Friday, December 12, 2008

Feelin' hot-hot-hot (a few moments of boiling anger with Jennifer Myszkowski - plus, some advice)

Our furnace had a problem last week and we lost the heat. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called the oil company and asked them if they could service our furnace. The nice lady replied, "We're scheduling service for January."

"I don't know if we can wait that long," I told her, "Our furnace won't turn on."

Lickety-split, there was a fellow (I like to call him Mr. Furnace, though his actual name was Jim) in our basement berating the previous owner of our house for taking such shitty care of the furnace. He was ready to berate me, but when I told him we only just bought the place six months ago and we're first-time home owners, he was filled with the compassion.

Well, not exactly filled, but he had some and he started telling me what we need to do from now on. I think I won him over when I stopped him so I could go get a pen and paper to take notes. I was drinking from his font of knowledge, after all.

In the homeowner statement that sellers fill out, the previous owners of the house claimed to have regularly serviced the furnace.

When Mr. Furnace cracked open our furnace, he said that, at minimum, it's been four years since the furnace was serviced.

I'll tell you, that guy had eyes like an eagle. He was in our basement for two minutes and he noticed an oil leak by the tank, a water leak from the furnace and that there were no service records by the furnace.

The oil leak was a function of the furnace not being serviced for a long time. There's a filter that should get changed once a year. After four years, it kind of gave up and started leaking. Can you blame it?

One thing that Mr. Furnace told us that we didn't know and I feel compelled to share is that if you're looking at a house and there are no service records hanging from the furnace it means:
  1. The homeowner removed them to hide a problem with the furnace
  2. The realtor removed them to hide a problem with the furnace

Bottom line: no service records spells trouble. If there are no furnace service records hanging from a furnace, a home buyer should pay for a furnace inspection ($50-$100) and then force the homeowner to pay for the repairs before making the purchase.

I never even heard of this. Mr. Furnace suggested that perhaps our inspector should have told us this and that he might be a second-rate inspector since he didn't, but I truly don't believe that. Our inspector gave us so much really right-on information and great advice that I can't hold him responsible for missing one small thing.

Also, we read about 100 articles and books about home buying and not a single one suggested this.

But Mr. Furnace suggested it and now I'm suggesting it.

Mr. Furnace was here for about four hours. He replaced the transformer, which blew because the furnace wasn't working properly due to not having been serviced, then he fixed the whole thing up right. It was a giant ruckus and, I'll tell you, Mr. Furnace was furious with the previous owners of our house.

And so was I. I got powerfully angry at those motherfuckers. In fact, Scott and I toyed with the idea of sending them a letter. I wanted it to be snarky and sarcastic. Scott wanted it to be just honest and disappointed. I voted the whole thing down because I don't want to be that guy, but it's so tempting to be that guy!

If we ever sell this house, I hope the new people don't hate us and take our names in vain. We're trying so hard to do right by the house.

When it was all said and done, the bill for the repair was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was still a lot of money, but it certainly could have been more. And the beauty part is that I had the money and we're not going to starve as a result of our having had to repair the furnace. And the reason they hid the service records is because there is something pretty big that needs to be repaired and soon, but it's not effecting the efficiency of the furnace and we still have heat. We just have to closely monitor the water level until it's repaired. But the other beauty part is that it turns out that my dad (the Artist) knows how to make the repair and has offered to help. All we have to do is buy the parts.

But let this be a cautionary tale: take care of your furnace with annual service and don't assume the previous homeowners are telling the truth.

Speaking of: if you know a person who can properly service a slate roof, e-mail me. They claim they had it gone over in March of this year, but I don't believe them. And either way, you're supposed to have it gone over every spring anyway.

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