The dark side of home ownership


After all the searching, all the open houses, all the paperwork and signatures, you hear those magic words: "It's Yours."  You can hardly believe it, but there it is - in all it's lovely glory - your very own new house.  Gosh it's exciting.  You drive by it approximately 287 times in a slow, creepy way before you get possession, imagining paint colours and fixtures and landscaping.  You pour over the teeny weeny floor plan that was in the marketing kit, envisioning renos and furniture placement.  When you get the keys, you hold your breath as you push open the door for the first time, and maybe celebrate with a little bubbly sitting on the bare floor, your euphoric giggles echoing through the empty rooms. It is a mortgage commercial come to life.

It's a little smaller than you remembered from the open house and that one other time you walked through it... and the kitchen is much worse than you remembered (are those mouse droppings??)...but think of the equity!  The decorating potential!  Replace the roof?  No big deal, you knew that going in - but what colour should it be?

Sound familiar?  Who's with me?

Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE my house, I really and truly do.  The renos, the paint, the landscaping - it was hard work for sure, but the satisfaction of knowing it was my own cozy haven, my very own home made it more than worthwhile.  Even the essential-but-not-pretty things like plumbing, electrical, and chimney cleaning are all worth it.

It's the surprises that kill me.  Surprises are usually expensive, usually no fun, and decidedly UN-SEXY.  Here are a few of the visits to the dark side of home ownership that I have taken in the last three years of being here:

Sewage black flow in the basement Worse than walking down to a sight and smell that brought tears to my eyes was sitting in my dining room listening to them rip out the carpet, cut through the drywall, and yes, saw into my beloved built-in cabinets.  The sounds of destruction - not construction.  Expensive destruction.  I have not lost perspective - just weeks ago people lost their entire homes and all their possessions to Sandy - but it breaks my heart none-the-less.  Not our tree, but our problem. Surprise!

Fence toppled by high winds I can't remember exactly when this happened, but we awoke one morning to find the fence between our house and our neighbours' ripped and twisted, and lying flat on the ground.  The garden, to be exact.  OUR garden, to be completely precise.  We did split the cost of a new fence, and actually split it with almost all of our neighbours to build around on all three sides, but my poor, sad, smushed plants all needed to be replaced as well. Surprise!

Tree toppled by high winds You know this one - tree fell down.  Not part-way into our yard, nor into our and our neighbours' yard, nor any other of the 360 directions it could have gone, but smack into our property, taking the new fence, the garage eaves troughs, our garden furniture, many plants, and almost our 2 year old with it.  Not our tree, but our problem. Surprise!

Raccoon walking through our upstairs hallway At night.  While my husband was skiing in BC.  While I was at work until 11pm.  While my babysitter cowered with my then 1-year-old in his room, calling 911.  Surprise! When I got home, Will was asleep and the cops had come and gone, barricading the raccoon in my bedroom with a chair under the door handle.  I slept on the sofa in the next room in my work clothes (a dress) listening to the critter tear apart my closet all night, after calling every 24 hour wildlife removal number on the internet.  Oh and I was preggo (not really relevant, but it makes any story better, right?)  Critter-removal and re-entry prevention = not cheap.

masonry pointing repairs We haven't done this yet, and it isn't nearly as good a story, but there are several holes in the mortar between our exterior brick that need to be filled, and we need to replace the parging over our stone foundation almost all the way around the house.  We haven't done this because we could take the family to Europe for the amount we were quoted.  Who budgets for PARGING and POINTING? Surprise! Argh.

So it's not all sunshine and roses in my wicked and weird world (the raccoon thing definitely qualifies as weird though).  Amidst the the craig's list cabinet victories, the Value Village scores, and the crafty afternoon are loads upon loads of laundry, sink scouring, and potty training.  But who would want to read about all that? ;p  I would say my home and I are out of the honeymoon stage, but there are definitely more days that not that I look around fondly. I do love this house, flaws and all.

But seriously, enough sappy, misery loves company. I know you must have your own house surprises - please share!!

25 comments:

  1. I bought my condo when it was only a year and a half old and the city hadnt assessed the property taxes yet. 3 months into ownership a whole lot of back taxes were owed. Now, this had of course been sorted out in the paperwork but that money earmarked for tax payment was now lost in the mortgage, not in my pocket! Plus my mortgage company pays my property taxes for me, so they sent me a letter saying my monthly property tax payment was going from $100 to $500!!!!! for a year!!! I was already on a super tight income and I have no idea how I made it through. Then the next year I was assessed by the bank as having "overpaid" (duh) so I paid no taxes for the following year.


    Thankfully nothing has broken yet? My friend had a toilet pipe break in her condo (behind the walls, which she couldnt see) and it causes $10,000 in damage to the unit below. Thankfully insurance covered it, but what a nightmare! Even condos arent free from "surprises!"

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  2. When we ripped out the floor in our new home we found out that one of the joices(support beam) was completely rotted out. Thankfully we ripped out the floor and noticed that! We've now replaced all of the structures.


    We also had to re-support the entire house with steal beams in structure support areas....only by choice though because we want to ensure the house doesn't have any problems down the road.


    Thankfully considering all of the work we are doing we haven't run into any devastating issues that would really set us back.


    But I do really love your description on the first part of this post! Glad to know I'm not crazy when I think about decorating my home 24/7 while complete our renovation phase!

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  3. Grace_senseandsimplicityNovember 15, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    I have been thinking about you and your basement woes all day. It would definitely have brought tears to my eyes too. I loved your description about buying the house - especially the creepy-driving-by-a-million-times part. I can see why you are so pleased to get all those thrift store finds - so you can finance the major disasters (just kidding). I guess our relationship with out houses is like a marriage and there are definite highs and lows - and your house just got itself into serious doo-doo!

