Wednesday, 7 October 2015

By on October 7th, 2015 in prepping, relocation

10:51 – We spent yesterday up in Sparta looking at houses. We decided to put in an offer on one of them. It’s a beautiful house, sitting on about 1.5 acres of level ground that gets plenty of sun. It’s a short sale, which complicates matters somewhat because the bank is involved.

The house was built in 2006, but it was built right, with solid cherry floors on the main level, cherry cabinetry and good built-in appliances in the kitchen, and so on. The primary heating and AC is via heat pump, but there’s also a ducted woodstove in the basement that can heat the entire house if necessary.

One of the other homes we looked at was obviously owned by preppers. One of the basement rooms had three 10-foot islands of five-shelf 2-foot wide floor-to-ceiling shelving units. Three hundred square feet (30 square meters) of shelves, all filled with canned goods, dry staples, and so on. I don’t know how large the family is, but I’m guessing there was food for one year for a family of six or eight people.

Then as we were driving down the road, our real estate agent announced out of the blue that she was a prepper, and had been all her life. She’s a couple years older than I am, and she said she’d grown up on a farm and she still maintains a large garden, hunts and fishes, shoots recreationally, keeps tons of stored food, has the ability to heat her home off-grid, and all the other stuff preppers do. I wasn’t surprised when she added that that was the norm in Sparta, where even people who don’t consider themselves preppers are semper paratus. It’s just part of living in an isolated mountain town.

So now we’re waiting for the sellers and their bank to approve or reject our offer. We should hear from them within the next few days.

47 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 7 October 2015"

  1. Denis says:

    Excellent news. Best wishes that all goes smoothly for you. I thought something important was afoot when the journal wasn’t up by 15.00 Brussels time.

    Your real estate lady sounds too good to be true. Make sure she tells you where the good hunting and shooting opportunities are!

  2. nick says:

    Perhaps it’s not so ‘out of the blue’?

    A quick google of your name and a scan thru the Journal…..

    If I was a real estate agent, meeting with strangers in remote locations, or at minimum, private locations, I’d want to know a bit about you…


  3. OFD says:

    I agree somewhat with Mr. nick; could just be coincidence but OTOH, as he says, easy enough to check up on prospective buyers if for no other reason than to make sure they’re not serial killers, rapists or terrorist scum. And looky here, this RBT person is a prepper and some kinda right-wing gun type; should fit right in! (except for the atheist bit…)

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Probably the atheist part, too. Most outwardly-religious people don’t really believe. I remember reading a survey of Southern Baptist ministers done anonymously by a Southern Baptist organization that found some pretty striking things. First, something like 75% of them wanted to give up being preachers, but had no other way to “earn” a living. Second, a large majority of them did not believe in god.

    And that’s the preachers. I’d imagine unbelievers make up a pretty large percentage of their flocks.

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I wouldn’t worry about me if I were a real estate agent. I’m 62 years old, carry a four-foot cane, and had my wife along. I was also referred by our real estate agent in West Jefferson, who is friends with this one. I can’t imagine a less likely candidate for a serial killer.

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’m waiting for you black belts in Google Foo to tell me the address of the house we’re trying to buy. It shouldn’t be very hard to figure it out.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I mentioned to her that instead of having Barbara join the gym up there, I planned to get a plow and have her pull it herself. She said she’d be happy to help Barbara with gardening advice and to teach her how to can. She was drooling over the canning area in the basement of the house, and mentioned that she’d just finished canning two dozen jars of meat. There’s also an actual butcher/meat market in town, so we’ll probably be doing a lot of business there.

  8. Jack Smith says:

    Zillow shows only one house build in 2006 on 3 ac. – located on Ridgeline Way.

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Nope, the one we offered on is on 1.5 acres.

  10. Dave says:

    I figured you gave enough information so that your regular readers will know, but if you wanted the whole world to know you would have posted a link. I am a bit surprised at the street name, but not nearly as surprised as I would be if you decided to move to Corpus Christi TX.

  11. nick flandrey says:

    Pics or it didn’t happen.


