Home is where the puck is

Aug 17 2006 Kelly Norton

We're two weeks out from our grand farewell to the Northeast, and still Steph and I don't have a place to live in Atlanta. This might come as a shock to many of you with whom we have exchanged emails describing a picture perfect little classic Atlanta home in the heart of emerging East Atlanta Village, but sadly we had to pass on that one when it became known that it was being held up by a hockey puck …

Photo of the suspect round object. Puck?

Now let me come clean, I have no great knowledge in the field of real estate science nor do I really have much interest. So when I talk disparagingly of homes that are held up by hockey pucks, my assertion rests solely on intuition, which I confess may be a bit shaky. And to be honest, the circular black thing resting below an improvised brace that serves as the foundation of the home under which we were once contractually bound to purchase, may not have actually been a hockey puck. It could, for instance, have been a wheel from a retired lawn mower, a small petrified choclate cheese cake, or even an old tuna can. Like I said, I'm no expert in real estate. Maybe someone more knowledgeable in the field can take a peek at the photograph above and make a more informed categorization. But be it tuna can or hockey puck, it was only the first in a long series of clever “renovations” that our inspector stumbled upon while perusing the innards and upards of our quaint little home. For instance, while most in the building trade restrict themselves to quality treated lumber, our new home featured an untreated log as a floor brace along with an accompanying random piece of lumber to account for a slight mismatch in height. Whereas other builders simply lack the creativity to produce structural support using a 2x4, a brick and a glob of mortar, the builder who “renovated” our new home was unswayed by such conformity. Even our inspector, with all his experience, was so astounded that he was forced to abandon all attempt at explanation and was reduced to only questions, “why do you mortar a 2x4 to a brick?” Which, by the way, remains an unsolved mystery as far as I know. Feel free to chime in with your own theories, but I've already suggested it was a clever measure to prevent the undead in the secret burial ground from knocking over the 2x4's when the moon is full. So if that's what you were thinking, I've already suggested it.

Photo of the morbid innards of our quaint home. Photo of a 2x4 mortared to a brick. Why?

The final inspection report read like some kind of H.P. Lovecraft tale of construction horror with eldritch wires draping themselves throughout, creeping through walls and appearing in the most unexpected and inappropriate places. Under the house were dark wet areas where noisome mold was assembling for a slow silent invasion from below. In places, the walls and roof gave the illusion of melting as rugose patches showed evidence of early water damage. And the beams along the back deck were assembled in an irregular, cyclopean manner making it more suited for stalking than standing. (Oh, So you see all those words in italics. Those were odd words that H.P. Lovecraft used. They're odd archaic British English and they sound pretty spooky. See how that's funny … no?) Anyway, trust me when I say it was a pretty eerie read for a couple of folks who were on the line for a few grand. Had we not insisted upon finding an inspector through our own social networks, we could have very easily been living right there above the mysterious hockey puck and deadly toxic mold … oh, and the random asbestos materials that somehow rode out the “renovation.”

So while we can't offer you a seat in our quaint new home down in Atlanta, we can offer two very crucial tips for those who will follow us into this Poe-like world of home ownership where oddities (perhaps even sports equipment) lurk below the floor boards.

  1. Before you buy a house in the Atlanta area, contact this guy:
    Walter Barnwell
    w/ Home Inspection Team
    (404) 672-0020
    Trust me, he may not know why 2x4's are mortared to bricks, but he knows everything else about houses and he definitely does a very thorough inspection and gives earnest and sound advice about his findings.
  2. And, if you find yourself standing at 699 Brownwood Avenue in Atlanta thinking what a quaint little classic Atlanta home you've found right in the heart of emerging East Atlanta, either move along or bring a goalie mask. We're pretty sure at this point that the whole thing was an orchestrated scam and we're happy to have caught on before it was too late.

So there you have it, despite our best efforts we remain homeless. And to make matters worse, we just spent a week trying to end a contract rather than closing one. We have a couple of other options we're pursuing, but negotiations are slow and it isn't clear if we'll reach an agreement with anyone before we're living in the back corner of Piedmont Park. Before we started this process we took for granted the fine craft of contract contingencies. Now that we see one must anticipate such findings as hockey pucks wedged in the foundation of a home, we're certainly a lot more appreciative of (which is archaic English for “disgusted by”) the whole process.