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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

r.i.p. home sweet home

the inevitable update is due to you all. it is not a happy update. it is, rather, a true diminuendo and crescendo in blue, with apologies to paul gonsalves and edward ellington. but oh how apt a paraphrase. our real estate story met with a crushing anticlimax this week. for you see ... with a heavy heart and an upside-down smile, we walked away from the deal last night.

it has been a crazy few days, but let me run down the details for you: we made an offer. the owner made a counter-offer. we agreed to the counter-offer. our offer was accepted. THE DEAL WAS ON.

and then we had the engineer's inspection. our engineer was referred to us by our lawyer who has been a lawyer in brooklyn for 3988 years (and therefore has 3988 years of brooklyn-awesome under his big lawyer belt). the engineer looked at the house. he said a couple of things that were interesting. here they are in no particular order, but in as-close-to-verbatim verisimilitude as i can muster after this many drinks. call them engineerisms:

  • whoever did the electricity in this house didn't know what the fuck he was doin'.
  • my daughter's boyfriend knows that i am a crazy italian.
  • this room is a converted garage? i doubt it's legal and if it's not legal, i bet it can't be made legal.
  • you need a support beam in the basement. is the house going to fall down? no. is it sloppy workmanship? yes.
  • whoever did the plumbing in here was not licensed.
  • [his ringtone was "who are you" by the who. awesome.]
  • that deck is probably not legal. and even if it were, you need to weigh it to make sure this roof can support it. me? i would have built it on pallets because you need to change the roof every 10 years. i bet this owner never changed the roof.
  • sir, i cannot allow you to stand on my ladder because if you fall and break your neck, guess who is liable.

anyway, you get the picture. i had a client-crush on this man. he was good.

oh. by the way ... did you happen to catch something in the above list of statements that was a potential deal-killer? a little alarming, perhaps? did you? look back. it's up there. take a guess. if any one of those awesome utterances was likely to be the statement to make us ultimately walk away from the deal, which one do you think it would be? let me give you a hint: it wasn't the fact that he is a crazy italian. no. we liked that about him.

here's another hint. our lawyer read the engineer's report. so, naturally being 3988 years of awesome, he had a couple cogent things to say. these are few of his greatest hits:

  • the structure in the back was zoned as a garage when she bought it?! people can't start converting spaces willy-nilly! they ignore zoning laws!
  • what do you think happens if people ignore zoning laws? don't answer that. it was a rhetorical question. but you want to know what happens? CHAOS HAPPENS!
  • who do you think your broker represents? she doesn't represent you! she represents HERSELF!
  • if you buy this house i want you to sign a document that says "my lawyer told me this living space is not legal!" you'll never get financing!

so you get the picture. the garage had been converted. the garage had not been converted legally in the eyes of the city. papers had not been filed. and given a couple exceedingly arbitrary and ridiculous zoning laws, this house can officially not be made legal in the eyes of the city. therefore no bank has an incentive in financing us. they might not care, but they also might decide that the property is not legal enough to warrant their trouble. so. granted, this is merely a risk, but it is a risk we are not willing to take. end of story.

oh, by the way, here's a choice quote from the broker: "what's the big deal? i sell houses every day that aren't entirely legal! an illegal deck, an illegal apartment in the basement. nobody needs to know."

right. nobody needs to know until they need to get a loan. or refinance a mortgage. or, if the banks missed their property's imperfection up until this point, nobody needs to know until they try to sell it. and then NO ONE WANTS TO TOUCH IT because it's 25 years later and the real estate market is no longer 86 billion degrees centigrade in brooklyn and banks are looking for any excuse they can find to not proffer a loan and oh, my, isn't that interesting?, this property doesn't totally comply with city zoning laws. sorry charlie. NO LOAN FOR YOU!

