My appliances are junk. My agent isn't helping. My head hurts.
July 2, 2007 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Bought house, with appliances. Dishwasher broken from get-go. Dryer quickly broke. Washer never worked well. Agent not particularly helpful. Long.

The purchase agreement mentions all the appliances, and includes a note re.

"The SELLER represents and warrants that the fixtures and Chattels as included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale will be in good working order and free from all liens and encumbrances on completion. The Parties agree that this representation and warranty shall survive and not merge on completion of this transaction, but apply only to the state of the property at completion of this transaction."

(Note: this is in Canada.) We knew the dishwasher was broken before we moved in; the seller was supposed to get it fixed. Didn't. She's a bit whiny; thinks she got taken advantage of by including the appliances (she had some thoroughly unrealistic opinions about the state of her house...), rang real early in the morning to tell me she wouldn't spend more than C$150, etc. The dishwasher is a 20-year-old rusty write-off, and we're in an area where it's $70 to get somebody out to just look at an appliance. $150 is not going to cover a working dishwasher, installation, and removal of the old one. I said she was welcome to get it repaired, get a decent used one installed, get a new one; whatever, just: do it, please. Nothing; it's been 2 mths.

The agent, who -- forgive me, here -- is also the seller's step-daughter; dual agency -- was helpful and apologetic at first; now, it's 'take the $150.'

The dryer made horrible noises from the get-go, and the washer has no working cycle beyond rip-yer-clothes-apart ultra-fast. I mentioned to the agent that they were both dodgy pretty soon after moving in; didn't really get a response. It became increasingly clear that the washer was junk, and the dryer finally broke down completely. Neither are in a state to make repairs worthwhile, and -- this not being an area with a laundromat -- we bought a new washer & dryer this weekend.

Agent re. dryer breaking, paraphrased: 'tough.'

I should stress that I don't expect a brand-new dishwasher for free; we did not buy a house with new appliances. I also don't expect to recover the entire cost of the rather nice front-loading washer I bought to replace the top-loading rattletrap. But something would be nice, and I'd rather it not take another two months.

Given less-than-helpful agent at this stage, what's my next step? How can I minimize the hassle? What're realistic expectations here? It seems clear to me that these chattels were NOT in 'good working order,' but does the agent have anything with the 'working when you moved in, so your problem' stance?

Sincere apologies for the length here...
posted by kmennie to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a small claims court in Canada? In the US you can file with small claims for cases not totaling more than a couple thousand dollars and you do not require representation or anything. Think the People's Court without all the circus. They might just settle rather than deal with all this crap, especially if they were misrepresenting the working order of the appliances.

But for all you other swingin' cats out there, you should make sure you get a one-year home warranty when you buy your place. It's not that unreasonable and usually finances are tight for the first year after laying down (usually a lot of) your cash for a new home.
posted by fusinski at 11:30 AM on July 2, 2007

It's not much help but this is why our real estate agent purchased a home warranty for the first year. You may want to look in to this if you have worries about the other appliances. (Home Warranties aren't US specific I believe).

At this point you may be stuck with learning a lesson from the experience, which sucks but it's better than some of the other things you could have run in to with the home and the experience.
posted by iamabot at 11:32 AM on July 2, 2007

Yours is a galling problem that happens way too often. The real estate agent will say anything to get the sale to go through, and then afterwards you have no leverage. It's usually not worthwhile to repair an old appliance; as you said, it costs just to have someone come out, then you have to wait for parts and pay for labor on a machine that will probably malfunction in some other way soon enough. Meanwhile, you're very short of cash.

I have two suggestions, based on my own similar experiences. First, write to the parties involved and tell them precisely what you want done and by what date. After that, go to small claims court (if that option is available to you) and sue them for the amount (document it) it will cost you/ has cost you to provide yourself with new appliances. Also, you can write a letter to the real estate agent's boss, and to the director of the company if it's a chain.

