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Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Had a Rocket Scientist on my Side

I Had a Rocket Scientist on my Side

I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story.  I searched for it on blogger and found nothing.  I seem to remember posting it, but apparently not.  Anyway if I don’t remember no one else will, frankly it is not that great a story.

Anyone who has ever sold a house, particularly when they were ready to close on a new house, knows it is very stressful.  I am told it is right behind divorce, and a new baby on the wheel of stress.  In 1996, we were close to settling on a new house and the sale of our current house fell through.  The buyer found a crack in the basement foundation caused by ground-water pressure.  He got scared and got out of Dodge.

That crack ultimately cost me over $20,000 in the sale price of the house.

The house was still under the builder’s warranty, and the builder installed several 6 inch I-beams buttressed up against the crack to prevent it from further movement.  Several weeks later we had a new buyer albeit at a much lower price.
The builder described this a "over-kill.

This buyer was concerned about the repaired crack and wanted his brother, an engineer to look at it.  The engineer brother drilled a few small holes, poked around and made believe he was doing something.  In actuality he was putting on a big act to skim a few more bucks out of our price.

When he was done he started spouting some mumbo-jumbo about the repair needing “active resistance” and we only had “passive resistance.”  He claimed a proper fix would require springs and levers and who knows what to create “active resistance.”

Now it so happened, that during this bull crap attempt to have me lower my price by another $5000, we had Maureen, a friend of my wife’s visiting.   Maureen worked for Lockheed Martin and had a doctorate in physics and propulsion.  She was in fact, a Rocket Scientist with more degrees than a circle.

When the rip-off engineer was through with his “active resistance” versus “passive resistance” spiel, Maureen spoke up,

“I’m sorry, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“Well, what is it that you don’t understand, the difference between active and passive resistance? It is a little complicated.”

“No, what I don’t understand, is if the current I-beams are firmly abutted against the wall, that could be considered only ‘passive resistance’, but if the wall starts to buckle it will be against these very substantial I-beams and the resistance will then effectively become ‘active resistance.’  Your claim is pure crap, you know it and I know it. If you buy this house your “active resistance” fix will never be installed.  It is clear to me that you are just trying to rip my friends off.”

“That’s a pretty bold statement, do you have any actual credentials.  Because I don’t think you know what you are talking about, are you a structural engineer?”

"No, but I do have a doctorate in physics and specialize in propulsion engineering."

I had to step in.  “She happens to be a damn rocket scientist. I have to think that somewhere along the line she has had to figure out the concept of active and passive resistance, so if the builders fix is not satisfactory, I guess we don’t have a deal.”

At this point the buyer stormed out saying he would have to think about it.  In my heart I knew he wanted the deal.  After he left I was livid.  I told the buyer’s agent who had remained,

“Listen, I really need this deal, but I will let it die in a New York minute before I bend over and spread’em for this prick!”

The buyer’s agent actually apologized, but thought the deal would probably not go through.

The next day another buyer put in a bid $5000 above the current bid.  It was not as good a contract, as the financing was not as solid as the first. 

Mr. Active Resistance dude was furious when he heard of this new bid.

  “They can’t show the house, we were under contract, I’ll sue their asses off!” 

It was explained to him that his contract at the time was contingent on resolving the “Passive Resistance” issue and so there was no contract.  He dropped his request for compensation in lieu of the basement wall issue and we took his bid as we didn’t want to lose the deal due to the new buyer not getting financing.

I kind of hated to let this bastard buy the house, but it was in our best interests.  At least I got to see the look on his face when he realized that Maureen had busted his bull shit scheme to squeeze a few more thousand dollars out of us.

Twenty years later when I drive by, that house is standing just fine.  I am glad that, thanks to Maureen, we actively resisted his bull-crap attempt to hold us up, while the passively resistant I-beams continue to do the same to the basement wall.


  1. Ugh. I hate this kind of stuff. Last year our daughter, against all odds, moved back to the same town we live in, and she and her hubbie managed to buy a house. They were lucky to find one; the market is ridiculously hot here now. Then the neighbors came by and immediately wanted to know *what are you going to do about the retaining wall* which of course the kids hadn't even noticed and the realtor failed to point out, nor had the building inspector. Oh crap! Who wants to deal with retaining walls? Not. Fun. But that's what they're doing right now, just to appease the neighbor. Bugs me, although it really isn't-thank god-my problem.

  2. That is a great story! We had a ridiculous buyer who made a low ball offer AND wrote in some of our custom made furniture into the contract. Our realtor told him to take a hike!

  3. It's nice to have friends like Maureen, who know what they're talking about.

  4. Ha, I would have LOVED to have been there to see his face! You did the right thing in accepting the offer though even if it did stick in your craw - sometimes you have to think of your own best interests even f it means letting stuff go.

  5. glad you had back-up to squash his b.s.!

  6. Good for Maureen. I love it when someone, especially a woman, gets one over on self-important buyers who actually know nothing.

  7. Nothing like having your own rocket scientist when you need one!

  8. Yep, bull works with some, but not with a rocket scientist. Love this.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend Cranky. ☺

  9. So many crap dealers--so little time.

  10. This reminds me of the house we sold that had a deactivated oil tank, deactivated before I was born, but to satisfy the Dept. of Environmental Control we had to pay (our realtor had to pay) twelve thousand dollars, just for a piece of paper.

  11. Amazing the stunts folks'll try to pull. We haven't even looked since we bought ours because of all the nonsense the sellers pulled to try and hide or misrepresent things. We had a brother-in-law engineer try to convince me that the sawdust falling from the main beams (termites AND carpenter ants) was 'normal' and actually 'beneficial' as opposed to 'dangerous' and 'impending doom'.

  12. I think your estimation concerning this story was weak. It IS a great story. I love it when folks trying to pull off something underhanded get caught.

  13. Yep, scoundrels are everywhere. The only homes I've ever lived in were homes that I built myself. I tried to talk myself down once, but I was a pretty accomplished negotiator and managed to hold my ground. ;)

  14. What a nightmare but how satisfying to have had your own personal rocket scientist handy. Boy do I feel lucky. I sold my home to the first viewer in Florida after one day of listing and closed in a week. I guess that isn't standard. Think I'll stay put here.

  15. How i wish we'd had a Maureen when we were buying this place!

  16. I love a good rocket scientist story!

  17. I LOVE stories like this. Some turd trying get over on you and your friend calls him out on his bull.

  18. We've bought and sold a number of houses (we're in our sixth house now) and I agree wholeheartedly with you - it is stressful! Glad you had a rocket scientist on your side.

  19. I hope to never buy or sell a house in my lifetime again. It is very nerve wracking. When hubby sold his parents' house, the buyers had their inspection they were entitled with and found 43 things wrong with it that they wanted fixed. 41 of those things were bogus. Hubby upped what he would pay for closing costs and they were perfectly happy with the rest of the deal. Its a game. If you play it right it may be to your advantage, no matter if you are on the selling part or buying part. Sometimes you just have to walk away.


  20. Figure the odds of having a rocket scientist there just when you needed one! I would love to have seen the look on this jerk's face when he was presented with her credentials and she called him on his bullshit!
    from Josie's Journal

  21. Now you're talking! What a great story. I wish I could have been there to see that guys face when your friend busted him on his antics. Talk about hilarity. Glad to hear you got the house sold nonetheless, do you ever check in to see if it is the same owner?

    Mildred Mclaughlin @ MyBetter Basement


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