Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What HGTV, Your Broker, nor Anyone Else (Except Your Dad) Will Ever, Ever Tell You

A previous post on what it takes to own a house enjoyed a small spike in readership, if Google Analytics is to be believed, and not believing in Google Analytics is kind of like not believing in air. Right?

Anyway. A personal story, the kind of thing I usually save for The Plucky Observer.

The story starts with our dog, Pippin. She's an eight-year-old English Cocker Spaniel who has not been sick, ever, save for recurring regenerative disc disease which sounds much worse than it is, is chronic but inexpensively treatable if it doesn't progress to Stage 3. Her health trajectory suddenly turned the other direction with the discovery of a tumor in one of her anal sacs.

I know, I know, nobody wants to read about butt stuff, but stay with me, here. After ultrasound and surgery, the glands were removed along with the malignant (as it turned out) tumor. Now, with her $1,800 bill paid in full, her prognosis is reasonably good.

We had bought a house just over six months ago. Nothing unusual there. We've moved seventeen times in our forty years together. This house is a zero-lot-line patio home of early 1970's vintage, complete with tiny bathrooms, cottage cheese ceilings and a lot of other, shall we say, original equipment.

We did not get a home inspection, something else I've written about. I knew what we were getting into, and we knew we'd be doing some extensive remodeling anyway. Moreover, I knew no repairs would be negotiated in the market we were in. The seller would have simply put the home back on the market. Never forget that negotiation is about leverage, not charm.

We did do quite a bit of upgrading and re-doing, with much more to come over the next couple of years as our monthly budget allows. However, a few days after the dog's surgery, we discovered a flood in our basement caused by a water heater that decided to break. The carpet pad is ruined. The carpet may be ok. Some of the drywall may not be okay. Anyway, big mess and a new water heater.

When we walked through the home prior to buying, I learned the water heater was a 2004 vintage. A normal life cycle for an average water heater is about ten years, so apparently, ours missed that memo and expired early. The result: $500 for a new water heater (we did have a home warranty which covered the balance) and $300 for the water cleanup.

We ended the day $800 poorer than the day before. Add in the dog's surgery bill, and $2,600 evaporated faster than rain in Death Valley.

When people imagine themselves owning a home, they rightfully compare the monthly payment with rent. And that's okay. But what no one ever tells them is the other stuff, namely, that life goes on, and even when life is good, there are still sick dogs and broken water heaters.

At the end of a given month, it can make all the difference.