Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I've been up to...

Today I go in for cataract surgery, the first of two. I probably won't be doing a lot of writing over the next couple of days or so, so I'll start publishing the things I wrote chronicling the move from Hell House to our new digs...herewith, installment 1:

Day 2: Moving in

Day 1 was simply unloading the truck…and what a job that was! But I’m gonna have to go on record here saying that if you are packing up a full household and moving anywhere, whether it’s across town or around the world, seriously consider Elliott International. If I ever have to move again, I promise you, I will give them my business. What was an endless nightmare with Biddulphs was almost a pleasure with these guys. So today, Day 2, we begin the task of opening hundreds (literally) of boxes and finding space for everything.

This is a strange house. When we first saw it, we were impressed with the size of it and its open, airy quality. This is a tough market in which to sell a house and this house had two offers on its first open house (show house), despite the fact that from the street it is kind of an ugly house and built of exposed brick, something about 30 years out of fashion here. So, when we got here and looked at the empty rooms, both Hubby and I remarked on how it seemed smaller than we remembered. And yet, yesterday, when Hubby got home from work and walked into a furnished house, he said he thought it was strange because the house now seemed bigger with furniture in it…and I have to agree.

I have yet to figure out what the last owners had against us, but obviously there was something going on in their heads…the house was in considerably less than prime condition and we are going to be spending rather a large amount of money of fixing urgent problems. For example, I don’t know what they did, but all of the toilets leak. I would have noticed toilets running like a full-on faucet when we came through, so either they shut off the water to the toilets while the house was being shown, or they have managed to damage five out of six toilets since March. The toilet in the maid’s quarters actually is leaking onto the floor, and the four toilets in the house run constantly…only the toilet in the cottage seems to be in decent order.

The kitchen has its problems, too…the fridge doesn’t fit the fridge hole, to it’s sitting in the dinette, and the sink was installed backwards (the built-in drain board on the wrong side). Also, there is a cupboard with pull out baskets for potatoes and onions and such, and one of the rails has pulled loose from the side wall of the cupboard. Rather than repair it, the basket was simply removed and put on the bottom of the cupboard. Since we are planning to do an extensive remodel of the kitchen, that’s not so much a problem in and of itself…it is simply evidence of the kinds of neglect and…I dunno…disregard?...the sellers have demonstrated.

For example, three rooms of the house come with “under-carpet” heating. Now, this consists of a felted pad with heated wires running through it, rather like an electric blanket, that goes under the room carpet. This does not plug into the wall, this is hard wired into the house’s electrical system and it is therefore considered a “fixture.” Because the carpets were not installed wall-to-wall carpets, however, because they were cut to fit the under-carpet heating pad, edge-bound, and then laid over the heating pads, apparently the seller did not consider these carpets to be fixtures, they rolled them up and took them away, leaving me with big ugly carpet pads where the carpets should be. Now, I must go have carpets cut and bound to cover the pads because the pads cannot be simply disconnected, rolled up and stored: either I get new carpets to cover them or I cut the wires…thereby destroying one of the house assets. Why couldn’t they have just left the carpets? Taking those carpets is like taking the drawers out of the kitchen because they are not fixed to the wall like the cupboards!!

It gets better. I don’t think I have ever seen so many light switches (78 of them!!) in a single house in my life, light switches (46 of them) that seem to do absolutely nothing. Truth is, more than half the light bulbs in the house are dead, so we cannot figure out which switch goes to which light because more than half of them are dead!

I pride myself on being both practical and prepared, so in packing up for the move, I had T pack a box with paper towels, toilet paper, and other such necessities. Sure enough, we got here and out of six bathrooms, there was a grand total of one…just one!...roll of paper and it was less than half full! Now, I didn’t find empty tubes, indicating the paper had been used and not replaced…no, I found bare spindles, indicating someone had gone around to every bathroom in the house except the guest loo (which was probably being used by the moving crew) and literally removed the toilet paper rolls from the bathrooms! By contrast, I went around Hell House before we left and made sure there was paper in each of the three bathrooms so that the new tenants weren’t grossly inconvenienced by a lack of loo paper during the stressful, tiring process of moving in. How petty can you be, to remove the toilet paper from a house as you move out??

We are going to have to call a pool company, which is not going to be cheap…that glorious sparkling blue pool that invited us to buy the house is now a turgid green stretch of water outside my bedroom window. The pool cleaner doesn’t seem to want to work, the water is green and dirt covers the bottom. We knew the irrigation system was non functional, but we really DID expect the pool to be clean and for the pump and pool cleaner to work.

