We had an appraiser come to our house today. (Does that sum up the whole post? Do I even need to write more?) The man was very nice. He was very understanding of the morning I’d had, and laughed when Anthony, in plain view, unshelved an entire row of books. “I have grandsons that age,” he told me. “When they come to my house, they can tear it apart in minutes.” I could have kissed him (not really; I’m just saying…) because he assured me that even though the carpet wasn’t vacuumed (his fault! He came 15 minutes early, and you can too vacuum the top floor of a house in 15 minutes. Hush!) and Anthony had left a path of destruction behind him, behind me, as I worked from room to room, it would have no bearing on the value of our house. That part was totally great.
I have to say, though, it is a little weird to have someone moving through your whole house, peeking in closets, turning taps on and off, testing light switches and going into rooms you don’t even let your immediate family into. I could tell he’d been poking around the laundry room because he had lint on his shirt, and I resisted the urge to pick it off of his chest. It was embarrassing, having him wear my dust!
We warmed up to each other when we started laughing about the house. Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my house. It’s just that the owners we bought it from tended to get a little “Home Improvement” happy, and while Ed, the owner, thought he was Al Borland, in reality he was totally Tim Taylor. The anti tool-man. When we moved in four years ago, my brother, who is totally an Al, spent hours and hours fixing a lot of mistakes Ed made. In fact, everyone still jokes about “Special Ed and his power tools”, and when something goes wrong in the house, someone inevitably says, “Special Ed?” No other explanation is needed.
So, back to the house… about ten years ago Ed decided to build on a spacious family room/garage. It’s about a 500-square-foot room that opens from the kitchen/dining room/living room areas with a double garage, so it really adds a lot of much-needed room. The problem is, he did a lot of the work himself. And, over these past four years, we’ve come to find out just how much of a problem that is. For example, when we moved in, he told us they had disconnected the heat/AC to the addition because they had a problem with mice running through the vents. He told us we could fix it ourselves for a few dollars, or hire someone to take care of it. When we had our AC unit serviced, we asked the technician to hook up the connection, and lo and behold, there isn’t one. The vents in the family room are there for looks only. When Genius poured the cement foundation, he put the connector vents and requisite hoses down first, and the weight of the cement crushed them. We would either have to break out the cement foundation, dig a crawlspace, replace the vents and then redo the cement, costing anywhere from $15-$22,000 dollars OR knock a hole in the wall and put in a separate heating/AC unit for a measly $4,000. (We chose secret option number three… a ceiling fan and a tall oscillator in the summer, and extra blankets and socks in the winter, which cost us about $40 and some minor discomfort. Totally worth it, in my opinion. It’s a huge, open room. It gets some heat/air from the rest of the house!)
Anyway, when I told our appraiser the story, he got a good laugh out of it. He commented on the “creative” way the heater and water heater were housed downstairs. Not only were they placed backwards, facing awayfrom the doorway Special Ed created, but a two-foot wall was built around the heater. More specifically, the part of the heater that houses the vent, so in order to change the filter, we had to rip off the panelling in the downstairs bathroom and knock a 2-inch by 2-foot hole in the sheet rock. It’s so embarrassingly white-trash. The entire basement needs to be redone, but for now it’s the dungeon, and we enjoy the top level, venturing down the stairs only to do laundry and/or fill a Mary Kay order.
So here is where the stupid part comes in. The appraiser asked me where the entry to the crawlspace was. I blinked at him and told him there was no such creature. He asked me how we got under the addition, and I told him simply, “We don’t.” He asked me if there was such a thing in the garage, maybe? Or under the stairs? I invited him to look for himself, and while there was a large hole in the sheet rock in the garage (one too many beers for Ed as he pulled his truck into the garage… and then into the family room) (“Surprise!”), there was no secret door to the world of underground passageways. “I can’t sign off on this appraisal until I get a peek at what’s under your floor,” he told me. “I need to know if there are any mechanisms down there.”
Now Ed was an idiot when it came to home renovations, but I know for a fact that he didn’t wire the electrical system through the floor joists. In fact, as the garage door guy can attest (thanks to a near-electrocution), the power to the whole new part of the house comes from one power source, and that would be an industrial-strength extension cord plugged from the kitchen (we think!) to the garage light, and then into a web of smaller cords stretching to their respective outlets. All running across the attic and down behind the sheet rock, of course. I wish I was kidding. However, there is no way I am going to tell the appraiser this, because he would make us fix it before our loan goes through, and this is one of the first things we are going to fix with the refinance money.
Instead, our conversation went like this:
Him: I really need to see what’s under that floor.
Me: Uh, it looks like cement. Look at it. There’s the cement foundation.
Him: FHA rules require that I see what’s under your floor.
Me: How do we go about that?
Him: You and your husband will have to decide together what the best way will be.
Me: Look, I can rip out insulation as well as he can. We already have a hole in the garage, so if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.
Him: I really can’t give you specifics. I just have to see what’s down there. You need to check with your husband.
Me: Ha ha… in this house I’m going to be the one doing it anyway. So tell me what you need. Do I tear out a section of sheet rock in the garage? Give you a flashlight and let you crawl like a snake through the dirt under the back steps? Help me here, please, because I don’t understand what you’re asking me to do.
Him: I’ve already said too much. I can’t tell you any more.
Me: So, if it’s cement down there, and we’re obviously not getting in that way, are you telling me I’m going to have to rip up my carpet and cut a hole in the sub-floor in order for you to see that there is nothing but cement down there?
Him: All I’m saying is, I need some sort of a door or something so I can stick my head in it and look around.
Me: (biting back all the places I’d like him to stick his head that AREN’T related to cement foundations, floor joists or sub-flooring) And you can do that with a cement foundation?
Him: (smiling) That’s for you and your husband to figure out. I just won’t be able to sign off on this appraisal until I get a look at what’s under your floor.
And my head exploded.
It was Kenny’s turn to try. He called Ed from work to find out if he’d wired anything through the floor. (He hadn’t.) The appraiser said, “I can’t take his word for it. FHA rules regulate that I take a look for myself.” We asked my dad, who built hundreds of houses, about how to make a door in the foundation, and he was completely baffled. HE understood that a cement foundation on the outside that matched floor level on the inside meant that there were no crawlspaces. I asked my bishop, who helped build the stupid addition, and he said that all three (THREE?!?) times they poured the foundation and laid the floor, there was no crawlspace, hence no door. The appraiser said, “Still, FHA requires that I make sure. You’ve got to come up with a way. But I can’t tell you, because I’m supposed to inspect the house as it is.”
And my head exploded again.
I sure hope I find some x-ray glasses over the weekend. Because, short of those, I’m not sure how to get my appraiser’s head in the nonexistent space between the cement foundation and the sub-floor.
Stupid. Only at this point, I’m not sure whether it’s the appraiser or me!