For Want of A Nail…

Or, you know, a roof. Point is, tiny things like this have been proving big hurdles these last two weeks as we pursued our home ownership dream.

Things have been moving at quite a rapid clip on the home-front, since we decided to put in an offer on the pink Victorian the day we viewed it. By the end of that week (which included Christmas), we’d also gotten the offer approved without countering, and started calling around for quotes from inspectors as I’d seen anywhere from $400 to $1500 mentioned online. Thankfully, the prices were much more reasonable than expected and one inspector said he could even do it the next day. So on the 27th we met up with our inspector, hoping for good news. Or at least not-horrible news.

Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd: I admit, hearing it say "New Home is ahead on the right" was kind of cool!
Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd; I admit, hearing it say “New Home is ahead on the right” was kind of cool!

The roof was the big news. We’d been hoping that we might have a couple years before things were dire but, in the words of the inspector:

We don’t get much rain this time of year, you could probably wait til spring.

For the record we planned to close at the end of February, so spring wasn’t much of a grant. And after 2 weeks of calling 13 roofers and getting only 4 quotes, here’s what I’ve learned.

  • When a roofer says, for instance, 36-square or 55-square, that’s shorthand for hundred’s of square feet. A roofing “square” is 100 square feet. One guy tried to tell me his quote of 36 square was based on what I told him–how could I when I didn’t even know what it meant?! (Granted, that was the same roofer who quoted me based off Google Earth pictures and didn’t actually go out to the property.)
  • As asphalt shingles start to wear off, their surface can just wipe off in your hands and create a ball-bearing effect underfoot. Thankfully I didn’t learn that first-hand, but one roofer who did call me back emphatically said he was happy to be off that roof!
  • Old homes were commonly topped with wooden shingles or “shake.” Most older homes have had this old covering removed long ago and replaced with modern shingles. Notice I said most.
  • Wood shake was applied to 1-by-4s stretched out over the length of the roof and are (charmingly) know as “rat runners.” shudder
  • Modern shingles don’t work with those rat runners, and require the entire roof to be re-decked (i.e. covered with sheets of plywood).
  • The labor to remove the 2 layers of shingles, redeck, and install the new shingles drives the roofing cost out of the maybe-we-can-work-something-out range.

I never thought I’d say asbestos shingles would have been a walk in the park compared to what we found out!

Without many other options, I decided to ask the seller (despite her desire to sell as-is) if she’d be willing to replace the roof. Barring that, we’d want reduce our offer a bit, ask for closing costs to be paid, and seek to add the cost of the roof into our mortgage through a renovation loan. The seller wouldn’t budge on the price, nor were they willing to replace the roof. (You don’t know until you try, right?)

So we had two options: walk away or try to get the renovation loan for the offered price plus the cost of the roof. This meant financing more than we’d really wanted to, but not so much that we’d be overextending ourselves. After all, for such a big house, the price does reflect the state the house is in, and it’s far less than we’d pay for anything here in Tallahassee. The additional hoops and fees of the renovation loan does mean our up-front costs are higher than we’d originally planned (if you can call what we had any sort of plan), and that the few months of overlap between our current lease and taking possession of the new-old house will be quite, uh, “squeaky” as far our budget goes. 

It was a tough decision. Frankly, I hated the idea of wasting those 2 weeks spent researching and obsessing over the possibility of the house purchase more than the inspection and earnest money that we laid out. There were also some tears of disappointment, I fully admit. But I was willing to walk away if Todd thought we needed to. Even though (for reasons I might discuss some day, once it’s all cleared up) it would be my name on the documents, I’m not foolish enough to insist I get my way just because I want it. It wouldn’t be worth straining our marriage so early on.

Imagine my surprise when, Friday afternoon, just as I’d thought to myself that I was finally distancing myself emotionally from the house, Todd calls up and says we should go for it!

So that’s our next step. We have decided to try for the renovation loan, with its aforementioned hoops and fees, and its 45-60 day processing time. Our closing has been pushed back to mid-March at this point and I have no idea whether it’ll even be approved as it’s based on the homes appraisal. And I have to corral a bunch of paperwork from the contractor, as well, which makes me uneasy in that I’m-not-in-charge-here way. But we’re decided to see it through to whatever end it comes to. Either we’ll have the house and a new roof by mid-March, or we’ll sign our lease renewal by mid-April and stay put.

Either way, it’s an adventure!

(And if your curious about the inside of the house, I put up a Facebook album of the pictures I took while up there for the inspection.)

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