Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

This Will Definitely Go in a Book!
By Lois Winston

After our recent move from New Jersey, we’re now settled in at our new home in Middle Tennessee. If you own stock in Lowes, Home Depot, or Amazon, my husband and I are most likely responsible for the recent increase in your portfolio. I shudder to think what our next credit card bills will look like!

I thought the real estate market in the NY Metro area was crazy, but I didn’t expect it to be worse in metropolitan Nashville. The house we bought went on the market on a Friday. We had an appointment to view it the next afternoon. At that point the owner already had five offers and was making a decision at three o’clock. After touring the home, we had about twenty minutes to submit a sixth offer before her deadline.

When you’re under that kind of pressure, you don’t have time to do a deep dive into the nooks and crannies of a house. The house is only seventeen years old, and it ticked off most of the boxes on our must-have list. But we were in for more than a few shocks when we did our walk-thru prior to taking possession last month.

The seller is a single parent of two teenage boys and a dog. She freely admitted that she pulled the batteries out of the smoke detectors when they beeped and never bothered to replace them. (“I guess that makes me an awful mother?” she asked with a shrug of her shoulders and a giggle.) Once I heard that, nothing I discovered surprised me. Here are but a few examples:

Food that had spilled inside kitchen cabinets was never cleaned up and had eaten away at the wood base and fossilized into rock-hard masses.

The granite kitchen counters are full of gouges and cuts, as if they were used in place of cutting boards. I don’t want to know what they were doing to create quarter-inch pock marks on the island.

I do remember looking inside the oven when we toured the house. It was clean. Apparently, after she had an agreement of sale in hand, she didn’t bother cleaning up any spills, which continued to bake onto the oven interior and wire racks during the months between the acceptance of our offer and the day we took possession.

At some point after the home inspection, she also dropped something heavy in one of the bathroom sinks, causing fine cracks in the bowl. Accidents do happen, though. But it would have been nice if she’d cleaned up the mascara she spilled in the sink at some point afterwards. Now the cracks are black. Straight bleach failed to get rid of them.

Nearly every square inch of wall space was covered with photos and kitschy framed sayings, from floor to ceiling. No care was taken in removing them. They were simply yanked off the walls, the picture frame hooks and nails pulling away wallboard. As I write this, my husband is walking around the house with a can of spackling compound, but he’ll need to haul the ladder in from the garage to get the holes near the 9-foot ceilings.

Star-Trek type adhesive LED light strips ran around the perimeters of the second-floor rooms. We tried various ways to remove them, but nothing worked that didn’t also pull off chunks of paint. The photo shows what the walls now look like after the strips were removed in one room. (That’s me on the left and my great-grandparents on the right.)

We had hoped to wait a year or two before painting. So much for best laid plans…

I’m currently finishing up the tenth Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, but I’m thinking ahead to the next book in the series. I may just have to base a victim on the former owner of our new home. I need the catharsis of killing off that woman—at least on the page.

Did you ever encounter surprises when moving to a new home? Share your experiences for a chance to win a print copy (U.S. residents only) or ebook of either Death by Killer Mop Doll or Revenge of the Crafty Corpse.

Also, while I have your attention, our Booklover’s Bench August contest is live now through Aug. 18. Enter for a chance to win a free mystery! Click here to enter.