My other suggestion might not seem palatable now, but later on you might see its merit: Remind yourself often that you would have bought that house at the same price even knowing the true condition of the appliances. It's a matter of $1500 at most, and much less if you shop around or buy used equipment.
posted by wryly at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2007

Is this really a big deal? You're upset because you're thinking about the cost of appliances. But you bought a house, not appliances. The appliances are less than 1% of the value of the transaction - it's like getting shorted a penny when you buy a cup of coffee. In fact, probably your purchase agreement was written to throw in the appliances for $1 along with the house, because if you had paid market price for the appliances, you would have had to pay sales tax to the government on their value. So you paid $1 for them, and you got your money's worth.

You got a good deal on the house, or you didn't. Either way, it's yours now. Those appliances are yours too. They're not the seller's responsibility anymore. Take the $150, go down to the local Megalo-mart and buy some spiffy new appliances with no payments until 2008, and don't sweat it.

Sears makes good, inexpensive appliances.
posted by jellicle at 12:21 PM on July 2, 2007

I would take the $150 and chalk it up to a learning experience. Even if you did get a little bit more out of the seller, it will be an amount that might pay for the cheapest appliance available, which probably isn't the appliance you would actually buy, and will require an awful lot of your time and trouble. They promised that the appliances would work on the day that they sold the house, and the washer and dryer did work at that time. That they broke later is, as your agent said, tough.

$150 will pay for a good portion of a new dishwasher; unless something is weird about your kitchen, they are easy to install (you don't need a professional for this, as long as you are comfortable with a screwdriver). And at least where I live (which is not in Canada), stores frequently offer "free installation and delivery" sales, which will help if you don't want to do the installation yourself. It took me, a complete appliance novice, less than three hours to install a dishwasher, including having to go back to the store to get the right size of hose.
posted by Forktine at 12:24 PM on July 2, 2007

I know nothing about Canadian law, but under English law, the fact that the appliances were agreed to be in good working order in the contract would mean a lot more than 'they were operational on the day the contract was signed.' If that provision hadn't been included, it would be caveat emptor, but the seller represented the appliances to be in good condition. They were not in good condition. You should be entitled to damages.

Small claims court is the way to go.
posted by happyturtle at 1:16 PM on July 2, 2007

Once the purchase closes, you own the appliances as they are in the house. This isn't like renting where you are promised working appliances for the length of your lease. You should get these things sorted out before you sign the final papers. If you knew the dishwasher was broken, you should have asked for the closing price to be lowered to reflect the cost to replace it.

What do you expect, that the new buyer will be your house's personal superintendent for a while because she sold you the appliances too? Be an adult. It's not reasonable for you to expect someone else to pay the replacement of your appliances.
posted by cotterpin at 1:31 PM on July 2, 2007

Having recently bought our first house (in the US), I'm inclined to agree that this should just be a learning experience. Typically if there are things that you expect to be fixed before the closing, and the seller agrees, then you ensure that these things are done (or you settle matters with money) before the actual closing. It seems to me that closing on the house was in a way an agreement that everything was up to your spec at that your bargaining chip ( not closing ) is gone.

Now that you've closed on the house, I suppose you could try small claims court, but is it really worthwhile to waste your time on this? These appliances are crap and the seller probably won't give you much more than the $150. Indulge yourself and replace the broken stuff with things that will actually work and that are under a warranty.
posted by tastybrains at 1:44 PM on July 2, 2007

Also, was the seller's agreement to fix the dishwasher put in writing? If not, then I would just drop the matter completely. We had everything we needed fixed or paid for put in as an addendum to our P&S Agreement (along with a deadline) and had both parties sign it.
posted by tastybrains at 1:46 PM on July 2, 2007

I had the same problem with an oven that only has 2 working burners - if I had checked during the final walk through, I would have leverage. I didn't, I don't. Any repairs or replacements after you sign on the dotted line are a gift - take the $150 and count your blessings.
posted by blackkar at 1:59 PM on July 2, 2007