so we told the owner and the broker yesterday that unless they could find a way to make the converted living space legal, we were walking. they said "ok, we'll try." and then. THEN ... THEN! mrs nice guy discovered today that the house was officially back on the market. it's listed online as we speak(easy). ugh. i feel awful.

do you know what it feels like to see the house you almost bought back on the broker's website? it feels like seeing the craigslist girl you had disgusting "casual encounter" sex with newly listed on j-date with a brand-spankin' new profile.

you feel hurt. you feel sad. you feel betrayed. you feel drrrrty.

moral of the story? if any of you happen to find a gorgeous house in brooklyn on the market with a funky little history as both an auto body garage AND an underground nightclub ... be forewarned that the city of new york does not consider that bitch legal. and, according to my lawyer and engineer, there ain't no way to make it legal. sign a contract at your peril.

26 Comments:

Anonymous laurie said...

oh man, what a bummer. so sorry mng.

9/21/2006 2:02 AM  
Anonymous samantha Jo Campen said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. But it sounds like you guys are the smart ones and have tremendous foresight, so you're saving yourself from being bent over a chair and violated later on.

Would it help if I said, "Things happen for a reason?" or would that make you just want to kill me?

9/21/2006 9:05 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

Sooooo...since you're not buying it, can we see the listing now? Please?

9/21/2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger duchess said...

During our own saga of buying-a-house-in-Brooklyn, we came across a house that we thought would be worth making an offer on. We had an engineer inspect it *before* making an offer, and while it didn't go as badly as yours did, he was pointing out missing support beams in the basement, questioned the durability of the deck and ramps outside, and was skeptical about the sagging balcony. Needless to say, we didn't make the offer, and the real estate agent was livid - she kept pointing to the large backyard and the "pretty" balcony.

Fast forward to a year later: we are in a better space, but the craziness just stressed me out.

Just one warning, though - getting insurance in Brooklyn turned out to be one of the harder parts for us (almost losing the house in the process) because so many of the major companies suspended writing any new policies in the borough.

The craziness doesn't stop after you make the offer. In fact, it gets worse. But, pick yourself up, dust off the grime from that house-that-won't-be, and happy hunting!

9/21/2006 10:05 AM  
Anonymous dreadmouse said...

That sucks, Monsieur Bonnehomme. I hope that when you find your next place it is everything you want. (Perhaps a secret door leading to a hidden pirate lair?)

9/21/2006 10:40 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

better safe than sorry, but still sad nonetheless.

is this the same has that was from 1840 something?

9/21/2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

That is a bummer, but at least you saved yourselves the headache of owning something that you might never be able to sell. And that is also illegal. (I was rather concerned about the wiring & plumbing, myself. . .)

9/21/2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

yeah, thanks all. at least now i still have all my money. so there's that. next round's on me.

9/21/2006 11:24 AM  
Anonymous monkeyaker said...

Now with all this extra money you'll have laying around, you can get some *really good* cocaine. See? There's always a silver lining...

9/21/2006 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you and the missus are serious about buying a house, then I have two words for you: BUYER'S AGENT. A buyer's agent is a real estate agent that represents YOU as opposed to the owner of the house. Most real estate agents are SELLER'S agents although they often pretend otherwise. Don't believe them. Real buyer's agents do not sell houses. They represent you when you are buying a house. Ask to see their certification and check them out with the national organization. My buyer's agent not only found me a house in two months (after I had been looking for two years), she hooked me up with a good banker and saved me a big chunk of change on the price of the house. I only wish I had known about her sooner. Make contact with a buyer's agent. They will save you time, money, and heartbreak.

9/21/2006 2:02 PM  
Anonymous CroutonBoy said...

Oh man, that freakin' blows. But your lawyer totally earned his/her money that day.

Like you said, at least you still have all your money (which is probably a LOT if it's anything in Brooklyn) and you have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else--not you--is going to get jobbed by this.

9/21/2006 6:03 PM  
Blogger momily-san said...

