The good news, the bad news, and the worst insurance nightmare.

22 Oct

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This is real life, not just a blog highlighting the ebbs and flows of a project house. So much has gone on in the last few months since my last blog entry, I don’t even know where to begin. In a nutshell, we found our dream home property, moved out of Hudson, dove headfirst into the “busy season” for our business, and then tragedy struck just a few weeks ago.

I wasn’t sure at the time if the incident at Goodwill put the nail in coffin of my dream to prove most things could be recycled, but now that enough time has passed, I realized it slowed my desire make this a green project. If I couldn’t get bags of clothes taken by a huge corporation for reuse and recycling, how can I keep pushing through with the rest of the more difficult stuff?

Nothing has happened at 49 Columbia all summer because of a lot of reasons. Mostly it’s because we found our dream home property. Life doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and our long term goal was to have 49 Columbia as an income property to help us afford our dream home. As luck would have it, my wife found a place in the woods with a pond and stream. Those were the prerequisites for me to move out of our 1,200 sq/ft semidetached house in Hudson.

All of June and some of July saw our efforts into gaining this new property. Satisfying all of the conditions for the mortgage company, planning and financing the modest upgrades, and picking out new furniture. Oh, and the whole moving thing via uHaul loaded with over 7 years of accumulations, mostly my daughter’s toys and clothes.

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All in all, we now are the happy owners of a 1,500 sq/ft A-frame style house (wife’s prerequisite) with a large basement and garage on 11.6 acres surrounded my woodland and few neighbors. The icing on the cake for me is the old stone wall that nearly encompasses the entire border.

August is when we closed on the deal and spent the rest of the month tearing out old carpet, some shag circa 1980, and peeling the wallpaper off the kitchen. Fresh coats of paint all around and installing a beautiful wood laminate in the kitchen, dining, living rooms, and hallway made it comfortable enough to move into. One of these days years, we’ll do a full reno and complete the dream home endeavor.

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With all of that happening, we also jumped into the busiest part of our photography studio business; multiple weddings every weekend while shooting high school seniors all day during the week. Needless to say, we were both working a minimum of 50 hours a week, sometimes I was pushing close to over 80. Whatever time was left was for eating, sleeping, and spending time with our daughter. Forget even cleaning, our house was a disaster war zone. Every time we picked up one thing, she would throw down 3 more…

Lastly, just when we thought the stars were aligning, I was started awake sometime after midnight with a dreaded call from my brother… But let me backtrack for a minute.

Remember in my first couple blogs when I mentioned our first house we bought and renovated? One of the conditions from the mortgage company was that we had a tenant lined up for that house since we were not selling to get the new one. Our long term goal is to keep a couple properties as retirement income. We posted our listing on a website that synced to all the usuals like Trullia, Zillow, and the like. Within hours we were getting swarmed with emails and phone calls. So I called up my dad who’s a general contractor and set up a schedule to finish up that last 10% that needed to be done for a complete reno. If anyone has ever owned a home and moved in before finishing the last details, we all tell ourselves “we’ll just get it done once we settle in” and as the majority of us know, that almost never happens!

On Friday, September 26th, I showed the house to five prospects! I even had a few others the days prior, but this real estate stuff seemed pretty easy 🙂 The following Monday I had a second showing with a nice couple from the 26th and had a confirmed deal. All was well with the world and were on our way to being landlords making a little extra on the side. I sent them the lease agreement Tuesday morning via email and all we had to do was wait for the deposit. October 16th was the tentative move in date for us to have our renovations done, with a grace period to Nov 1st if need be, which took a little stress off.

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It was just a few minutes after midnight, technically October 1st and I was woken by the buzzing of my phone in my night stand drawer. My brother was on the other end and said “Wake up. Your house is burning.” My stomach went into my throat and jumped out of bed. There was nothing I could do at the moment. Panic and hysteria wouldn’t accomplish anything. I threw on some clothes and put my contacts in, then started on the 20 minute drive to Hudson.

When I arrived, all of the streets were blocked off and there were firefighters everywhere. I filled out some paperwork with the fire chief and spoke with the investigator from the police department. We had turned all the power off in our building and the house attached to mine has been vacant for years.

The fire started in the second floor bathroom on the building next to mine by a vagrant who easily broke in and was squatting there for a few days. He had been spotted by numerous construction workers in the area, mainly roofers working on a building near by. This has always been our worst fear while living in that house; having a vacant building attached. “What if someone started a fire there?!”

We had a fire alarm in our master bedroom and the hallway outside our door and daughter’s room. These were the ones that went off and alerted the neighbor across the street about the fire. She then called 911 after the alarms hadn’t stopped and she could hear the popping noises of the crackling wood interior of the house.

These old houses were only connected with a 4″ wall with no insulation between. Firewall? Not a chance. All of my windows were cracked to allow the house to breathe before the next family moved in. This was a perfect scenario for the fire once it made its way to my property. Smoke just moved through the whole place and was billowing out of every crack and seam of the exterior walls and windows.

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Here’s a video walkthrough of the damage:

Now things go from bad to worse. During our move, we had all of our mail forwarded to the new address. Trying to sort through all of that and keep track of double of everything now, we missed two letters saying we were late on our insurance payment. The day after the fire I called to file a claim and I was informed that my insurance was canceled just a couple weeks before. WTF!

“We sent you a letter in the mail and an email.” That’s it? Really? I get over 300 emails a day and how do they know if it didn’t get filtered to spam? No phone call? Seriously? Now I know it truly is my fault for not keeping up with that one bill. If I’m even a day late paying the utility company their measly little $65 for a month of electricity at the studio, I’ll get a call asking for payment immediately. Now why won’t I get a call about my insurance? We’ll because that’s the industry that wants to fuck over their customer any chance they can get. They’re in the business of making money and there’s enough fraud out there that get’s away with it. But still, it’s my fault. I let down my family now and we’re in a bind to say the least. Paying two mortgages out of pocket.

Where do we go from here?

For once in my life, I don’t know what to do.

One Response to “The good news, the bad news, and the worst insurance nightmare.”

  1. Justin October 24, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    The economist in me says, “ignore sunk costs.” Forget about the insurance lapse (which sucks, but you can’t fight that one). Will Galvan not take ANY responsibility for the fire? That might be worth be consulting a lawyer, it seems like allowing a squatter would be negligence. Assuming there’s no way to recover losses financially, you have two options:
    1. Fix the house and hope that your future rent or sale proceeds compensates you for the repairs.
    2. Sell the house “as is.” Obviously, below market value,it would be a great deal for somebody with the time and money to fix it up. You could be done with it and have a big check (which I would throw straight to the mortgage on A-Frame, or settle any other debts).

    It sucks, obviously. But your life now is in the A-frame, the time and money from Allen Street are gone, and you have to decide what is best, financially and for peace of mind.

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