Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Well, that's not good."

These are four words I prefer not to hear from the mouth of my building inspector.

Here is why you use an inspector when you are considering buying a place: When you look at a place, you are captivated by the hardwood floors, the gorgeous tiles in the bathroom, the new appliances. What the inspector does is point out that the hardwood floors actually need another coat of finish, the metal plate in the shower tile is the only thing standing between a wet and soapy you and live electrical wire, and the gas stove has an unnecessarily long flexible gas connection that can kink and leak. He also shows that the bathtub faucets (oh, those gorgeous old-fashioned faucets!) leak badly, and should be addressed professionally lest you risk leaking water into the bathroom wall. Two electrical outlets in an apartment not exactly crawling with them don't work. Then there is the ancient electrical service coming into the building's basement from the street, which doesn't really bother him except that, oh, the 800-amp wires are wrapped in electrical tape that is rubbing against the box cover.

The metal box cover.

"That rubs enough to make a connection...well, you don't want that to happen," he says.

Not to mention the holes in the basement ceiling plaster, which can apparently allow fire to spread in minutes all the way to the top of the building.

I feel my hives start to migrate down my hip.

I also noticed that the one phone jack is in the hallway, near an old built-in telephone shelf, built in the days when people used the phone for short chats, not for marathon cross-country/international conversations. Cable also comes with the assessment, and the previous occupant's solution was to staple both wires up and across a molding-less doorway. It's ugly. I began to strategize wire control.

My agent, the inspector, and I went to dinner at the Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston afterwards.

"OK. Tell me," I said over enchiladas verde. "Did that place freak you out?"

His answer was simply, "It's an old building. This is how they are. People have lived there a long time, and 60 amps is perfectly sufficient for you in that place. There are things that need to be fixed. The seller should fix them. Either they will agree to fix them or they won't. The rest is up to you."

He also added that he'd lived by the lake for many years. "It's incredibly peaceful. There's nothing like it."

He'd given me a big discount on my inspection fee, and I could tell he liked me and was on my side. Although when I suggested he put "Irredeemable Death Trap" on his inspection report to strengthen my negotiating position, he disagreed with that strategy.

Sven gave me good advice, which he gleaned from watching a televangelist during a recent business trip to Texas.

"You are never going to find the perfect woman. Each one has issues. The thing is to find the woman who has issues that you can live with."

Well said. If a little freakish.

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