Wednesday, June 06, 2007

before your very eyes

I saw the sign. I read the sign. At least I thought I did.

It sat on stilts at the end of the gravel topped concrete drive that would soon be ours and it said:

Something & Something Berman*
Some Phone Numbers
Something & Something Else Homes

* names & identifications have been changed to protect
me from being embarrassed in case any of
the associated parties stumble across this blog.

When you're buying a new house from a big builder, history and economics seem to be on your side. You look at the wide swaths of land he's paved over in the decades gone by and you think, "This is someone I can trust." or at the very least, "This is someone I can call the Better Business Bureau about."

With a small builder or a new builder, you don't want to just believe they're good people who build good solid houses. You don't want to think "He wouldn't do something like that to me." But you don't have a lot of recourse to research this person to whom you're about to give a ridiculously large sum of cash, so you have to cover your ass somehow.

In this case, I substituted ass covering with completely freaking out.

As in:

What if the roof caves in? What if the front yard is full of quick sand? What if the house is made of paper? What if he's totally screwing us over?

If you are buying a new home and have thoughts like these, be reassured that your state probably provides you with certain protections. For example, Texas requires the builder to provide warranties of habitability for 10 years. While I find the implication of this a little crazy - that the house only has to be habitable for 10 years - that's better than no years. And no years is exactly what you'd get if your builder went bankrupt before those 10 years were up.

That was the next panicky thought that wheeled around in my brain - What if he goes bankrupt? - thanks in large part to my mother who in fact planted the thought in my ear, patted it on its butt, and whispered, "Run like the wind."

Thankfully I am resourceful person. In the most literal sense of the word, I am full of resources including: a computer with an internet connection at both home and work, an obsessive need to get to the bottom of things, and an obsessive need to finish what I've started even if it means accidentally waking up at 3:30 am to do so. While I couldn't exactly determine whether the guy was going to go belly up as soon as I bought the house, I could at least get a sense of his history ... sort of.

I don't even know how I found half the shit I did online but eventually I stumbled across the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC). Without all the boring details, I can tell you that these are the dudes who enforce the 10 year warranty. They also have a searchable database of all new home builders in Texas.

So I go to the search page and then I retrieve the bitmap in my brain of the white sign on stilts at the end of the drive. It is kinda pixelated. This is what I come up with:

Something & Something Berman
Some Phone Numbers
Something & Something Else Homes

That's not good. So my brain squints a little and produces:

Charles & Some Woman's Name Berman
Some Phone Numbers
Something & Something Else Homes

Ah ha! Charles Berman.

... Is that it?

I just search on Berman because that way all Bermans will come up and then I'll recognize it. But I do not recognize any Bermans on the list. I Google "Charles Berman" and find nothing.

Is Something Berman such a new builder that he's not even registered? Do I want to buy a house from someone who is completely new to the business???

At a decent hour of the morning, I call a TRCC representative who kindly explains to me that if the man has already built a house (Something Berman has built at least two) and he is not registered with the them, he's breaking the law.

(oh shit.)

(oh shit. oh shit. oh shit. oh shit)

To give Something Berman about six hours worth of benefit of the doubt while the panic of my restless night subsides, I ask our real estate agent to please get his builder number. This is a method for searching the TRCC database that doesn't rely on my imperfect memory of his name.

Later in that very long day, we meet with the agent to look at the house one last time before our contract becomes official. I take what I think is a long look at the white sign on stilts. This time I see:

Matthew & Rita Berman
Some Phone Numbers
Something & Something Else Homes

Ah ha! Matthew Berman. Not Charles. Stupid.

(Please note however, that I still hadn't really read the sign.)

Very shortly thereafter, my husband finds a sign in the wall inside the pantry indicating that this lovely home with the wonderful porch and high ceilings is a modular home.

A modular home?! What does that even mean???

After explaining it to us in not particularly flattering terms, the agent announces that he's got a license number from Rita Berman. It is IHB-### and it is issued by the Something Something Something Bureau. Not the TRCC.

This builder is not licensed by the body that governs new home construction in Texas and provides legal protection to buyers.

WHAT??? Modular home. Not TRCC. What in the hell is happening here? Are we buying a house or some sort of appliance? And why didn't anybody tell us this was MODULAR home???

Clearly, we are being SCREWED!!

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Or whatever. I don't care if you read it or not.


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