So sorry. We have a place with an illegal attatchment, but since the market is cooling (in CA), we all plan to be buried here so the resale shouldn't be a problem. Because when I say "buried", I mean "preserved, stuffed, and placed in chairs in the living room." Our kids will take turns dusting us and moving us around. And nobody wants to buy a house with stuffed dead people. At least in California.

9/21/2006 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Jodes said...

so sorry to hear this. we too have a brooklyn dream house tale of woe, and i recall how hard it bites. best wishes to all of the nice guys. come join us in windsor terrace?

9/21/2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger Sadaf Trimarchi said...

Buying a house in B'klyn (or trying to, anyway) was such a nightmare for us. I feel your pain. This probably won't console you any (we wound up in Jersey), but there is a place for you out there somewhere. Stay strong.

9/21/2006 9:18 PM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

aaaaand momily-san wins gold star for comment thus far on this post. even though stuffed dead people is what i feel like as it is, for the record.

9/21/2006 9:19 PM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

aaaack! sadaf. je ne jersey pas.

9/21/2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

I just bought my second house. I got really lucky with my first one, bought just before the market went silly around here. I bought the second house at what I know is an inflated market rate. All my friends and family are worried that the housing market will cool. I didn't buy this house as an investment. I bought it as a home.

When I bought this house the electrical was sub-par, the vent stack on the furnace wasn't to code, and one of the 'bedrooms' didn't have an egress window. I stipulated that the electric had to be brought up to code and the vent stack as well. Then I made sure that all members of our family could egress that bedroom window and put it on my list for replacement.

One thing you'll learn about tax collectors, it might be illegal, but if it is illegal and you can't sell it, it has no value. With no value, how can you collect taxes on it.

You'll find the perfect house, and getting a buyers agent in the first step. Nobody has time to cull all the real estate ads fast enough to do it alone in this market.

9/21/2006 11:55 PM  
Blogger Tere said...

Total bummer, but you made the right decision.

9/22/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger onyx said...

I would have done the same.
I think yo and the Mrs. made the right choice.
You don't want to be stuck with a "Money Pit"

9/22/2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger Robbin said...

So sorry - but I have to say, I wish your Brooklyn lawyer had a branch in Mississippi. It would have saved my brother-in-law a whole ton of heartache. We simply could not convince his wife that the real estate agent's main interest was her OWN interest.

9/22/2006 4:39 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Our real estate agent and the inspector were in cahoots I believe. The inspector told us that the sprinkling of little turds in the attic was from mice, so we insisted the owners live-trap the mice before we closed. heh heh.

Truth was, we had a colony of about 500 bats that when we bought had not yet returned to their yearly roost, and in short order the sprinkling turned into a shit-storm that has still not abated. After 11 years and much truly disgusting effort we're down to about 10 or 20 bats, though, which is way better than 500.

And at this point you could blindfold me and I'd know a bat turd from a mouse turd.

Just one more thing to keep in mind, mng.

9/22/2006 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The picture you used to open the first post about the house is now startlingly appropriate.

I am sorry to hear the speakeasy--er, I mean, house fell through, though. It sounded sweet.

9/23/2006 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lemme guess - 452 Prospect? Corcoran?

9/23/2006 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

Sheesh our realtor is the best guy ever. He doesn't advertise, all his business is referral and repeat clients.

He found us the perfect house, he laughed with us at all the *not* perfect houses. He sends us stuff. Every month he sends a newsletter (With tips to save you money). When the price of stamps goes up he sends up penny stamps. Want tickets to the homeshow, done. Want a reputable contractor he has a list. Wanna know what the house accross the street sold for, no problem. Want to know which reno will have the best return when you sell, call him. Party in his office every year.

Man did we luck out! Best of luck to you!

9/26/2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger barbara rushkoff said...

11th Street?

10/11/2006 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Organized Garage said...

haha that doesn't sound too good, but I think you made the right move.

4/16/2008 6:29 PM  

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