The Perils of Home Ownership

This past weekend, my wife and I had a small crisis with our house, which made me again wonder if renting a home might not have been simpler at the end of it all. Every year you must to turn off the spigot in the garage (and maybe in the back of your house) in the fall, or it may freeze up and crack. Last year I forgot to do this and sure enough something in the pipes split and we ended up with a fair amount of water in the basement. It wasn’t enough to worry about an Insurance Claim, but it was one hell of a mess.

I Should Have Turned THIS off in the Fall
I Should Have Turned THIS off in the Fall

Michael James has railed and lampooned me for what a huge mess I have in my basement, well, I can assure him that there is a lot less mess, because we have had to throw out a great deal of stuff that was in cardboard boxes  (and that should have been thrown out a long time ago).

It’s interesting the things that I found down there, such as:

  • Tax Returns going back to 1981 (I am destroying those not of this century).
  • Lots of art work from our kids (who are all at University). Strangely for my 8 year old son we don’t have any art work.
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Anyhow, the moral of this story is many fold so let me count it (as is my love of numbered lists):

  1. Turn off the interior faucet (if you have one) for your outside faucets (and if you don’t have an interior cut off, you might want to get one).
  2. If your basement is full of cardboard boxes sitting on the floor, you mustn’t care much about what is in there because it doesn’t take much water to destroy those.
  3. Go through your records and only keep those things that are needed (32-year-old tax returns are not needed, except for a good laugh about how much I made as a co-op student).
  4. If you hear water running in your house, but you can’t find any open faucets, check your basement FIRST.
  5. Always know where the water shut off is for your house (and if you need a wrench or vice grips to shut it off, have one near by).

My, that was an interesting weekend.


Tire Storage the Business

So in the fall I wrote a slightly off colour piece Do You Store Your Tires, where I bragged about my wife’s rack (the tire storage rack that I include in this post, because I am very proud of it), but after retrieving my tires from my mechanic I learned something more interesting about the ever growing business of “storing our stuff” (to quote the Late George Carlin from Brain Droppings).

A very Nice Rack
A very Nice Rack

Someone at my mechanic’s shop pointed out that they stored over 1600 sets of tires this past winter, and I thought, “WOW! That is a lot of stuff!”.

That is more than 6400 tires stored somewhere (actually it was being stored in a set of storage containers (a big (but not huge) place to keep your stuff) beside his property.  I guess if you have the space, storing your customers tires is a service that is in high demand, but I was just floored by how many tires that was.

Will I be storing my tires next winter? I am hoping I don’t because I plan on putting a shed on my property where I can store that kind of stuff (tires, lawnmower, snow blower, bikes, etc.,), because I have a lot of stuff . Is it cheaper for me to store my own stuff, or to pay someone to keep my stuff somewhere else (where I might have to call to go look at my stuff)? I don’t know, but I don’t feel safe leaving my stuff somewhere else, I like having my stuff close by, to make sure no one is fooling with my stuff.

Every time I turn around when I am driving in a rural area there is yet another “store your crap here” business popping up, so storing your stuff must be a growing business. Where I live in Ottawa storage is a booming business where folks store their stuff, their RV’s (which are places with wheels to store stuff, which then need to be stored when you aren’t using them), and other stuff.

At the end of it all, Mr. Carlin had it right when he said,

“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”,

George Carlin

Do you store your stuff, or do you not have enough stuff to worry about it?

Some crazy folks get rid of their stuff, but what if they needed it later? I like my stuff, but I am not sure I like paying to store it, maybe I just need a bigger house to put my stuff in?


Things to Look For When Browsing for a New House

It’s been a while since we bought our current house (actually about 20 years ago now), but I noticed that many folks are talking about what to look for in a home when you are out buying a house. I want to pass on a few of the things that I (or friends of mine) learned while looking for the “house of their dreams,” or maybe just the “house of their reality.” Please don’t end up House Poor either.

Being On the Level is Important

One of My Favorite Albums – Status Quo – On The Level

Mrs. C8j and I were looking at a lovely house one time, and the visit was going well until I walked into one of the bedrooms. I had had a few late nights, so I suddenly felt off-kilter, like I was about to fall over, so I sat down on the bed. Mrs. C8j wandered in and had this odd look on her face and said, “What is with the floor?”.

I stood up and realized that the floor sloped into one of the corners and that “off-kilter” sensation I had, was the floor itself not being level.

Bring a level with you to a house viewing and start checking if walls are vertical, and if the floors are level, you may be surprised what you find.

Look for a Flush of Success

Plumbing is essential in your house (anyone who says otherwise hasn’t had to snake out a backed-up toilet), so the old trick of flushing toilets and seeing if the water pressure drops is a great tip, but I find if you wander around the house constantly turning on and off taps and flushing toilets you will annoy the vendors to no end (or at least their sales rep). Also, look for water stains behind toilets and if you are in the basement, see if you can see under bathroom floors to see if there have been any “floods” in the house.

Model Home Sounds Nice Doesn’t It?

Never buy the Model Home, I have written about this before, but seriously, this house was slapped up quickly and may not even be to code.

Bluffing Works in Poker and House Buying As Well

NOT the Big Cajun Estate

More than once, I have made off-handed comments to my wife while looking at a house, which I thought were innocuous, but which has caused an outpouring of information from the vendor. This won’t work with real professionals who know how to sell, but if you are dealing with folks who are “doing it themselves,” sometimes an innocent-sounding comment can give you a lot of information.

