Selling the Lake House, a Traumatizing Experience

After living on a lake for 27 years, my wife retired and decided she wants to move to Florida and be a beach girl. She convinced me that we should move to St. Augustine. This meant selling the lake house.

Let me first say that we have been blessed to live on the lake; we raised our children here and made many wonderful memories along the way. Having said that, this article is about the selling the lake house, and in that regard I’m hoping for hysterical amnesia. I’d like to block those memories from my mind forever.

First, we got a realtor, a reasonable approach. In fairness, our realtor has been the only sane thing about this experience. We discussed price, and the realtor took photos, put together brochures and listed our place for sale. Our home was in excellent condition. We got a full price offer in the first ten days. That’s where the good news ends with selling the lake house and the insanity begins.

It all started with the buyer’s real estate agent showing them our house. They made the offer, and a few days later this same buyer’s agent was scheduled to meet the home inspector for the required inspection. On the day of the inspection, their agent went to our neighbor’s house to wait for the home inspector. I had to walk next door to get him and point out that he was at the wrong house. Ours was the one with the ‘for sale’ sign in front. This should have given me a hint of the things to come.

The home inspector and his assistant showed up, and my wife and I left to go to lunch as recommended by our realtor. Apparently, it’s better if the sellers are not there for the home inspection. We returned home a couple of hours later, and everyone was gone. My wife and I walked around the house to check on things, and most of the sliding glass doors and screens had been left open. This is never a good idea out here in the boondocks where the squirrels, deer, bugs and snakes roam free. We spent the next hour going hunting in our own house, to ensure that none of the local animal population had moved in ahead of the buyers.

We fortunately didn’t find any wild things running around in the house. However, when my wife went to take a bath that evening, she discovered that the handle that moves the tub stopper to the down position was broken. I speculated that one of the inspectors decided to take a bath while there, and couldn’t figure out how the stopper worked. I also discovered that the downstairs TV had been turned on, and left on for no apparent reason. Perhaps the inspector’s favorite soap was on while he was there?

These were minor things, and we figured little harm, no foul. Then we received a copy of the home inspector’s report. I hadn’t sold a house for a while, so I had blissfully forgotten what a fun thing that is. According to this home inspector, our deck was at the point of collapse. The roof was thirteen years old with only a few years left. There was an electric issue that would most certainly result in an imminent fire. And, the switch to the automatic door on our dock was broken. As I look back on this, it’s now funny. But, at the time I think I had a minor stroke. Allow me to explain.

The previous year, we had hired a contractor to completely redo our deck and screened porch to the tune of almost $40,000. The contractor had removed all the old deck boards and examined the frame to make sure it was up to code. He added several additional beams to support the new screened porch. The entire thing was built using fiberon, an expensive and extremely durable product, and heavy gauge aluminum. I’m thinking the home inspector was on something of a hallucinogenic nature that day. I can think of no other reason for his conclusion that the deck was in poor condition.

Then, there was the thirteen-year-old roof, that had just been newly installed the previous year. (According to my math, that would make it one-year old). I refuse to speculate on how he arrived at this conclusion, for fear of yet another small stroke.

Regarding the hazardous electrical issue, the home inspector thought that some idiot of an electrician had pulled electricity from a 220 line to power a small neon under-counter light. As it turns out, and as confirmed by a real, honest-to-goodness electrician that we had to hire, everything was fine. It was taken from a 110 line and wired appropriately. The only hazard appeared to be the home inspector.

And, just to confirm my theory regarding the hallucinogen, there is no automatic door of any kind on our dock. The switch shown in the photo in the inspector’s report actually controls a flood light located on the roof of the dock, directly above the switch location.

So, in my mind I see a cartoon. It’s broad daylight, the inspector is repeatedly flipping the switch off and on, and the floodlight is blinking off and on directly above his head, but he can’t see it. He can see a metal manual rolling door on the side of the boathouse behind which is located a small refrigerator. And, for some reason the manual door isn’t moving as he flips the switch (which makes perfect sense to a normal human being, since it has to be opened manually). He concludes that the switch should be opening and closing this “automatic” door, and therefore must be broken. This was not a good day for home inspectors.

At this point my wife and I began to consider the possibility that selling the lake house was a mistake. We had to clear these non-issues up with the buyers, who eventually agreed with our hallucinogen theory of the home inspector. We moved on after agreeing to repair a couple of actual issues based in reality.

At this point, we thought all we had left were a termite and septic inspection and a radon test. These things were fine. Then the man from the power company that controls the shoreline of the lake showed up. It’s my understanding that the purpose for this inspection is to deal with erosion issues and make sure that people aren’t going crazy with massive dock construction. I WAS WRONG! He wandered down to the dock, took a quick look and left without saying anything. We assumed all was well.

We received the power company report, and I had small stroke number 2. I have this ridiculous need for thing to make sense, which is apparently a fatal flaw when it comes to selling a house. According to the inspector, when they came and took a photo of our dock several years ago, there was a plastic jet ski dock attached to our floating dock. We had long since sold the jet ski and the plastic floating dock along with it. At 68, with no children at home, and my aged back, neck, knees, etc., I had no use for a jet ski anymore. We had also had the audacity to build a rack onto the side of the dock facing land to hold our two kayaks.

We were told that in order to come into compliance with the power company regulations, we would have to replace the plastic floating jet ski dock with a new one, even though we don’t have a jet ski. The reason for this was that by removing it, we created a new boat slip, where we could potentially park a second boat. The power company wasn’t all that impressed when I pointed out that we only have one boat. Didn’t matter. We now had a dock with two boat slips, and we should have gotten a permit for that.

As described by power company inspector, the problem with the kayak rack was that it extended the dock out on the land sideby about 6 inches, and this was unacceptable. I had no response to this, as I have learned that trying to combat insanity with insanity is a waste of time. I worked for the federal government early in my career. This experience with the power did, however, give me frightening flashbacks to my days with the government.

The upshot of the report was that if the buyers wanted the dock to be in compliance with power company regs, we would have to either replace the jet ski dock and remove the kayak rack, or apply for a permit for those two changes that would take at least 6 months to process. When we asked what they would do if we did not bring it into compliance, the answer was “nothing.” If the buyers ever want to alter the dock, they will have to apply for another permit anyhow, and they can handle all of these horrible transgressions if one fell swoop. Furthermore, the truth is that if the buyers want to add a jet ski floating dock to the current dock at some point, they don’t need a permit. In fact, adding one would bring the dock back into compliance.

Praise the Lord, the buyers were rational human beings, and they understood the insanity of both the home inspection report and the power company report. We were able to work things out amicably, and they purchased a beautiful, well-cared-for home that will serve them well for a long time. So, selling the lake house was ultimately a success. However, next time I consider selling a house, I think I’m just going to board it up and leave it for my adult children to deal with. I’m afraid I lost way too many brain cells with this experience, and at my age I don’t have that many to spare.