  12. nick flandrey says:



  13. Dave says:


    “Nope, the one we offered on is on 1.5 acres.”

    According to the public records linked by the property you made an offer on was 1.39 acres. No, I am not a lawyer, but my mother was.

  14. Miles_Teg says:

    They claim 1.5 ac, the public record says 1.39 ac.

    Street number 10^2

    Only 2.5 bathrooms? How will you cope? 🙂

  15. I watched in-laws dig up and have experts “re-tune” their heat pump in the Kentucky hills above Georgetown.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Public records are often inaccurate, although 1.39 acres wouldn’t surprise me. I wanted something with 1+ acres, and this is definitely over 1 acre.

    The Property Details section of the listing is generally accurate, although it actually lists the land as 1.5 acres, plus or minus.

    Yeah, we can live with 2.5 baths. There’s a huge master suite on the main floor with a full bath and a “half bath” that is actually a full bath by most people’s definition. Downstairs has two large bedrooms, a full bath, and a large den. There’s an unfinished area down there that’s 500 to 600 square feet. The listing shows the finished area as 2668 square feet, which is probably pretty accurate. The public records show 1624 SF of finished area, which is what the upstairs is.

  17. DadCooks says:

    @RBT – be prepared for surprises.

    I would recommend paying for a survey of the site, with boundary stakes left.

    Be prepared for an increase in property taxes, which usually have a component of finished areas. The current owner or builder may not have properly stated finished areas. You could have an unpleasant visit from the assessor.

    Also be aware of a possible short sale flim flams. You need your own good Real Estate Lawyer. The buyer may be stuck with a “second” to cover the short sale, and when the buyer doesn’t pay that you are in a sticky situation. Even though the place is relatively new, be very cautious about what the owner has added (the finished area number discrepancy raises red flags to me).

    You have shown yourself to be detail oriented and have probably thought of the things I mention. Just don’t want you to get stuck good buddy.

  18. ech says:

    I would recommend paying for a survey of the site, with boundary stakes left.

    Yep. A “sight survey” is just asking for trouble down the line. We had a friend that got caught up in a nasty lawsuit about a back yard boundary between two houses in the most expensive part of town.

  19. Jim B says:

    I live on acreage, in a very diffrent part of the country. Even so, I paid a surveyor to survey, mark, and REGISTER the four corners of my property. The registration makes a difference. YMMV where the property in question is. Of course, you would want to go to that expense only if the sale looks certain. Before that, it is pretty easy to look up and find existing markers, and that might be all that may be necessary.

  20. OFD says:

    And get a dahn good building inspector; ours gave us a three-ring binder with loads of pics and running commentary on everything in them. So we knew what we faced going in; “nothing works in an old house but YOU.” And I’m working on my own three-ring binder of the ongoing, never-ending, To-Do-List.

  21. nick says:

    The state of NC might not consider a lower level to be finished space, for sqft purposes. There are other states where that is true.

    Seconded on the survey. Any easements and agreements with neighbors should be documented. Turns out that some of the surveying is just armwaving if they can’t all find an agreed starting point. An association I’m a member of is having all kinds of difficulty because every survey comes out different, and an old easement agreement was not properly registered.

    At my house, I am unable to put a fixed generator where I would most like to because of a utility easement.

    Most home inspectors have marginal credentials at best, and are not responsible in any way for making mistakes that cost you money, and will not open or move anything.

    A presale inspection is crucial, but you need a good inspector, preferably one who used to be a contractor in the area and understands what goes wrong in that region. He can also give a good estimate on repair costs.

    Really glad for you that it’s moving forward. I was shocked that you think a short sale will be quick. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about it says it takes MUCH longer with the bank involved. YMMV of course and perhaps the bank is motivated for their own reasons.

    Fingers crossed for you,,,,


  22. DadCooks says:

    @Jim B – thanks for catching my omission of specifying a registered/certified/recorded survey. It should not only save on property taxes (you pay for every square foot), but you can bet dollars to donuts that there will at some time be a property line disagreement. I won’t bore you all with another one of my stories, suffice to say my certified and recorded survey saved me thousands in a fence line dispute.