The appliances are supposed to be in good working order, but were not represented as new. In fact, you knew they were pretty old. What's the value of a working, very used dishwasher, washer and dryer in good working order? Call a used appliance shop and find out. Then announce your plan to go to Small Claims Court for the amount. Be happy if you can settle for 300.
posted by theora55 at 2:26 PM on July 2, 2007

Take the $150. My agent told me that the appliances are only going to be covered for a week or two after you move in. It's really tough to convince a judge that they should be covered for longer than that. And, even then, a judge would discount the percentage of responsibility held by the seller. Also, it's entirely possible that the judge would use depreciation to determine the value of the appliances. For example, let's a new washer, dryer and dishwasher cost $1500. It sounds like the models you had were 20 years old (just going on the dishwasher). The replacement value is going to end up being perhaps $400 for all three. And they may decide only the dishwasher should be covered. A $300 dishwasher depreciated at 5% a year for 20 years gives you about $100. So $150 is a good deal.
posted by acoutu at 2:52 PM on July 2, 2007

Take the $150. It sucks but arguing and going to court for months will make you hate your situation and thus the house that caused the situation.

You will feel free when you stop worrying about it.
posted by guruguy9 at 3:11 PM on July 2, 2007

Some boring elaboration:

The washer looked new, which really adds to the aggravation... I would've hoped the dishwasher being mentioned as included, and the inclusions being mentioned as in good working order, precluded the need for an additional 'seller promises to fix the dishwasher' clause.

That the dishwasher didn't start was easy enough to figure out; it has clotted soap still in it from whenever it broke, but it's not like I had a way of doing a load or two of laundry before closing. Water ran into the washer, and the dryer turned on; that's all we knew.

The kitchen's not weird, but the house location is. I'm in the sticks; there isn't a local Sears. There is a little wee local appliance store, and they want $50 to install (their, new) dishwasher and cart the old one away. Out here, just getting rid of the old ones is a problem and an expense; I can't stress that enough.

But, yeah, it's a tedious problem that might take a lot to go after and which will only get little if anything. I'm not sitting here looking for a lawyer, just wondering about the meaning of 'good working order' in light of 'crap from the get-go,' what the agent should do, if anything, etc, before I throw in the towel. I was fine with so-so appliances that I could maybe replace in two or three years; I'm not so fine with regretting having FreeCycled my apartment-sized washer and dryer before moving. And we're having our first baby in August, so I'm in no shape to install a dishwasher, and this is a tiny town with no laundromat, but like I'd want to use a laundromat with a newborn anyway and boo hoo hoo
posted by kmennie at 5:20 PM on July 2, 2007

At $3 per load and 2 loads per day, you would spend $1000 on a laundromat in the first 6 months. You can get a new washer and dryer for less than $900.

The cheapest dishwasher at Sears is around $300. With a baby on the way, I really recommend buying a new one that has a sanitary cycle. That way, any items you use with the baby (breast pump, bottles, cups, feeding spoons, bowls) can be run through the dishwasher. But $50 for removal and installation (from your local store) is actually pretty cheap, compared to most places -- as long as the dishwasher they're selling isn't overpriced.

If there isn't a Sears near you, you could order through the catalogue/online and use "Sears direct to you". But you'd have to do the installation yourself. They also have home delivery options that include removal of old appliances and setup of new ones. Of course, you would be looking at online/catalogue pieces, but if you were taking the appliances in your home as is you might be okay with just having basic options.

I know these are unexpected expenses. If it is any consolation, you will get $100 a month for the childcare credit and another deduction (started July 1). You might also qualify for family allowance or something. This will all kick in when the baby is born. Perhaps you could use that money to offset the appliance costs? I know it is hard to come up with so much money when a baby is on the way.
posted by acoutu at 6:47 PM on July 2, 2007

In the states, a home owners warranty is a standard part of home resale. I've bought and sold houses - the buyer requests it and seller pays for it. If the seller won't budge, the two agents may buy it. Your agent should have advised you to make a warranty a condition of your offer. Also, when the owner promises to fix something, they are generally supposed to bring evidence that it was completed to the closing - repair receipts, termite reports, etc. Anything that they can't verify should be inspected during the final walk through. This isn't much help to you now, but if you're taking this as a lesson learned you might as well get the whole lesson.