An example might be a comment like “What is that smell?” when you walk into the basement if the vendor replies quickly with, “What smell, I don’t smell anything, there are no smells here, not an odor to be smelled!”, and get very nervous, you pursue this a lot more. If the vendor sniffs with you and shrugs their shoulders, then maybe there isn’t anything to worry about, but who knows?

Notice What is On the Walls

My wife and I looked at a house once, and in the master bedroom was a large framed photo of a voluptuous woman, topless in the middle of a tropical lagoon setting, smiling at the camera. She didn’t notice, but let me tell you, I didn’t miss it. I smiled knowingly, and as we were finishing our viewing, the homeowners came home, and I was surprised to see that the buxom model in the picture was, in fact, one of the homeowners.

As we left, my wife asked me why I had that goofy grin on my face, so I explained what I had seen. To this day, she claims I am making this story up. Yes, this story has nothing to do with buying a house, just a funny story I like to tell, but we also didn’t buy that house.

 Photographic Memory

I don’t remember details much (even less as I grow older), but if you can convince the vendor, bring a video camera and tape your visit so that you can go back over the house later. We still have the video from when we had the house inspection done on the Big Cajun Estate and noticed lots of things that were different, nothing big, so no point in calling the lawyers. However, good to know in case something more significant has happened. You may not convince your vendor to allow you to videotape, but the vendor may also have a video they will give you of the house. Either way, good to have a video of a possible future home.

Which House Did I Buy?

If you buy a house, or a townhouse, make sure you bought the place you want (and not another house accidentally). A dear friend bought his first townhome after seeing three different homes in the same housing complex, but it was only on the day he moved in that he realized that he hadn’t bought the house he thought he had. Saying on move-in day, “I don’t think this is the house I bought,” is a little late to notice your error. Before you sign anything, make sure you buy the house you want.

Who do You Work For?

I always have an issue if you use the same agent as the vendor for your purchase. Who is your agent working for? I am sure most agents would “poo-poo” my concerns, but I am a naturally untrusting person. This just seems wrong to me.

Hopefully, your purchase will go smoothly, but remember to be thorough in your due diligence before buying.


Do You Store Your Tires

My mechanic who installs my snow tires offers a service to store tires for $12.50 per tire per season (about $50 plus tax for the winter). We store my wife’s tires since they are on rims; however, we don’t store them for my car (they aren’t on rims). My car’s tires are loose and tend to take up some space in my garage, which has been one of the reasons why my car would not fit into our garage (a double car garage).

Mrs. C8j noticed that Canadian Tire had a “Black Friday” (yeh right) sale on a wall-mounted tire rack for $56 (around), and I had been dithering about how this was going to be the year we try to fit my car into the garage (my wife’s van provides with little work), so it seemed like this past weekend we were going to try to fit both cars into our garage.

Saturday was the day. Thus we spent a reasonable amount of time throwing things out and then playing garage Tetris. Still, thanks to mounting my tires on the wall, some judicious destruction, and decluttering, my car fits into the garage.

A very Nice Rack

The exciting part of all of this is that the cost of the rack is about the exact price as we paid for my wife to have her tires stored. So in some ways, this rack paid for itself if I had kept my tires (as you can see from the picture, I have other stuff that I can stuff into the rack).

At the end of it, we continue to play garage Tetris to see the optimal setup for the cars and the snowblower, but Mrs. C8j also points out that maybe we need a backyard shed to store the remaining stuff (others might say, have less stuff).


On Line Jewelry at Costco ?

My wife and I were out treating ourselves to a lavish Costco Lunch (best lunch for less than $5 around) a few days ago, and afterwards we wandered around their showroom, and noticed that in the Costco Jewelry section they were advertising a new pendant that you could get from them. It looked quite nice, but that is not what caught my eye, the price tag of $12,999.99 is what really caught my eye.

Costco Jewelry

This sale item alone caused my wife to have no end of discussions on:

  • Who would buy their engagement ring at Costco? I think that was an initial shock thing, since I bought my wife’s rings at People’s jewelers, what is the difference? The nice thing about Costco is you have a warranty and such, so why not buy your ring at Costco was the conclusion we had. Another interesting article is: Tiffany vs. Costco: Which Diamond Ring Is Better?
  • That is one hell of a lot of money to spend on an engagement ring in our opinion. When my fiance could be walking around with a down payment on a $750,000 house on her finger, I must scratch my head on that. How much would you have to pay in insurance for something like that? Where would you wear it? This of course has nothing to do with the good folks at Costco, just a cranky old man wondering about the younger generation.
  • I asked the young lady at check out (I thought jokingly) if she had sold many of the $79K rings, and she replied, “A few, you’d be surprised”. She then said it was more interesting when someone returns a big-ticket item like that (I believe she said she had a $24,000 refund a few weeks back). I believe I had to pick my jaw up from the floor.
  • Do they have these things on site, for you to take home, or is it ordered specially and delivered to your home? Who delivers that kind of stuff (since you can order it on-line as well)? Brinks?
  • What’s with the extra 99 cents on the price? Seriously, you needed to go that close to $13K?

It did make our visit to Costco that much more fun, because then looking at the Chocolate Milk, Cheese and a Remote Control Car seem so cheap in comparison.

Am I just being a crotchety old man on this one?


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