The beautiful garden is dry and brown and littered with at least a month’s worth of unraked leaves. There are supposed to be garden lights, but we can’t find them…hopefully the sellers didn’t think THOSE were not fixtures and absconded with them, considering they have proven themselves to be the kind of people who will make off with custom cut carpets and toilet paper rolls!

The white wall-to-wall carpets are still wet…they shampooed them the day before we were to move in…they KNEW there would be a horde of men in dirty boots hauling furniture into the rooms, but chose to shampoo the white bedroom carpets the very night before anyway. I don’t understand why these people left everything to the last bloody minute. They have known since March that they were moving, and they have known since June that they had to be out 1 September. So, what made them think that they could wait and, just weeks before The Date, ask for a 3 day extension? Did it not occur to them that WE had made plans for moving, that our landlord might have found new tenants, that there is a whole world out there that spins on its axis and gets on with its business despite their own personal disorganization? The secured driveway for the cottage on the property was full of their potted plants and garden furniture when we arrived, so they weren’t even fully moved out when we started moving in!

Hubby is dealing with the alarm system now. The house has a fully fitted alarm, but we can’t use it because we don’t have the alarm code…and Mr. Seller claims to have forgotten it. This means the alarm company must do something to reset the code…at a cost of R385…and even though the seller is the one who “forgot” the code, WE are the ones who have to fork over the bucks to get the code reset so that we can activate the alarm. Seems like he should be the one to pony up the bucks, but this is the guy who steals away with the toilet paper, remember?

Hubby says it doesn’t matter, but I am a person who is needs to have reasons for things…especially if something doesn’t make sense. I’ve been trying to make sense of this guy and his apparent antipathy towards us for a couple of months now…when Hubby’s family came to visit we wanted to show them the house and the seller refused to make an appointment with us to show them…not only did he refuse to allow us to come over, according to the estate agent, his refusal was none too polite. No reason for the refusal was offered, even though such a request is not uncommon and is generally accommodated.

When we bought our rental property in Cape Town we went through a similar situation, but it was, we believe, in retaliation for Hubby refusing to give the Seller the wendy houses (wooden garden sheds) that were on the property. We wrote them into the contract and, because the house had no garage, they were essential for storage. The Seller agreed to the contract, but later changed her mind and was extremely unhappy that we would not just hand them over to her. So, she did damage to the property, stopped watering the garden, neglected the pool, actually dug up trees and other plants and carried them off to her new house and, during the 6 weeks or so that this was going on, refused to allow us on the property (so we couldn’t see what she was up to). Since there has been no such failed “negotiation” in this instance, we are baffled, especially since the estate agent told me, by his standards we were being extremely forbearing and accommodation and the Seller was one of the most difficult he had ever encountered.

I really hate it when people play the race card, but in the absence of everything else, I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the Sellers are not happy about their house being sold to a mixed couple. Sadly, that kind of attitude has not died out here…you can mandate changes in law, but you can’t mandate changes in people's hearts…we actually experienced an egregious display of blatant racism directed against us a couple of years ago when we had to engage workmen to do repairs caused by a burst hot water heater (geyser) and one company demanded full payment in advance because, in their own words, “we know what you people are like.” The Sellers of this house are white Zimbabweans (formerly Rhodesia) who were amongst those driven out by Mad Bob Mugabe. South Africa offered them refuge and a chance to start over, which they did. Unfortunately, like many older white people of this region, they may not have adjusted their thinking about race relations as they adjusted to their new lives here. I hesitate to accuse them of being difficult because we are a mixed-race couple and they feel they had to sell to a less than optimal buyer, but at this stage, I’m not finding any other rational explanation, particularly in view of their attitude that their wants supersede both common courtesy and their contractual obligations.

All things considered, though, it wasn’t a bad move and so far nothing wrong with the house is a train smash, but it’s gonna be a truckload of work to get this place in shape.

---I'll have more tomorrow, I hope.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to get an update on the move, and most of all I wish you well in your surgery. I'm glad to say it is one that has a good rate of success.

    Ahah! You could be right about the racial thing. Is your money in some way tainted? They were selling the house for money, weren't they? That racial/prejudicial crap is so irritating to me, and the further inland one goes in the US, the more one sees it. I do miss coastal living myself. Ignorance abounds. Care, Norine


Your comments welcome! Anonymous comments are enabled as a courtesy for people who are not members of Blogger. They are not enabled to allow people to leave gratuitously rude comments, and such comments will not be published. Disagreement will not sink your comment, but disagreeable disagreement will.