Houses present many new challenges

#553 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2008, Hills Newspapers

Houses all have so many parts and surfaces, it’s a constant struggle to keep up with them all. This week I got word that my insurance company will not renew my homeowner’s policy unless I paint the outside of my house. They sent out an inspector who walked around the exterior (I’m told this is routine for everyone) and found some peeling paint.

Anet wonders what the problem is for the insurance company. Peeling paint makes for greater risk? I’m not sure. It isn’t that the house looks a shambles. There are spots, especially on the sunnier side, that would benefit from new paint, but most of the exterior doesn’t look too bad. I do plan to have it painted sometime, but I know it will be expensive, and I’m not ready to spend the money.

If I stay with this company, will they send another inspector to check up on me? If I change to another company, will they also send an inspector and want me to paint? I don’t know the answers. I’m thinking about what to do. Maybe touching up the obvious spots will do the trick for awhile. They did give me a year to fix it.

Meanwhile, at my rental property, my tenant called to say that the electricity had gone out in parts of her apartment. She’d been using her hair dryer in the bathroom, then suddenly, the electricity went off. I had her look at the circuit breakers to see if one had tripped, but no, they were all in the on position.

Anet enjoys puzzling out a problem, so we went to the apartment and turned on all the lights. Then, while Anet switched circuits on and off from the electrical main on the driveway, I yelled out to her what was getting juice. An hour later Anet knew exactly what was on the blown circuit but did not know how to fix it.

She called Shaun, our contractor friend who unfortunately now lives several hours away from us, and she described what she knew, including that the tenant’s hair dryer had switched itself off several times in a row, she’d reset each time, then the electricity was lost. Shaun said, “It’s probably the neutral wire, and it might just need replacement at the switch, but then again, it might be anywhere in that line.”

This seemed to mean something to Anet. She called an electrician to make a date and then bought, so it would be on hand when he arrived, a GFCI (ground fault interrupter) switch. The electrician came, heard from Anet everything she and Shaun had figured out, and guess what, they were right. In less than an hour, the melted neutral wire was replaced and the new GFCI put in. Problem solved for $100 total.

Our next house challenge came up shortly after in our new listing. A one-piece Kohler toilet was running but only sometimes and very softly. Anet got interested (not surprising) and spent quite awhile looking at the inner workings of the toilet, the flapper and the ball-cock assembly. She made various adjustments to see if they would make a difference, but they did not, so she called Shaun.

Shaun said that this sort of toilet has a different way of filling and turning off and that he’d be glad to replace the “guts” when he is in the area again. He suggested that Anet turn off the water at the toilet, remove the main parts and get new ones at a plumbing supply house.

Back at the toilet, Anet tried removal but all she got out of the tank was a lot of water, much of it squirted over her. Wet and frustrated, she called a plumber. Plumber was terrific. He looked, said immediately, “Parts get old and dried out, don’t work anymore, let’s replace them.” He had in his truck (glory be) everything necessary to fix the toilet. $147 total for this problem solved. And so it goes with houses, just the regular things that break or wear out, always something different.

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