from double lugged circuits and faulty wiring to being located within inches of the hot water heater.
Imagine our relief when you agreed to have these repairs fixed. I mean, we were talking $7,000 in repairs, so it made us breathe easier to know it would be taken care of as part of our contract. You agreed to fix it with a licensed, insured, and bonded electrician, and shortly after, you sent us a receipt as “proof” the repairs had been made.
Despite being a beautiful home, the house had sat on the market for two months because you’d refused to lower your price or agree to fix the electrical. We thought ourselves lucky when you did both for us, though it should’ve been a warning sign that everything was about to go wrong.
I don’t know how other potential buyers knew or if they knew at all, but somehow we’d missed whatever warning signs were present. At closing, we heard you complaining to the title company about how much money you’d lost bringing the price down and fixing the breaker panels. I learned through the thin walls that you’d been a teacher and were recently divorced, and for a moment, we felt bad for you. I was a teacher for 12 years. I remember what a teacher’s pay is like.
A few days after closing, one of the lights in the basement stopped working, and it wasn’t the bulb. We called out an electrician we trusted, who thought it might be old wiring. When he opened the breaker box to turn off the circuit, he whistled. Then he sighed. And then he pointed out that not only had you NOT performed the work you’d promised, your “electrician” actually made things worse. Now we had wires connected with other wires in a manner that had damaged the box. Black scorch marks marred the both breaker boxes.
That day, we learned that both boxes would need replacing, along with all of the wiring connecting the two. Further inspection showed most of the wiring in the basement to be faulty and installed by someone who had no idea what they were doing. Now it’s possible that the people before you were responsible for the wires in the wall, after all, you didn’t “finish” the basement. How could you know what was inside the walls? But the breaker boxes were on you and you alone.
We immediately emailed our realtor, who emailed you and your realtor. You claimed it wasn’t your problem as you’d already “repaired” the problems. We did a little digging and discovered that the man you’d hired wasn’t a real electrician at all. He had no license to do anything, let alone fix breaker boxes. He had no business in the State of Washington. We pointed this out to you, along with the fact that your refrigerator door was literally being held on by velcro (I wish I were kidding), but you stood your ground and your realtor invited us to take it up with an attorney.
Perhaps he knew what we’d soon find out.
We made the decision to sue you–mostly because the damage done by you and your “electrician” friend came to the hefty tune of $15,000 in repairs. Unexpected repairs I might add. We consulted with a real estate attorney, prepared to take you to court for violating our contract. It was around this time that we noticed your mail wasn’t getting forwarded. Conversation with the postman uncovered that you never put in for them to forward it. Odd. Shortly after, our attorney was unable to locate your new address.
We hired a skip tracer–their job being to locate people in order to serve them–and he traced your movements out of Washington State and into California, where your former parents had lived before they died. You’d also lived there for a time and had siblings in the area. Your trail went cold at the California / Mexico border, and the skip tracer informed us that pursuing you beyond the United States would get costly.
As we were deciding what to do, we started getting notices from various credit bureaus and the IRS, addressed to you. Then the phone calls. People looking for you. People wanting proof that we were the new house owners and that you didn’t live here. A marshal showed up looking for you too.
You can’t get blood from a stone.
At this point, we let it go. We let you go. But this house keeps biting us in unexpected ways. For instance, any improvements that have been made to the house, have been done wrong or half-assed. You didn’t keep up with general house maintenance so there’s some wood rot on the exterior siding and deck. Even worse, it looks like you might have known the deck was in trouble and rather than pay to have it fixed, the deck was shored up completely out of code. Now it’s collapsing and has to be completely ripped out and redone to meet code.
Everywhere we look is another cut corner, another spot where you or someone before you didn’t care about those who came after you. It makes me sad to think about it until I remember that we’re putting it right. It’s left cobwebs in our savings account but at least we can rest knowing that whoever owns this home after us, won’t have to worry about it violating city code, or worse, falling down around them.
So wherever you are, former homeowner, I hope it worth it. I hope someone taught you a lesson or two about honesty and integrity. But most of all I hope you aren’t teaching anymore because the lessons you have to teach, no one deserves to learn.