Thursday, April 8, 2021

Homeowner headaches

As many of you long time readers know, I was thrilled when I was finally able to buy my first home a couple of years ago. We waited and rented so long that I was beginning to be afraid we'd never be able to manage it. The first few years after we got married we were almost ready; we had a decent nest egg saved up, good credit scores, and I had a job making double my current income. Then cancer struck, which wiped out our savings, ruined my husband's credit score (the medical bills were obscene, even with good health insurance) and put any plans for the future strictly on hold for a long time. 

When we were finally able to buy this house, I was so grateful. It's been a bittersweet thing, because what made it possible was a generous inheritance we got when my dear mother-in-law passed away. She would have loved this place!  I get sad sometimes when I think about all the fun we could have had, sitting on my screened porch, drinking wine and watching the bird feeders. I wish we could have bought this place before she died, but such is life. 

Since becoming homeowners, we've been very preoccupied with proper care and maintenance of the house. Our last rental home had grown so shabby (thanks to our cheap ass landlord) that I was embarrassed to have people over by the last year we were there. Things wear out and break down over time, and he always, always found the cheapest possible option to repair and/or replace things. We swore that we would never look for the cheap option over the quality one in a home we own, and not only that, we're looking to improve the place. Not for resale, because we hope to live here forever, but for our own comfort and happiness.

Still, I've discovered the one downside of homeownership: there's never any end to the maintaining/repairing/replacing one must do, especially with an older house like ours. 

We've done pretty well so far, though. First off, we had to replace the 36 year old HVAC that was here when we bought the place. It kept breaking our first summer here, and in a place as hot as South Carolina that's a ticket to misery. Of course, it took a large chunk out of our savings but it's been so worth it. Not only are we super comfortable, but our power bill has gone down dramatically thanks to the new, much more energy efficient unit. We added a door to the half bathroom off the master bedroom. The previous owners only had a curtain up, which was just bizarre. Along with a few other small repairs, that was all we did the first year. 

In the last month we came into some extra money (an actual tax return for the first time in years and then our stimulus payments) and decided to save part of it, but to put the rest into the house. First I called an HVAC company and paid a yearly fee that includes twice a year servicing of our new unit. They came out on Monday morning and did their pre-summer maintenance, and they'll be back in 6 months to do the same thing to prepare for the winter. I paid for the year all at once, in advance. Hopefully this will make our new unit work better and last longer than it would otherwise, so I consider it protecting the investment we made. Money well spent.

Then we had decided we needed some plumbing work done. The shower drain clogged regularly and putting chemicals into it was making me nervous and wasn't resolving the issue. There was a tiny, intermittent leak under the kitchen sink. Most importantly, we have a tankless hot water heater and had heard that they need periodic flushing and maintenance to continue working properly. I looked around online and contacted a combination plumbing and electrical company that has years' worth of excellent customer reviews. They came out Tuesday morning, looked at those three things, and quoted us a price....

Over $800!!!!  We were aghast.

It was $300 to service the tankless water heater....$200 to add a new drain to the bathroom tub that would work better....and the tiny, almost insignificant leak under the kitchen sink was the result of a poor, "rigged together" piece of plumbing that wasn't "up to code" and had to be redone...another $250. Also the initial assessment of the issues involved a $65 service fee. 

We went ahead and had the work done, but weren't happy about it. I'll admit that the technicians were very professional, prompt, and thorough. But they should have been for the $870 we ended up spending after taxes were added in! If any of you reading this are homeowners and live in the states, do you think that's excessive? It seemed so to me, but what do I know? I do know this, however: whenever we go to have plumbing or electrical work done in the future, we'll try a different company to see if we can get better rates!

At the end of the day, though, we've had some nagging worries put to rest and that's a little more peace of mind. Our a/c is getting regular service now, our tub drains, our kitchen sink is "up to code" and won't be leaking anymore, and our tankless water heater has had really important maintenance done. 

Time to move on down the list and onto the next thing.....as soon as our bank account recovers!

33 comments:

  1. your plumbing costs sounds normal to me. and you won't have to get it fixed again.

    and it is wise to have the maintenance package on your HVAC; I have that, but I pay monthly.

    when we moved into our house 21 years ago, our neighbor said "a house is a bottomless money pit". she was right.

