Monday, February 16, 2009

Never buy a house from a fall guy's widow

Hubby and I moved to the Happy Boondocks 14 years ago. We'd been living in his mom's vacant house outside of DC while he commuted here, which meant that he left the house before the sun rose, arrived home after the sun set, and often opted to rent a hotel room if he had to work late mid-week. It stank, and he never got to see Sons #1 and 2, but we'd just gotten back from living overseas.

Plus, this was his mom's vacant house. All the relatives had a key. People just walked in, without so much as a knock.

And we weren't too keen on raising the kids right outside the city, in a house next to a pit bull who often roamed the neighborhood. All in all, it was time to move.

We spent a weekend looking at houses. Too expensive, too small, too shabby, too close to those weird people, and then we found it: the house.

You know that feeling you get when something is just right for you? We both got it.

Even better, the house had been on the market for 8 months; the seller knocked a little off the price, just to get away. Her husband had died, suddenly, and she had been trying to sell the house ever since.

We loved the house and have been very happy here, but not too long after we moved in we started to hear the stories. The plumber, the neighbors, the electrician, the guy who fixed our hot tub, everyone who came by shared the same sorts of anecdotes. The preponderance of matching stories made it sounds less and less far-fetched.

Our house was, apparently, a gift from the mob.

The man who owned it before us took the fall in a small-town banking scandal, spent 6 years in jail for a crime he did not commit--but someone influential in the Boondocks had done. When he got out of jail, the house was his.

Not just the house---for years after that, things were repaired and renovated on someone else's dime. New roof. New kitchen counters. Deck. Landscaping. Flooring. Aforementioned hot tub. And when workers would come by, or when he lost at the regular poker games held in what would eventually become Son #1's bedroom, the man would reach into a cranny here, a hidden spot there, pull out a fat roll of cash, and pay.

It made him kind of a suspicious man. You don't keep (probably wholly illegitimate) cash and jewels scattered throughout your house without worrying that someone might notice, and want a slice. Or maybe that the guys who gave it all to you might decide to take it back. He invested in an alarm system.

I know what you're asking: did we find any money? No. And not for lack of looking. But, remember, his wife had nearly a year after his death to look for the money. I'm sure she found it all.

And good thing, too, because the second he died, the gravy train stopped running past our house. All those landscapers and repairmen suddenly forgot about him, and his widow. That's why she sold the house--I guess it was too much of an investment for her, and maybe full of bad memories, and her kids were grown. She just wanted to live in her Winnebago and fish.

We, of course, were a young couple expecting Son #3. We had no fat rolls of cash, no heaps of jewels. We didn't need an alarm system.

We also could not officially disconnect it, because the Winnebago-living widow had neglected to hand off the code. It's still there.

Over the years, as we have had stuff done to the house, we have noticed a common thread among the renovations and repairs done under mob rule. They look good, but the workmanship kinda sucked. It's like living in Carmela Soprano's spec house. So things don't last as long as maybe they should have, and repairmen always look at us and shake their heads, until they realize that we didn't pay for all that stuff--it was the last guy.

The other thing? Whenever the power goes off here, or we have a big energy spike, that security alarm trips. It beeps for hours. The alarm company can't stop it because we don't have the code. All that seems to work is to keep going back to the keypad and mashing the buttons every few minutes until it gets over its fit of pique.

That's what I've been doing, this afternoon.



Sue said...

Can't you get a new system installed and remove the old one? I mean, you OWN the house. Did you write to the president of the security company and complain irrationally and demand it to be fixed or you were going to have a competitor's system installed with free advertisement on your blog for the entire job? I would. I mean, I'm kinda bitchy like that sometimes. Keep mashin', girl.

Sharla said...

LOL! Wow girl, what a story! You should write about that!! There weren't any dead animal parts in the bed were there?

Anonymous said...

I bet it can be disarmed.

My mom lived in the builder's house once. It was kind of cool, but it was a townhouse and small, but it was nice for a townhouse. I kind of wished I had been so lucky as a single guy to have a place like that. Kind of interesting.


Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

That is so strange! Don't you have to pay by the month for those alarm things for them to keep working? Does the widow still own it? I'm with Sue - there's gotta be a way to get rid of it. Good story though!! :-)

Christine said...

Sue--We don't need a new system. And yeah, we could have the old system removed, but that would involve a lot of tearing up of walls, which we are not too keen to do.

We tried the calling the company route, more than once, and it, um, did nothing.

Sharla--No parts. Geez, that is ALL I would need.

Knot--You are almost certainly correct. I bet it can be disarmed, too, but...not by me. I am not what you would call mechanically inclined, for the most part.

The Builder's House would rock. We are friends with a builder and his house is just amazing.

Jill--you have to pay each month for it to function as an alarm system. If all you want is it to sit there LOOKING like an alarm system, and then drive you nuts when the power goes out, you can get that for free.

Cynthia said...

I've known you for how long and I am JUST hearing this story???? LOL

ALF said...

You can't have the system ripped out? That would drive me insane.

I like this story.

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh I get it!!! What a bargain!!!!!!