Piedmont's first home game started off with a resounding win, with a 44-16 victory over Albany. Our younger son Tristan is a receiver for the Varsity team which means that Cliff and I attend every game, loudly cheering him, and his teammates on. (Okay, I'm the one screaming wildly; Cliff quietly keeps stats on the sidelines.)
On our way to the stands last week, I bumped into my friend, Terri, who was wearing her son's jersey and looking rather proud. "Isn't it sweet?" she exclaimed, "My younger son asked me to wear his number and even though it smells like 'boy,' (meaning it hadn't been washed in a week) I'm going to wear it anyway." (Yes, it was sweet) and she wasn't the only mom I noticed in purple and white that evening.
I have to admit that the social politics of the jersey is a new aspect of the evening for us mothers of Varsity sons. In my day, it was the letterman's jacket; I suppose it's the same idea now.
No, my son hadn't asked me. Instead, at the end of the game I spied a bevy of young ladies lined up in Piedmont jerseys, including an absolutely stunning girl wearing the number 23 - I hadn't a clue who she was, but I was determined to find out. The next morning, I put on my investigative hat and casually approached Tristan after breakfast.
"Hey Tris, I couldn't help noticing that several mothers were wearing their sons' jerseys last night," I said. "You know, I would happily wear yours if you would like." (Hmmm?)
"No offense, Mom," Tristan casually responded as he unloaded the dishwasher, "but did you SEE the girl wearing my jersey? I went for the gold." (Gee, now why would that offend?)
For my own piece of mind, I'm going to assume that she's as lovely on the inside ("pretty is as pretty does").
Understanding what's on the inside of a house is crucial to any home purchase as well. I recently helped a well-intentioned young couple get into contract on a very pretty "flipped" home in Montclair (that's a home that was purchase under market value and quickly renovated to turn a profit) only to discover that when we began the investigations on the property, the house wasn't nearly as "pretty" as it had seemed at first glance.
The supposedly zero-pest certificate wasn't in fact zero!, Our inspector quickly uncovered an active beetle infestation requiring tenting, rotted joists under the driveway, and a broken sewer pipe that was emptying into the crawl space below (yuck) - and that wasn't the worst of it . . .
"This was a grow house," the engineer bluntly said. "There's all kind of discarded paraphernalia and trash under the house, but that's not your biggest concern. With respect to the structure, there are yards of dirt piled against the rear wall which is completely rotted as a result. I can't begin to tell you how much damage there is until we remove the soil . . . and FYI, you can no longer take dirt to the dump without having it tested first for contamination," he warned. "At the risk of killing the deal, I wouldn't walk, I'd run." ('Nuf said.)
Although this house had seemed like a good deal at first glance, the costs to remedy the defects were quickly adding up to well beyond what this young couple could afford. There were so many red flags, it wasn't even worth negotiating; it was simply time to cancel the escrow, refund the Buyer's good-faith money, and find another house. (Better luck next time.)
In my practice, "due diligence" isn't optional, it's mandatory on every home purchase, and this story is the perfect example of why. Although the prospective Buyers had spent close to a $1,000 on home, pest, and engineering inspections, in the end, their due diligence had saved them TENS of THOUSANDS in hidden costs and uncovered a home that was nothing like it appeared to be on the surface. Given that homes are incredibly expensive to own and maintain, it's money well spent - don't you agree?
Finally, understand that even if you are willing to overlook a home's significant defects (you may, and people often do), the next Buyer is unlikely to be as forgiving. Remember that with every home purchase, you are not just a prospective Buyer; you are a prospective Seller down the road.
If you are getting a very good deal AND you have the money in reserves to address the issues either now, or in the near future, it may make very good cents to take on these added expenses.
On the other hand, if you are buying what you believe to be a fully "renovated" home, you'll want to make sure that it is, in fact, fairly worry free. OR, as we were all taught: "Beauty is only skin deep; it's what's inside that counts."
Word on the street is that last week's young model displaying my son's jersey, isn't just "pretty," she's also a very sweet and bright girl. What can I say? Tristan has very good taste in women.
Here's where I salvage my pride and take credit for that.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.