  23. MrAtoz says:

    Most home inspectors have marginal credentials at best

    If he/she/it does not pull the CB box, you got a dud.

    I was shocked that you think a short sale will be quick.

    My oldest daughter got her house here in Vegas on a short sale. It only took 6 months. 🙂

  24. MrAtoz says:

    lol! People are so f*cking dumb!

    But it appears that The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is being taken a little too seriously by some, with scores of people believing the sci-fi flick was based on a true story.
    Tweets from people who watched the Ridley Scott film, which came out on Friday, reveal that a surprisingly large number of people are unaware that humankind has never set foot on Mars.

  25. Chad says:

    lol! People are so f*cking dumb!

    “Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!” – George Carlin

  26. SteveF says:

    “Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”

    I used to think the same way, but then I realized that it was all judgmental n shit, and you know me, all PC n shit.

  27. Miles_Teg says:

    When I bought my house in Canberra in 1985 the northern fence wasn’t on the legal boundary – the neighbours had some of my back yard and I had a lot of their front yard, overall I was well ahead. Of course, the vendors didn’t mention this until my lawyer discovered it. I went ahead anyway, never had it rectified (about $700 in legal costs back then) and the neighbouring property was sold a couple of times without dispute. In 2013 I sold my place, I’d told my agent but nothing came of it.


  28. brad says:

    Yep, believers take up the whole spectrum. Lots of “go to church on Christmas and Easter” types. Others go for the social life. Others are true believers, but all go through the motions, because those are the rituals of that particular group.

    The social aspects, at least, are difficult to replace. That was probably what I missed the most, when I decided to stop being a hypocrite, and left the church. Us introverts then have to make a deliberate effort to find some social circle that we fit into.

    Re the real estate agent, maybe it’s safety, but it’s also just basic good sense. If she knows what kind of person you are, what your interests are, she has a lot better chance of finding a house you like and selling it to you.

    My experience with real estate agents is that 90% of them are bored housewives who want to pretend to have a career. The other 10% actually have a clue about how to sell houses. I remember, when I was moving to Austin, I called an agent ahead of time (while I was still in Boston), told her what I wanted, and set up an appointment for when I would be visiting. While she did show me the house I wound up buying, she also showed me huges houses (I was single), houses far away from where I would be working, houses way out of my price range, etc., etc.. More like pot luck, than any intelligent thought. Dumb, just really dumb.

  29. Jim B says:

    In California, starting in 1978 under Prop 13, property taxes are 1% the sale price plus some minor additional amounts, not based on any other calculations. Increases are usually 2% per year, unless property values decrease. Makes estimates simple when shopping for a house.

    (There are exceptions, such as owner-built homes, where there is no sales price. Then, there are formulas applied. If the owner can document lower cost, that might be used.)

    Last I checked, CA property tax ranked fairly low among states. Of course, our home prices tend to be high.

    Where we compare poorly is income tax. Just arrange things to have low income 🙂

  30. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks for all the advice. We buy a home only every 28 years or so, so there’s a lot to get straight. Our real estate agent is a pro with decades of experience, and we have a buyers’ agency agreement with them, so they’re legally obligated to represent our interest. We’re using the people she recommends for things like the attorney, home inspector, water inspector, etc. etc.

  31. Ray Thompson says:

    We’re using the people she recommends for things like the attorney, home inspector, water inspector, etc. etc.

    So did we when we bought our house. We were out of state for a larger part of the transaction. Turns out the people recommended by our agent were personal friends and incompetent. Subsequent surveys found the original surveys were incorrect shorting us some land that was represented at sale and closing. Home inspection was a joke as we found many problems after the fact (breaker panel internally rusted, circuits with reversed neutral/hot, faulty grounds, one light fixture fed with two different circuits, plumbing drains that were incorrect with improper slope, etc). Home warranty was worthless when we found the heat pump was not working at all (just strip heat).

