Reefer Madness

I spend most of my days working for home buyers, finding fault with their houses-to-be. I find sparky jackleg wiring, stinky plumbing leaks, swarms of termites, leaky roofs, and heaters that won't heat. I crawl amongst the cave crickets, find discarded six-packs of cheap domestic beer, pull porno mags out of basement hidey-holes, and watch brown recluse spiders crawl on the clothes that people store in their attics.

Believe me when I tell you: There's plenty of stuff to worry about around the house. But you know what my customers worry about most? The refrigerator. The fridge. The reefer. I have it on good authority, from real estate agents who have put the finishing touches on many a deal, that buyers and sellers can reach an accord on sparks and drips and leaks and bugs, but they fight like chimps in heat over refrigerators.

Sometimes it works like this: The sellers have recently bought their dream fridge, and they say they're by-God taking it with them. On the other side of the deal, there are buyers who had to leave their fridge at their old place, because the people who bought their house whined and cried and carried on and threatened to buy a whole other house if they couldn't have the fridge. Other times, the fridge in question is a disco-era avocado thing; it won't keep the eggs anymore, and the sellers aren't about to be bothered with hauling it off. Not hardly, say the buyers. You're not leaving that thing in our kitchen!

People, there are real estate agents out there who have to park their Lexuses under grackle-infested hackberry trees because their garages are full of refrigerators. Shoot, if it came down to moving a fridge or losing a hard-earned commission, what would you do?

The irony here is that these great big fights are about little bitty amounts of money. Used refrigerators, big or small, plain or fancy, have almost no cash value. Pick up a classified page, and check the prices-not that they mean much. Once a person has decided to part with a refrigerator, I promise you, he'll give it to the first person who shows up with a dolly. The only real cash at risk in a fridge transaction is the money that'll go toward fixing the floor and doorjambs that get torn up when the fridge leaves the building.

I've seen animal-rights types ready to claw the eyes out of a fellow human being over an ice maker, which is just one little part of a fridge. Hey, if a couple had an ice maker at their last house, and they're moving up, they shouldn't have to hand-make their ice cubes, right? But a spanking-new ice maker goes for about 50 bucks. What's a used one worth? Less than used underwear. You'd have to pay somebody to come get it.

So, good people, unwind a little bit on this fridge issue, OK? Whenever there's a house transaction, I say donate the existing reefers to charity, and everybody go out and a buy new one. It'll save a lot of grief and be good for the economy besides.

While we're on the subject of large, white household appliances, let me also tell you a few things about water heaters. First, you need to know that in a hard-water town like ours, water heaters tend to die early. It has to do with sediment settling on the bottom of the tank and causing hot spots.

Water heaters, like fridges, are high-priority items with my customers. Just about every day, somebody will ask me, "How much longer do you think the water heater will last?"

I point out that manufacturers usually guarantee water heaters for about three to five years, pro-rated. Then I point out that used water heaters, like used refrigerators, have virtually no cash value. The pro-rated guarantee on a 4-year-old water heater is worth, oh, maybe 50 bucks.

I go on to say that water heaters usually fail just as the family pulls out of the driveway for a four-day trip to Grandma's house.

I close with my own personal opinion that anybody with the gumption to take on a mortgage payment had better be ready to replace a water heater on a moment's notice. When it blows-and it will blow-don't get tense, and don't start looking for somebody to blame. Just call a plumber and write a check.