Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Mar '09

Our $hit Does Flow Downhill

This is a long story about human excrement and big government bureaucracy. If you keep reading, remember, you’ve been warned.

We have a septic tank and drainfield at our house in Woodinville. Someday they will probably put in sewers, but for now we’re still “country folk.” Well, up until December 31, to sell your house in King County you needed to have your tank pumped and a visual inspection done. That’s a $350 job. It’s been three years since we last had ours pumped so it was due anyway. No biggie.

However, since January 1, our beloved King County (don’t get me started as it’s one reason I want to move) now requires a more thorough inspection of the seller’s septic system and the filing of an “Operational Report.” That little job costs an additional $229 – much of it, I’m sure, used to fund the new County department created to administer it.

[Okay. Okay. There's good intention here. Septic systems are expensive and they can fail, especially once they get over 20 years old – like ours. Mandated pumping and inspections protect the buyer so they don't move in and soon discover they need to fork out $30K to replace their septic system. But, geeze, the Libertarian in me screams, "Caveat Emptor!" ]

So, on Wednesday, the pumper/inspector arrives – three hours late. He pops the two lids off the tank and says “Yep, it’s full, but it looks okay. Now we need to find your D-Box.” (I learned that “D-Box” is septic pumper technician slang for ”Distribution Box”, the plumbing junction that connects to the pipe coming out of your septic tank, splitting it off to other pipes that disperse your effluent throughout your yard. ) He then pulls a piece of paper from his pocket that has a diagram of our lot and septic system showing the aformentioned “D-Box.”

as-builtThis diagram, on file at the County, is call an “as-built” because it represents how your septic system was originially built. The installer draws the diagram when he finishes his work so that, in the future, someone can locate all the components. However, I learned that the installer of our system back in 1988 was 1)not an artist 2)didn’t own a measuring tape and 3)was probably blind. On our as-built the lot lines looked more or less correct, but the house was not in the right location and the denoted major trees had no correlation to reality. So, we proceeded down the hill (a 45°, slick, muddy, hill covered with blackberry bushes) to ”have a look around.”

When we get near the bottom, Mr. Inspector, says, “This doesn’t look good.” He says this because based on the meticulously drawn, but totally inaccurate, as-built, he thinks the D-box and drainfield are under the two massive Douglas firs that fell in windstorms several years ago. 24″ trees laying over a D-box mean no inspection and 80′ trees crashing down on a drainfield mean crushed pipe. Unfortunately, with our as-built, there was no way we were going to find the system for inspection. But, he had a solution…and that solution was to send out another tech with a 200′ fish line with a camera and locator on the end for the low-low-price of $385. I began to have colonoscopy fashbacks.

At this point, I’m already in for $600, and there’s no way I’m going to find the D-box on my own in all the brush, leaves, sticks, and mud. [For you literary majors, that was foreshadowing]. So I gave him the okay. I spent the next hour with a hammer and 8′ ground rod probing around, trying to get lucky, but eventually gave up. Needle in a haystack. Turd in a pipe.

Fast forward to Friday. The tech shows up at 12:55 (his window was 10:00 – 1:00). We carry the snake and video equipment down to the septic tank. He listens to my sob story for 5 minutes, takes about 10 minutes to unpack, and he starts fishing the camera. 20′, 50′, 100′, 150′. The pipe looks good. 175′. (Remember, the snake is only 200′ long.) The camera gets stuck in a white globular haze so he pulls it out 10′ and tries again. 180′. Stop. “Hey, that looks like gravel!” We’re at the D-box – but where is it? Elapsed time = 30 minutes.

He grabs his detector (it looks like the wands TSA uses at the airport) and we proceed down the hill. We check out the area where Wednesday’s guy thought it would be. Nothing. Under the tree? Nope. We go further down the hill. The detector starts to whine. We are now a good 30′ away from the fallen trees. Closer. Closer. “Hey, there it is. See that piece of concrete sticking out from under the leaves? That’s the lid.” Elapsed time = 45 minutes.

AAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHHA! I could have tripped over it! It’s right on the property line! It’s 5′ from a white flag that I put in for Serena’s invisible fence! I paid $385 for this! AAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAHHH!

I shovel the debris from on and around the lid and lift it off. One inflow pipe and two outflow pipes. Looks clean to me. Mr. Tech says that now we need to run a full stream of clear water down the pipe for 20 minutes. If it doesn’t back up into the D-box, we pass. I proceed back up the hill, turn on the hose, and push it down the pipe. 20 minutes later, no backup. We’re good. The drainfield is working. We pass the inspection. A-Wesco Septic Service is $385 richer for just over 1 hour of work.

The pump truck finally arrives (now an hour late) and from this tech I learn all about anerobic bacteria, atmospheric pressure and vacuums, and that Costco Kirkland brand toilet paper doesn’t biodegrade. Really. There’s lots of paper in our tank that I didn’t see last time we had it pumped and we’ve switched to Costco’s brand since then. I’m told to switch to the Sears catalog or have the tank pumped more often. Not. We’re moving and 23 Campbell Circle and 380 Vance Gap are on city sewer. The city of Asheville can deal with our soft, low-lint, but nonbiodegradable toilet paper.