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    1. Hence why my mother says she'll kick my ass!

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    2. Haha! Your mother is a savvy woman!

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    3. Anne Marie, thank you for saying you think the price of the work sounds reasonable. We were hoping we hadn't been foolish to go ahead with the work rather than shopping around for better rates. The company obviously does good work and comes highly recommended.

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  2. We are lucky in that Tim is quite a handyman and does most of our work himself, because the costs of labor alone can be quite shocking. I agree with Anne Marie though. We are firm believers in doing things right and doing them well...and then never thinking about them again!

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    1. Debby, we have similar beliefs about doing things right the first time and then never thinking of them again! This company got excellent reviews, and a coworker told me that she and her husband never use anyone else! So at least they obviously do good work and stand behind it. That means a lot!

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    2. my HVAC/plumber guys have been servicing this house for 21 years. they are reliable, dependable, professional, courteous, clean. they know where everything is and how to fix it.

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  3. My mother always tells me if I buy a house, she'll kick my ass!!! LOL!!!!

    I rent a small condo and happy. But I have a great landlord. If people rent a place it's to their benefit to keep the place up and repair replace accordingly. Otherwise if they don't, they won't get good renters who care. They will only attract the rough types. Riff Raff I say.

    You two done good. Your home always looks lovely. Be proud honey!

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    1. Thank you! The outside of our house looks really good at the moment. Gregg and I have been out using a ladder and a large, extendable brush to clean all the painted trim on the house and the garage. We've also mowed, used the weed eater, and removed part of an old picket fence on the side that was falling down and looking unsightly. That's what we've spent our Easter break doing, and it's well worth it!

      You're absolutely right about landlords being smart to invest in their rentals and to keep them in good shape, otherwise they attract riff raff.

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  4. You are right- being a homeowner means constant maintenance and also upgrading. And you're also right in that things always cost more than you think they will. But...like you said- at least you aren't having to put up with shoddy workmanship and the disappointing results. And after all the years that you and Gregg have waited and saved and worked, you know the value of your investment and know that your home is worth getting things done right.

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  5. When we bought our first house (the house movie "The Money Pit" was based on), we learned that everything we had estimated cost us four times as much. We bought at the height of the market, poured a fortune into repairs and improvements, and then got new jobs that had us selling at the bottom of the market. Ugh!

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  6. Maintaining a house can be expensive but at it's an excellent investment and you are spending money on something you can benefit and enjoy. Let's face it, we are all spending a lot more time at home right now!

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  7. The cost of having things done properly up here in the north are twice what you paid. That is one of the reasons we are reluctant to call- we end up usually doing it ourselves but now it is more difficult because we are ancient. Owning a home is worth it all though, you know, and yours is lovely!

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  8. Yes Jennifer, there is always something which could do with doing isn' t there? I think as a home owner one has to prioritise.

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  9. You are smart to keep up with repairs and not let them get worse or pile up. I have quite a few projects to get going on but can't seem to find the motivation. Congrats to you on a job well done!

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  10. Owning a home means there is always something that must be done to maintain it. It is constant and if you put it off, it will get worse.

    I worked in the service business for 17 years. That was a very fair price especially since you were satisfied with their work.

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  11. Old houses, they say over here, have big and hungry mouths! One house I owned needed re-roofing - it cost what would be about 25,000 dollars - yes that much!!! And though I knew it needed doing I also knew that it wasn't ever going to add as much to the value of the place... it really grated.
    For various reasons (work mainly) I currently have two houses in the UK but I'm selling one to retire and write in our cottage by the sea (I'm here now) I will not miss having the two sets of bills at all - and nor will I miss the bigger house; I love my little cottage - it has been part of my life for thirty yeas and I hope many more.

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  12. Yes, house maintenance can be expensive if there are a lot of outstanding repairs needed but once those are fixed (as you have done) maintenance should be a lot cheaper. You should certainly shop around for tradespeople who are competent but also reasonably priced. Maybe your new neighbours could recommend a few firms?

    I wouldn't know whether your plumber's charges were excessive as we haven't had similar problems, except for the leaking sink, for which $250 (£182) does sound a bit over-the-top.

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  13. Any kind of plumbing fix is expensive. Owning a house means so much more money than the house payment, but it's yours. You don't have to deal with a sucky landlord.