    A lawsuit against the seller, our agent, the listing agent, and the inspector would have cost more than we would have gotten. We did file formal charges against the selling agent and our agent with the state. Both lost their licenses shortly after so I suspect we were not the only victims.

    Trust only yourself when inspecting the home. Remove the breaker panel cover and look at the wiring. No splices (although legal), no rust, no two wires in a single breaker. Open some outlets and check for cheap backstab connections that will fail. Check as many outlets as possible with an outlet checker that will indicate reversed hot/neutral/ground issues. Check some random switches to make certain they are also grounded.

    Go at least three feet into the attic and inspect the insulation. We found excellent insulation for the first couple of feet but then none for the rest of the attic. Basically if you opened the access panel and looked the insulation looked fine. Further inspection would have revealed the truth. While you are up in the attic look for any light leaks. Look for any black wood that would indicate mold and improper venting. Insulation should not got to the edge of the roof but should have a gap to allow soffet vents air flow to some type of ridge vent or vent turbines.

    If the basement has a dropped ceiling remove several tiles and inspect the plumbing, especially the drains. Use a level on the drains to check for a slope in the proper direction. Look for sags in the drains.

    Check under the sink cabinets and try the shutoff valves. Do they even work to shutoff the water and is there any signs of leakage.

    Pull the filter from the central air return. Use a flashlight to visually inspect the return as far as you can see. Look for any light leaks or signs of distress in the return.

    All things the inspector recommended by our agent should have found and did not. Home inspections are a scam for many and the only reliable source is you personally inspecting everything you can.

  32. Dave says:

    From what I’ve heard, the biggest issue in a short sale is likely to be the bank. Finding someone who is awake and realizes that the deal you are offering them is the best they are going to do can take months. If you are offering cash and the seller is behind on their payments, the bank may wake up sooner rather than later. One would think it would be a fairly easy thing for a lender to figure out whether they want to take cash and realize a small loss, or wind up with a property to sell and the potential for a larger loss.

  33. Dave says:

    Tweets from people who watched the Ridley Scott film, which came out on Friday, reveal that a surprisingly large number of people are unaware that humankind has never set foot on Mars.

    The only thing dumber than people who don’t realize that man has never set foot on Mars is the fact that in the 46 years since man first walked on the moon, we have not sent man to Mars yet!

  34. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yes, I’m fully aware of cronyism and so on, but our agent/broker was recommended by someone we trust, and Barbara and I both think she’s a straight shooter. I will most definitely be there during the home inspection, watching everything that’s going on.

  35. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The bank in question is a small local bank, so we’re not expecting much delay in them accepting or rejecting our offer. Our agent said they’d already rejected two offers, but those were probably very low, made by parties trying to get the house for pennies on the dollar. We’ll see what happens. I’m expecting an answer in the next week or so.

  36. Denis says:

    “We did file formal charges against the selling agent and our agent with the state. Both lost their licenses shortly after so I suspect we were not the only victims.”

    My wife, in the guise of harmony, persuaded me not to file charges against the seller’s agent (one of the “bored housewife” types) who had (a) inflated by 10% the advertised area of both the property and the dwelling and (b) failed to transmit to the seller my written offer and draft contract to buy, despite my hand-delivering it to her. The latter caused no end of trouble and delays with the conveyancing. The woman was an oxygen thief.

  37. Ray Thompson says:

    My wife, in the guise of harmony, persuaded me not to file charges against the seller’s agent

    Found out later that the person selling the house (the owner) is (may still be) a used car salesperson. A low life scum. I have seen his car lot and from the look of the vehicles and other items I suspect he also scams people who buy his vehicles. Basic clientele are the bottom feeders of society.

  38. Miles_Teg says:

    “We’re using the people she recommends for things like the attorney, home inspector, water inspector, etc. etc.”

