“Take it or Leave it” – Joys of Home Ownership

I’ll preface this post by saying, yes, I agree, I’ll call the “waaaaambulance”.  There are people really suffering right now with this housing crisis, so by contrast, our problems are quite insignificant.


I have railed in the past about how the real estate market is another bubble and how I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made in 2007 when I bought a house at the last peak of the real estate craze… well obviously I’m full of shit. We bought the worst house in the best neighborhood of Seattle in August 2016. This is the house in the neighborhood that is currently being torn down at a breakneck pace and replaced with a beautiful/modern/million dollar box. It’s small and beat up, but we love it.

When we bought it we didn’t have much leverage. To say it was a seller’s market is a massive understatement (we put 7 offers in before this and lost every single one). Sure the foundation was sloping 8 inches in the front; and in the words of our inspector, it had “the oldest working furnace” he had ever seen (in 40 years of doing business), but the sellers basically said, “take it or leave it” and we took it. They on the other hand took a 160% return in less than 4 years of owning it.

Recently we’ve been doing things to make it either nicer (adding an external dwelling) or routine maintenance that comes with an old house (backed up drains from years of buildup). In both cases we’ve been dealing with a ton of “take it or leave it”. There isn’t an opportunity to “leave it: when it comes to plumbing issues, so I’ll start there.

Fina called a bunch of plumbers and all of them are so busy that they either a) wouldn’t  commit to coming and giving a quote or b) wanted a ton of money just to come out and give us a quote. It was unpleasant to say the least. So she went on the Nextdoor app to see if there were any recommendations from neighbors or amateur plumbers looking to help us out.

Jim’s wife contacted us letting us know that he was a recently retired plumber, doing a little daylighting and he’d like to help us.

Everything started out fine. Jim came and checked out our place and was able to figure out that we were totally screwed, but fine, he could help us. This was after quite a bit of time spent by me trying to plunge the sink-in-question, and I was not about to try any more DIY. Fina is home on maternity leave so she had been dealing with him and there was something a bit off – so she asked that he call me.

“Jim hereereree. The plumber.”

“Hi Jim”

“So, I fsjdlkfsdklfj took a looook. Loooook it’s real bad. It’s gonna be $680. Take it or leave it.”

“Uh, hi Jim. Nice to meet you. Can you explain a bit more about what  you found out.”

“Oh, sure kaj;fjsdfkljsdaklfjsd (incoherent mumbling – sound of a juke box in the background)…. and the pipe is completely backed up. And you gotta lot of problems. So it’s gone be a LOT more than $700.”

“Wait, Jim, you just said it was going to be $680.”

“Fine, I’ll do it for $675. Whaddaya want to do (more incohherent mumbling)?”

I had been out of town on business the week prior and our bathroom sink had been out of commission for over 2 weeks, so I said: “Jim, do you mind coming by so I can meet you in person and you can show me what you plan to do?”

“sdjaflksdjfaklsdjflasdjklfajsdlf (which I took as an affirmation”

Jim and his wife, Sonja showed up reeking of cigarettes and only mildly less incoherent than he had appeared on the phone. For most people, that would have been when conversations ended, but I was feeling desperate and hired him anyway.

Fast forward 3 days, he appears to have done great work and everything is fixed. Sure, he may have left the job site both days by noon to go get drunk, but he fixed it for the price we agreed to, and after a couple of days feeling like I’ve made a huge mistake and endangered my family, it seems resolved. Not pleasant, but resolved.

Next, I’ll tell you about the time we tried to build a sleep shed/guest house, hired a “fixer” to get us the variance so we can keep it when we eventually tear down our house like everyone else, and it ended up costing 3 x as much and taking 5 x as long as our “fixer” said. We are still dealing with it, so those numbers are just preliminary estimates and will probably take waaaay longer. Again, I realize this is some first world problems.


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