No Exit in Newport

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In 1944, Jean Paul Sartre wrote an existentialist play titled “No Exit” about three deceased characters locked into a room for eternity.

If you are a homeowner in Newport Beach, you might want to pick up a copy to see what you’re in for.

By way of background, my mother had an edifice complex. Besides remodeling and expanding the family home half a dozen times, she built three cabins in the north woods and a retirement home in Florida.

Rarely were there blue prints. Usually she sketched out what she wanted on a piece of scratch paper, gave it to the builder, and told him to get started. The guy who built the lake cabins couldn’t read, so blue prints wouldn’t have been much use in any case. Legend has it he and Mom used a stick to draw the floor plan for the second lake cabin in the sand on the beach it overlooks.

Try building something today without plans, permits, and inspections, and you’re in for a lot of trouble, as we found out when we listed our house for sale.

Sometime in the last 30 years we replaced four fluorescent lights in the kitchen with recessed lights. A licensed electrician did the job, but he never got permits or had the finished work inspected. The fixtures were state of the art at the time, but they do not meet newer, more energy-efficient codes.

Well, our buyers requested a city inspection as a condition of purchase. The inspector informed us that we need to retroactively apply for a permit for the old lighting job, which also means the lights must be brought up to code. And, as of Jan. 1, Sacramento rewrote the rules to give the inspector the authority to see if the plumbing is up to code at the same time. How many of you know if your toilets and faucets are low flow enough to meet current code? Just what plumbing has to do with recessed lights is unclear, but, if the inspector decides to take a peek, you may not be able to sell your house until you replace the plumbing.

As of this writing, it’s still unclear how the inspectors will interpret this new requirement from Sacramento, but the ones we met seem inclined to be reasonable. Of course that was after the electrician installed six new LED lights in the kitchen.

Our buyers also had their own inspector come in and look around. He compiled a 25 page report which my wife and I found frighteningly comprehensive. Turns out after 42 years, not everything in the house is in move-in condition.

As our house entered escrow, the  buyers decided it would be nice to have us fix a few things the inspector flagged. Some items go back years and, silly us, we never thought they were a problem. Now we realize it’s amazing we survived living in such a hovel for 30 years. And we’re unable to look our children in the eye knowing the hardship they must have endured in their formative years.

Of course, we could elect to stay where we are, not fix anything, and, like Sartre’s characters, spend eternity in escrow. So what to do, or, in the parlance of the Home and Garden TV Channel, do we love it or list it?


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