New Year, New House

We bought a house.

Not the beautiful old 1926 one.

I got in touch with the city engineer and confirmed the lead service line to the home was most likely intact.  While it’s worth noting that lead service lines are typically covered in scale that helps protect the water, there’s still a risk, especially if something changes with the water.  Arthur and I still, at that point were holding on to the idea of the house, but I went ahead and called the health department to find out what information they had on lead in the area and how to proceed.  The case worker on the other end paused.  Then she said: “Well, we haven’t been to that house.  But we’ve been on that street and there’s definitely lead.”

I listened as she carefully chose her next words.  “Sometimes historic houses aren’t the best for children that are as young as yours.”

The message came through loud and clear.  Don’t do this.

I talked to Arthur.  We emailed the realtor and decided to drop the house from our list.  It’s an amazing house, but there were so many major issues with it (furnace, AC needed replaced, we knew the electricity was probably outdated, and there were several other issues we knew about – all this prior to an inspection) and the lead was the final straw.  It was too much for us to take on at this point.

We started scouring the real estate listings again.  Two houses popped up on our radar in fairly short order.  Both were newer, one a 1986, the other a 1995.  They were in our desired location and we arranged to see both of them in one day.

We liked both houses and spent the rest of the day debating which one to offer on.  One had a daylight basement and the other had a basement but no windows, so we finally decided to offer on the daylight basement house.  Our realtor put in the offer and we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, our realtor called the listing realtor just before the offer was due to expire.  The other realtor was incredibly rude and said that we had offered far too low (reality check: we had offered around 3% under asking price) and they weren’t even going to counter.

“Forget it,” I told our realtor.  “We liked the other house just as much.  We spent the entire evening debating which one to make the offer on.”  No point in trying to work with a seller and listing agent who had no intention of taking us seriously and who, I suspected, could be trouble if the inspection turned up anything of note.

We immediately put in an offer on the other house.  The next morning, our realtor called us.  “Congratulations!” she told us.

The inspection turned up a few minor issues, but overall, it’s a good, solid house according to the inspector.  We’ve got the mortgage arranged.  It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, but we’re cleared to close, and looking forward to doing so just after the new year.  With a few minutes to breathe, now I’m hoping to catch up on my blog reading!

Now we’re onto the fun of picking paint colors and preparing to replace carpets with laminate floors…

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Housing Search: The Word ‘Plumbing’ Derives from the Latin Word for ‘Lead’ Edition

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We started looking for a house about a month ago.  It’s a tight market in our area, so we’ve seen about five or six houses in person along with closely watching the online listings and poring over the photos.  And of course, there’s this one house…

I’m sure anyone who has bought real estate is going “okay, where’s the ‘but’ on this statement?”

So, here it is: but it’s a 1926 house that’s priced a little over our current range and needs an entire new HVAC system among other things.

I love old houses.  Love the crown molding, love antiques, love the feel, love hardwood, love how unique old homes look, love bay windows, love the fact that an old house good enough to buy today is built well.  When we started looking, I immediately started checking listings in the historic neighborhood.  We saw the 1926 house and fell hard for it.  It’s gorgeous with big, airy bedrooms, the pretty trim, and as soon as I set foot in it, I was moving in furniture in my head.

Like I said, it’s priced a little above what we want to pay.  However, it’s been on the market for several months, and the sellers are ready to negotiate.  So that hurdle was largely overcome.  Arthur and I started talking about offering.

Then I did some research as we knew the HVAC system needed replaced and during that, discovered a few things about buying an old house.  We knew there would be repairs and remodeling work, which we were willing to do.  We knew we needed a cash reserve for the inevitable things that go wrong, which we could handle.  There’s often asbestos floor tile somewhere (not an issue as long as intact and not disturbed) which we figured we could manage or replace eventually.  We knew we needed to check the electric system (old houses weren’t built to handle modern electronic life), but figured we could manage that as well.

Then I was reading and discovered something we aren’t entirely sure we can handle: lead.

Any house built before 1978 in the USA generally has lead paint somewhere in it – the older the house, the more certain there’s lead paint in it.  Lead paint, I discovered, was used more on ‘nicer’ homes of the era because it has such brilliant colors and durability.  Meaning this gorgeous 1926 house almost assuredly has lead paint.  Apparently, lead paint can be covered and well maintained with few issues.  The problem comes if it’s on friction surfaces like windows and door frames (which can create lead dust when the window is opened or the door is open/closed), if it’s in the soil outside the house from outdoor paint (and tracked in), and/or if you have kids under the age of 6 (who tend to be more susceptible and who put everything in their mouths).

I also learned that the Latin word for “lead” is “plumbum” (hence the chemical symbol for lead) and so lead pipes and plumbing are a concern.  Lead pipes were used in houses, but even more recent copper plumbing can have lead solders.  The high lead solders were banned in 1986 and the amount of allowed lead reduced again in 2014 in the USA.

I dove down the rabbit hole with a vengeance.  Did some digging locally and discovered there’s a good chance the service line (the pipe that connects the house to the water main) could be lead.  Possible there’s still some lead piping in the house, though hard to say without an offer and a thorough inspection.  The windows appear to be original, so there’s a good chance those have lead paint.

We’re debating if we want to deal with this – if we would make an offer and get a lead inspection done and plan on abatement or replacement – or if we should just walk the heck away.  At the moment, I’m making calls to the city to find out if the service line was ever replaced (should be a matter of public record), talking to local lead inspectors, and putting in a call to the pediatrician’s office to get their take on things.

I’m starting to understand why all those home buyers and home owners on the HGTV and home improvement shows all seem to have constantly worried to panicked looks on their faces.  I’m discovering that all houses have issues.  The trick is being aware and picking the issues we feel we can live alongside or change.

If anyone has advice or lives/has lived in an old house, I’m all ears.

Want more Microblog Mondays?  Head over to Stirrup Queens to read more!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.