“Honey, you’d better come home — there’s water coming out of the ceiling…”
I noticed a couple of drips in the parlor on Wednesday — Day One of Seattle’s fall monsoon season — but since it didn’t more than drizzle yesterday I couldn’t really check up in the attic to tell where it was coming from. Today it rained harder and longer, and Jen (who had only a half day at work today) called me at about 2:00 to say that the dripping was a lot worse.
I got home, went up in the attic, and fairly quickly discovered the source of the leak. The attic venting “system” in our house is six hooded vents spaced along the sides about three feet up from the eaves and a ridge vent. The vent over the parlor had an obvious area of wet rockwool underneath it, so even though I couldn’t see any active dripping in the ten minutes I was up there that was obviously the source.
I had to make a trip to Home Depot to get an extension ladder, and then climbed up on the roof in the pouring rain to find something looking almost exactly like this:
… Except with moss instead of straw. There were two problems: the nails in the bottom edge were missing or loose, and from the inside I could see daylight along the bottom of the vent, so wind-driven rain could easily get inside there; second, a careless roof repairman at some point had tossed away a scrap end of a shingle which had hung up on the top side of the vent, allowing moss to grow and water to pool up.
I had half a tube of sticks-in-the-rain squeezy tar left over from Nate the Handyman installing the bathroom vent hood, so I climbed back up the ladder with the tar loaded in a caulk gun and a brick trowel as a scraper. I cleaned out the moss and dirt as much as possible at arm’s length (I stayed on the top of the ladder rather than trying to crawl onto the 45° rain-slick shingle roof), and then squeezed all the remaining tar under the shingles and edges of the hood.
I guess it worked, since it continued to rain hard for another three hours or so and there’s no more dripping. Someday when we have money again (ha!) we’re going to need to have the roof completely stripped and re-laid, since apparently there’s more roofing than sheathing at this point.
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.
Paperwork continues apace, I guess. Apparently Wells Fargo (our lender) misplaced the appraisal and didn’t think they’d ever received it. So they haven’t been working on it at all until today when Ruby, our mortgage broker, sent them a new copy and they simultaneously discovered the old copy.
Even though we haven’t heard back from the underwriters there yet (obviously), Ruby said in her email that she was sure that the “hazards” would have to be repaired.
Yes, I know they’ll have to be repaired. It would be really nice if we could get a straight answer from somebody about:
- who has to do the repairs — can we do them ourselves or do we have to hire an independent contractor?
- what exactly do they expect us to do? Because I’m damned if I’m going to both pull the rotting plywood cover off the basement stairs and build a mini-porch for the door cut into the wall directly above them.
- do the repairs need to be “like new” or will a patch sufficient that nobody falls and breaks their neck be enough?
- how do we prove that the repairs are done? Do we need to schedule another appraisal, or will photos of the work be sufficient?
I’m really tired of hearing over and over, “oh, there will probably have to be repairs done” without anybody ever actually, y’know, conveying any information.
…And it’s for exactly $1000 more than what we’re paying for the place. Which is pretty much irrelevant; we were only worried that it would appraise for less.
There’s a list of recommended repairs, of course, all of which we were aware of and had plans for. Now the appraisal goes to the underwriters, and we get to wait and see what they require before the sale.
I suspect that the sellers are neither willing nor able to make any of the repairs — if they were they would have done so long ago since the issues are obvious. I’m hoping that my email detailing what we plan to do on day one after taking possession but before occupying the premises helps mollify the underwriters; but if not we might be in the position on having to go on the property before we own it to fix things.
Stress stress stress.