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  4. oh dear! i really want to move into the city, get an older home & reno but this kind of stuff freaks out my husband and well...the war continues. Hoping your basement drama is over soon!

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  5. Oy, no kidding - I have heard tales like your friend's about invisible but pricey plumbing problems in condos. Plus, you never know when they might have to raise condo fees to pay for new windows or something! But it is still your own little piece of the world - and yours is quite cozy-looking! Thanks Casey!

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  6. How did the raccoon get in???


    My husband hates this old house sometimes...well, whenever something else needs to be fixed! I remind him that even new houses have their demons!!


    Hey - I remember thinking at the open house 'all we have to do it fix up the floors'


    RIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGHHHHT!

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  7. Good gracious, I cannot even imagine undertaking the massive project you have! It must feel good though to know what is going on inside the walls before you put the drywall up! And yes, the decor is like the carrot at the end of the reno stick! :)

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  8. So funny Sylvia, I almost wrote those exact words about all my thrift store shopping! Indeed, my house has gotten itself into some deep....

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  9. Thanks Sundeep - I know old houses are ripe for this kind of disaster, but I guess a tree could fall on a new house, condo, town home... At least no one was hurt! :) There is something about the 'personality' of an old home that I love.

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  10. The raccoon got in through the attic trap door in my closet (which has to be lifted up and out from above). We have no idea how he got in to the attic - even the critter catcher couldn't figure it out! But we had just redone our roof the month before...so we blamed them and they helped out with the cost of repairs. (Go Roof Works!)


    I know, what rose-tinted glasses we wear at open houses, eh? Easy peasy - just move the stairs...replace the floors... new windows....we'll be done in a month! And with our first house we bought in the crazy boom - we saw it after work and bought it that night. I went home thinking "what did it look like again?"

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  11. No huge things so far, but we've had to replace appliances...the dryer. the fridge. the oven. the washer is dying but i'm praying it lasts a few more months! everyone said it would be expensive to own an "older" home and we blew them off. but is it! it really is!

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  12. I thought this only happened on the first house! I figured if we ever bought again, we will look at what need to be parged, and the age of the boiler, and test the faucets...etc...


    We need to do some pointing and parging too, btw...mostly the front steps though...not the house

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  13. Carol@TheDesignPagesNovember 15, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    Yes, yes, yes. I hear ya. Funny how they don't make commercials about these things huh? I actually had a raccoon walk into my house last summer (through an open door). Got 1/2 way across the room while I was sitting reading a book. I was so startled that I got up and hissed at it and it ran away. Thank goodness I was there.

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  14. Oh appliances are no small deal! It's one thing to do it as part of a reno, when at least the cost is tempered by the excitement of a new kitchen, and another to do it when they just crap out on you...:(

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  15. Yeah, we thought we would be so much wiser the second time around...sigh...mind you there are things that you just can't see no matter how hard you look! If you ever did get a new (old) one though - I would invest in getting the pipes camera'ed to see if there are any roots near - it might be worth the cost to replace up front (and not lose anything from a backup!)

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  16. Oh my gosh, that is hilarious, in a scary way! I think I remember reading that on your blog - SUCH a good thing you were there! Our back door is right by our dining room and more than once we have been eating dinner and looked over to see a family of raccoons trying to open the screen door - they are quite industrious!

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  17. Carole from Red Four Forty TwoNovember 16, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Haaaa! I can't get over the slow creepy dirve-bys after you have made the purchase but before you get the keys! I just got my first home this past July and the amount of times I drove past?! I was scared someone would call the cops or even worse, the neighbors would recognize the car when I did finally move in! Luckily no raccoons to date, but this old house was a disgusting, dirty mess when I moved in and came fully equipped with a family of mice that only seemed to want to come out when I was home alone! The issues with an old house are never ending (as I have learned in the past few months) but you can't get the character and charm with a new build!

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  18. I know, I just love the feel of an old house - I grew up in old houses so I can't imagine anything else. Mice = yuck, we had that issue as well. And so funny about the neighbours recognizing you - I used to come by here on my runs, and then back again - and I was so worried that people would start recognizing me when I moved in!

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  19. try otto masonry for a quote, i used him and was happy with the results.

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  20. Please be very careful and rake a very close look at any spaces between the bricks. This summer we had a lovely time with wasps. There where several places that they lovely pests where getting behind the brick. It took us many weeks of spraying everyday usually more that once a day with different types of lovely toxins. Finally they are in a happy lovely ever lasting sleep. Never before in the 22 years of lovleyness lol have we had that one.

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  21. barbara @hodge:podgeNovember 18, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    OK, maybe renting ain't so bad...... Hey I have owned a few houses and remember how unglamorous it was to fix a problem that was not anticipated. It ranks up there with buying a vacuum cleaner and a new mattress, needed but not very exciting...

    Hope there will be good things coming your way!

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  22. Awesome - I love recommendations - thank you!

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  23. Oh dear heavens, I never thought of that. But now that you mention it, I do remember a lot of wasps hanging around one particular wall... oh dear. Hopefully they don't make it through the winter! Maybe this pointing stuff will have to move up the list! Thanks Cathy!

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  24. Oh thanks Barbara, I am sure it will all even out in the end. :) Renting does have it's upsides, although you would still have to live with a messed up basement (you just wouldn't have to pay for it or get it fixed!)

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  25. Oh my goodness!!! I hope the tides are turning your way very soon my friend!!

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