So we kinda sorta got that straight answer we were looking for. I talked to the appraiser, who was very helpful in telling me exactly what he wanted to see to address the problems he outlined:
- The door that opens out into space needs to have a railing built across it
- The porches can certainly be demolished and stairs built for the one without concrete steps
- The knob & tube wiring hanging from the roof peak over to the pergola needs to go away
- There needs to be a hatch cut into the floor of the bedroom in the addition to gain access to the crawlspace, and there needs to be vapor barrier and any necessary repairs done in there
- The roof couldn’t be certified for more than two years of life remaining, so it has to get partially reroofed and partially repaired (which is going to be the biggest-ticket item)
And, of course, we get to be the ones to pay for it all. It’s not as big a hit as we were afraid it would be, but it’s still a really good thing that we had a big buffer in our savings account. If all we’d had was down payment and closing costs, we’d have been screwed.
The big problem for us isn’t the appraiser per se — he’s being quite reasonable — it’s the underwriters at Wells Fargo. They keep pulling things out of their ass for us to fix, all of which are cosmetic issues. For instance, they’re insisting on the missing vinyl siding being replaced, and after looking at a photograph they’re insisting on some of the fascia boards being scraped and repainted (an issue that neither inspector nor appraiser noted as a problem spot), and a green stain on the siding beneath a hole in the gutters being cleaned off (ditto).
Ruby, our mortgage broker, explained that they’re practicing CYA — fixer-upper houses aren’t supposed to be candidates for ordinary FHA loans, and houses have to be in pretty good condition to qualify. So they’re just looking at the problem bits and getting scared and wanting us to make it look pretty (on top of “safe” and “structurally sound”) just to make themselves feel comfortable.
In retrospect, we should have gotten an FHA rehab loan, but we originally intended to get a small house that didn’t need huge amounts of work, and also Ruby advised us that rehab loans were huge amounts of extra hassle and paperwork.
As for the fascia boards, they haven’t told us exactly which ones they mean, but I suspect that it’s the ones on the kitchen porch … that we’re demolishing anyway, so it might not be a problem after all.
So after a great many phone calls, we’ve arranged an electrician, a roofer, and a handyman, all of whom will be converging on the property next Wednesday at 8:00am. Jen and I are both taking the day off to assist as much as possible, run to Home Depot for supplies, fetch and carry, and so forth.
While out shopping today at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Second Use, we went by the house today where I measured the width of the hanging door from jamb to jamb. On my to-do list for tomorrow is to assemble the railing so that Wednesday we can just hold it up and screw it in, instead of paying someone $65 an hour to build it from scratch on site.