I write a check for $1060.57 and go in the house. I look out our kitchen window, down the hill, and through the trees and brush. I can see the top of the D-box from where I stand. I go to the bathroom to pee (sorry, I didn’t need to do #2). I flush the toilet. $1060.57 down the drain. Thanks, King County. Adiós and Hasta la vista.

Mar '09

23 Campbell Circle, Asheville, NC, 28803

The appraisal came back for more than what we offered to pay. Hooray! So if the economy/housing stays where it’s at or improves (remember, I called the bottom of the recession last week) then we could come out of this deal even or better when we sell in 18 months or so. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? The appraiser added that if we “modernized” the house a little with updated paint and flooring and fixed the few cosmetic issues that the house could be worth substantially more (his words).

With that, it looks like we’ll be the proud owners of 23 Campbell Circle, Asheville, NC, 28803, on April 9. The moving van is warming up! Oh my gosh what have we done???!!!!???


Mar '09

20 Years Ago, Today…

It’s an anniversary. Twenty years ago today, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1989, we moved into our newly built house in Johnson City, TN. I think I remember saying, “This is the last house we’ll ever have.” Three years later we moved to Redmond, WA. And, now, 20 years later we’re moving back.

Later today we’ll hear from the appraiser on our “temp” house. If his number is above our contract price we’ll be Asheville home owners on April 9. If it’s below, we’ll be renters – we’re not looking again.

We’re still wrestling with how to do the move. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no “right” solution but I am moving towards one that, although isn’t ideal, might work to cover all the variables. Remember… We need to get rid of half our stuff to stage our house and make it more appealing to potential buyers. We will have an empty temp house in Asheville (maybe). We don’t know how long it will take to sell our Woodinville house. U-HaulU-Pack, PODS, and professional movers aren’t cheap. We don’t know when a builder could start construction on our new house. We have a dog and a cat and lots of plants. Anyone want to help me unload a truck in Asheville on Memorial Day weekend?

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Mar '09

The seller blinked!

Yesterday we sent our offer for covering the repairs to the seller. It was a spreadsheet that listed all the “must fix” items identified by the inspector with cost columns for material, my labor, and contractor material/labor. The total, $8,600-$10,000, was way more than our $3000 “as-is” contract amount so we simply asked for the difference. Our expectations were near zero. The seller’s agent has been pretty detached and terse lately – don’t know why, he just was – so we expected a simple rejection. I even spent the evening looking at rental houses on craigslist figuring we’d be going with Plan B. But, I’ve had good luck with this negotiation tactic. Being an a-hole and demanding something doesn’t work for me. I like to just lay it all out. Facts are facts. Here they are for all to see and here’s how I came up with my request. Reason usually prevails.

And, this morning, reason prevailed again. The seller agreed to our request for a credit to fix everything (less the as-is amount in the contract). So, we’re one step closer to owning a house in Asheville.

I contacted an appraiser this morning. Getting an appraisal greater than our contract price is a requirement for purchase. It’s due by next Thursday with our formal response to the seller by Friday. If all goes well, we’ll be Asheville home owners on April 9.

P.S. I’m formally calling March 2009 the bottom of the recession and the bottom of the Asheville housing market. We’ll need to sell this house in the Fall of 2010 and we want to recoup our cost! So there!

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Mar '09

Long time, no bloggie…

It’s been a while but I’ve been super busy and just couldn’t find the time to blog. From February 26 through March 4, I was in San Antonio visiting my two, going on three-year-old, niece (and my sister, brother-in-law, and step-niece). What a cutie – and smart, too! Then, Friday through yesterday, our friends Cara and Mike were in town visiting from Phoenix. We had a very interesting dinner at Culinary Communion. The theme was eggs.  Let’s just say, it was the most daring stuff we’ve ever eaten.

So, what’s happened over the last 10 days? Valerie did an awesome job re-doing the powder room with new countertop tile, vessel sink and faucet, and new paint and Venetian plaster. Just a couple odds and ends are needed to finish it up. It looks FANTASTIC – hope the potential buyers think so, too.

We received a bid for a couple repairs (what we thought were the most expensive ones) on the white house. We have a buy-as-is contract with a $3000 limit. Adding up the contractor bids plus material costs and my labor (at a measly $20/hour) to fix the rest of the items on the list we’re over $8600.  Ouch. It would easily be over $10,000 if all the work was contracted out. We’re sending an itemized spreadsheet to the seller’s agent today with no actual request, just the info. We want him to chew on it to see if and how he responds – “let’s negotiate” or “hell, no!” If he doesn’t respond by tomorrow, our contract deadline, we’ll send him our offer. If this deal falls through, we’ll probably rent  – maybe this same house…

We’ve been reviewing the latest draft from Steve, our architect. It’s mighty close and the footprint might now be locked down. There are just a couple interior nudges, nips, and tucks to do and we sent that list last night. Hopefully Steve can get us another (dare I say final?) draft to take with us to Maui on the 24th. Last week Steve also sent a very rough draft of the 119 page specification document for review. Getting those details down will be the next step.

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