    I’m with Ray: never use people recomended by an agent. Always get your own people, preferably recomended by people you trust. This was a huge plus when I bought my current place some two years ago: family could and did make recomendations. It’s nice having a nephew who’s a structural engineer and a niece who’s a lawyer at a major bank’s morgage processing centre…

  39. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The problem with that is that Sparta is a town of 1,700 people, so the choices are limited compared to the big cities you guys are talking about. Small town business people, in my experience, are almost invariably honest, because they know if they’re not they’ll be out of business quickly.

    For example, when our agent asked us what real estate attorney we wanted to use, we asked for her recommendation. She said she used two law firms (who are probably the only two RE attorneys in Sparta). She named them and asked if we wanted to use one of them. We told her to pick one. She said she’d go ahead and put the two-attorney firm on the paperwork because she’d sent the last buyers to the sole practitioner. She had the paperwork made up that way. When we were looking through the disclosures, bankruptcy reared its ugly head, so while we were sitting there she called the sole practitioner, who also practices bankruptcy law and has access to on-line bankruptcy data, which the two-attorney firm does not. The sole practitioner said she’d look into it and call back. So we left for Winston-Salem. When we got home we had voicemail waiting from our agent. I called her back and she said the bankruptcy had been filed in 2013, was cleared in November 2014, and was no longer an issue. So it made sense to change attorneys to the sole practitioner, which we did.

  40. MrAtoz says:

    When we bought our home in San Antonio (new), we used our VA bennies and the VA sent their own inspector. Man, he found so much stuff we couldn’t believe it (luckily minor stuff). The builder had to scramble to get it all fixed or the VA was going to investigate. The use of wet-backs was rampant for a lot of stuff.

  41. Ray Thompson says:

    our home in San Antonio (new)

    Was it a Ray Ellison home?

  42. MrAtoz says:

    Not a Ray Ellison “King of the Corner Cutter” home. lol Those things went up to 5,000SF and a strong wind would blow them down.

  43. Ray Thompson says:

    Those things went up to 5,000SF

    I did not know that crappy lumber on 24″ centers could be built that big. It certainly wasn’t the insulation that would help support as there was no insulation.

    and a strong wind would blow them down

    On a good day, after a Taco Bell run, me a few buddies could probably fart one down or at least do serious structural damage.

  44. brad says:

    I’m with RBT here – go with the local folks. Of course, he doesn’t want to be ripped off, hence, being there and accompanying the inspector(s) around the hosue to look at things himself. The thing is: he’s moving into a small community, and first impressions are important.

    When we moved into our current house (town of 4500 or so), there were a lot of renovations to do. While our architect came from the big city, the actual work was done by local companies. Electrician, plumber and carpenter were all local businesses. Only specialists that we couldn’t find in the area were hauled in from farther away.

    Let the community know you’re not a chump – make sure the inspectors know that you know whether they are doing their jobs. Meanwhile, make sure they know you aren’t one of those big city assholes; that you are also a real person, someone it will be good to know in the future. You buy their services, they buy your services, keep it local whenever possible. That’s really important in a small community – and certainly ties into the whole prepping attitude: these are the people you will be relying on, if worst comes to worst.

  45. Robert Bruce Thompson says:


    Sparta locals are pretty much like Jefferson locals. They’re friendly, unless your car has Florida plates. They’re friendlier still if they know you intend to move there, even as a weekender. If they know you plan to live there year-round, they’re friendlier still. Joining the Alleghany Country Rifle Association won’t hurt a bit. Neither will Barbara volunteering at the library, me joining the local ham radio club, or us selling science kits at cost to local homeschoolers. And it sure doesn’t hurt that Barbara is a Winston-Salem native, even if I am still a damn Yankee after living in Winston for 35 years.

  46. Lynn says:

    My son tried to buy three different short sale homes back in 2009. He found out in each case that the bank was not involved and did not want to do a short sale. He ended up buying a home in a blue collar neighborhood from a new home builder for a very good price.

    BTW, I like the house and hope that you get it. Are there any homes in Sparta with taller ceilings? 8 ft ceilings make me a claustrophobic nowadays, I prefer 10 ft ceilings.

    Is that a gas station across the street from the house? Seems convenient and a little exposed.

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