    Love,
    Janie

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  14. My house was built in 1905. I feel your pain... really, sincerely, I feel your pain.

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  15. Plumbing is expensive! Luckily, Carlos is pretty good at SOME plumbing issues, and even LUCKIER, he knows when he can't do something!

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  16. I let a house back in England. Some friends have been there ever since I decided to let. I'm very generous about the rent, and they pay about half the going rate. However, they are supposed to do tiny repairs, or decorating in return; which they don't do. But at least they pay the rent regularly!

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  17. We've owned our small home for 45 years and every time we've had a plumber out for something I have sworn we were getting ripped off but actually I know we were not. Plumbing is terribly expensive work to have done and I sometimes wonder if plumbers don't make more money than doctors! Whenever possible we try to find someone that can give a free estimate and then if it sounds too outrageous we get another estimate from someone else to compare.

    You are smart to set up the HVAC yearly servicing. We do the same thing and I believe in the long run it does save money. I love owning our own home but yes, it can get expensive plus it involves a lot of work. Now that we are getting older there are some things we used to do ourselves that we can't anymore and that costs us even more. We used to always clean our gutters ourselves but we can't safely get on a ladder now so we have to hire someone to do that. One thing I have learned in owning a home is the danger water can do to your house and that includes gutters not working properly. Also, as someone else mentioned, you should brace yourself whenever you have to get a new roof!

    I'm really happy for you that you do have such a lovely home and you and Gregg should be proud that you are being so wise in taking care of it!

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  18. As you know, I do not live in the U.S., but I guess plumbing and plastering, carpentry and electricity work are all very expensive over here, so what you were charged with does not sound excessive to me.
    I own my flat, and the most expensive thing I have had done so far was the bathroom makeover. It took much longer than expected (doesn't it always!) and was a little (not much) more expensive than I thought. That year (2018), it swallowed my entire annual bonus payment from work - and that was exactly what I had planned to do with it.
    Now I have not done anything big in a while, and don't see the need, but of course there are always bits that could do with a fresh lick of paint. Thankfully, the central heating and hot water system in the house works fine, and I hope it will continue that way for a long time.
    Oh, I forgot the outside paving around the house that was done late last year - it wasn't exactly cheap, but we (the three house owners) are happy with the result.

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  19. I don't know exactly what you got done but how many guys did it? How much for the parts? How long did they spend? How far did they drive to get there?

    I really doubt it was excessive and better to get a good fix first than to get a cheap one then the proper one

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  20. The plumbing bill does sound pretty high. Perhaps you should ask around at your school to find a reliable, independent plumber. As for future home improvements, may I suggest a fifty foot aviary for Marco with tropical trees and a fountain inside so that he can fly around to his heart's content and live even more happily than he does now.

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  21. Plumbing is always ridiculously expensive. I think you did the right thing by biting the bullet and getting it done. And if the company's good reviews are any indication, you have the additional peace of mind of knowing it was done well. Sometimes you just have to pay.

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  22. Yes you hit this one spot-on.
    My eyes cross at all that needs doing around my place.
    It never ends.

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  23. Plumbing is always expensive, your charges sound pretty reasonable. What you put into your home only benefits you which is the nice part of ownership verses renting.

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  24. Home maintenance can be expensive for sure, especially on older homes. My house is 65 years old and I have lived here for 37 years. I have needed to have plumbers and electricians come over, so now I have them to call when required. Now you have some experts lined up for future reference. I don't have A/C, not needed, but it sounds like you are smart to get the twice a year maintenance package for your new unit.

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  25. Once you buy a house, you'll never be out of things to do or throw money at. That bill seems rather high, but without knowing what kind of maintenance the water heater needs or what they did to that shower drain (just undo the clog vs cleaning out the whole drain pipe) it's hard to say. OTOH, less expensive than letting little things turn to big things. We learned to do a lot of repairs ourselves. Pre-internet, one of the best purchases we made was a copy of the Reader's Digest home repair book.

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  26. Shower clog - get one of those things for over the drain that catch hair. Or one of those plastic drain cleaner strips (plastic strip with backwards pointing teeth to grab and pull out gunk) - prepare for some gross yuck blech gunk to be pulled out!

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  27. Wow. Good luck after the troubles, medical and otherwise. The future begins today, as they say.

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