What’s that noise?

Hello Gentle readers.  Those of you who follow this blog, and who are not incarcerated, need to find something better to do.  But, if you are a reader, you may know that when I am not gallivanting around the globe, I invest in income producing real estate back near where I live.  I buy foreclosed homes as a way to diversify my money away from the stock market.  I don’t like having all my investments under the control of some fat cat banker or greedy stock broker.  I would rather be the fat and greedy one and control my investments personally.

At the time of the incident to be discussed here, I owned four single family homes that had been foreclosures.  I fixed them up, and leased them out.  I have not had any major problems yet and I have been doing it for two years now. 

A new foreclosure came on to the market that I was interested in.  It was a very nice little home in a typical middle income neighborhood.  It was all brick, three bedrooms, two baths and had a nice back yard and was on a quiet street.   It had been recently painted on the outside and the inside looked good.  I planned to re-paint the inside and put in new carpet.  It should have been a painless, low cost rehab.  Since I am a guy, I think about the mechanicals of a house more than the floor plan or paint colors.  This house had a new HVAC system.  And it had copper water pipes which indicated to me that the original builder put in more quality in to this home than a home that just used galvanized steel water pipe.

The day I was supposed to finalize the purchase of this house I decided to swing by the property to check it out one more time.  I discovered that the outside air conditioner compressor was missing.  Thieves had stolen it.  All that was left was the small concrete pad that it sat on.  Crap!  That was a problem.

I made a few frantic phone calls to see what it would cost me to replace the outside unit.  The prices ranged from $500 for a used unit, to $2,900 if the inside unit had to be replaced to match the new outside unit.  Crap again!   I had my Real Estate agent tell the seller, a big fat cat banker, that if they did not lower the price by $3,500, the purchase was off.  They came back with their counter-offer, which was a $500 reduction.  I came back with a $2,000 lower price.  The seller acquiesced to my stern demands and reduced the price by $2,000.  HA!  Now I could buy a $500 used A/C unit for the house and have an extra $1500 to use for putting more tile flooring in the house.  What a wheeler-dealer I was!  So, I signed all the paperwork, and now owned this cute little house.

It was a few days later before I had a chance to go inside the property.  I was showing the house to my wife when, as luck would have it, the city water dept. worker stopped by and turned on the water for us.  We suddenly heard a loud gushing sound.  My wife and I look at each other.  “What’s that noise?”  It sounded like a water hose blasting the wall in the garage.

I ran outside.  The City worker said he turned the water back off since there was water pouring out of the attic and running down the outside brick.  NOT GOOD.  I was astonished.  I went in to the garage and saw that the water heater had been pulled away from the wall and all the copper pipes and connections to it were cut and mangled up.  The power cable to it was also severed.  What on earth could have caused that?  How weird!  But that did not explain why water would be coming out of the attic.

I pulled down the retractable stairway and scrambled up in to the dark attic.  My flashlight zeroed in on the area where the water would have been pouring out.  Everything was soaked.  The insulation looked like a giant serving of over cooked linguini.  The sheetrock had a half inch of water puddled up on it.  And I suddenly realized that the source of the water leak was a ragged stub of copper pipe sticking out of the ceiling rafters.   I looked around and realized that all the copper pipes in the attic were gone.  Every foot of it.  And most of the copper electrical wires that crisscrossed the attic were gone too.  I was dumbstruck.

I slowly crawled back down the stairs.  My wife was standing in the garage, anxiously waiting for an explanation.  I could hardly spit out the results of my examination.  I told her what I found and she was dumbstruck too.  That often happens to her when I open my mouth, but that is something she has learned to handle, with the help of her psychologist.  

So, fast forward a few days later.  I found a plumber who could quickly replace the piping system.  Then I found an electrician to replace and repair the damaged electrical wiring.  Then I had to replace the water heater and rewire it.  The last item was to replace the outside A/C unit and repair the damaged inside unit.  All total, the cost for all these repairs were around $5,000.  Ouch.  That $2,000 I got deducted from the house price looks very inadequate right now.  The pathetic thing is that the thieves probably got less than $50 bucks for the scrap copper.

A few days later I called the Sheriff’s Dept. to discuss the incident.  I didn’t really think it would do any good but one of the contractors told me that the police were taking this sort of crime seriously, so I reported it. A sheriff came out and took some basic information from me.  He asked why I didn’t report the crime right after it happened.  I told him I thought it was a waste of time.  I asked him what they would be doing to investigate.  He said they were too short handed to investigate, and it would be a waste of time. Arrrrgh.

But this tale did have a happy ending.  My wife and I installed a lovely tile floor in the kitchen and entry.  The painter did a great job patching the holes that the plumber had to cut in the walls to connect new pipe to the un-stolen pipe.  And, best of all, I found a nice family to move in and make a home out of the house.  They hope to buy it one day.   I just hope we don’t have to call the plumber, electrician, or the police again.  But I make no bets about whether my wife will need to keep  that appointment with the  psychologist.




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