What did your home inspector say about the house? If they fibbed on appliances, I wonder about your roof and foundation.

If you genuinely believe that your agent is not acting in your best interests, then you do have an option. Whenever you know someone buying or selling a house, you should be sure to tell them that this agent is incompetent/unscrupulous. If you live in an area that so small that it doesn't have a laundromat, then it probably small enough that reputation matters. On the other hand, it's a serious accusation and not one to make lightly.
posted by 26.2 at 7:57 PM on July 2, 2007

1) They're in breach of the contract on the dishwasher (but you could have trouble proving it if you don't have it in writing, though so could they), probably in breach on the washer, and probably not on the dryer. You can fight, or you can take the $150. It's likely to be a pain to deal with the court, and unless you have a lot of free time to deal with it, likely not to be worth the trouble, as the value of an old appliance in working order isn't much different than $150. The time to get everything in working order is before the contract is signed. When I bought my condo, I had a home inspection, found something that wasn't working, and conditioned the purchase on their getting it fixed. They threw a fit, but decided to spend the couple of hundred bucks getting it fixed instead of trying to put the house up for sale. Once you're in the house, what do they care until you sue them? (You may wish to check with a lawyer whether you have any action against your agent, but I agree that this is probably just a learning experience.)

2) C$50 for installation and cart-away is a heck of a good price if they'll do a good job. Sears generally charges twice that here in US$.
posted by commander_cool at 8:06 PM on July 2, 2007

I directed a non-MeFite estate agent friend of mine to this; his response for posterity:

"The "chattels" need to be in good working order on the date of completion. They can break the next day. It sounds like none of them were in "good working order" on closing day. The seller is responsible for paying to fix them. I would suggest getting an estimate to have them repaired and sending a copy of the estimate to the seller and their lawyer. If they don't respond offer to take them to Small Claims court. In most cases people will offer to settle. If the agent is related to the seller you should go around them. It sounds like they have picked their side."

Still. The seller is probably a very nice lady outside of not fixing dishwashers, and she now helps run a nearby berry farm. I'm tempted to say "that $150, and enough to keep me in jam for a few years, and I'll shut up..."

I am counting myself lucky that this was a relatively cheap lesson learned; it's not like the septic backed up or the garage fell over or anything catastrophic.
posted by kmennie at 8:31 PM on July 2, 2007

My agent told me the problem with that is that contracts usually say something about "to the seller's knowledge". The seller can just say that they didn't know the appliances had those problems.
posted by acoutu at 9:05 PM on July 2, 2007

I haven't heard it mentioned, but did you have a lawyer act for you in the house purchase & close? That's the usual way to complete a house purchase in Canada.

Assuming you did have a lawyer, it's part of their job to listen to your complaint, then give their opinion on whether it can be acted upon, and make thing right.

When we bought our house, there was a smallish breach of contract worth about $250. We told our lawyer, he wrote a letter to seller and their lawyer, a check for $250 quickly appeared.

So, ask your lawyer. It is (or should be) part of the service they provide to you in handling the transaction; i wouldn't expect that they'd bill you extra unless it's going to be a big long fight.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2007

Assuming you did have a lawyer, it's part of their job to listen to your complaint, then give their opinion on whether it can be acted upon, and make thing right.

Well, duh, on my part.

A letter from the lawyer's on the way to the seller; no additional charge from the lawyer. (For future readers of this thread mentioned that no reasonable response would likely mean small claims court. Future readers of this thread looking for a good real estate attorney in Ottawa are welcome to e-mail me for a recommendation...)

Thanks all!
posted by kmennie at 11:58 AM on July 5, 2007

If you're far enough out in the sticks that you've only got one little local appliance shop, good relations with your neighbours will be far more valuable to you in years to come than good appliances. Don't start fights. Take the $150.
posted by flabdablet at 5:31 PM on July 16, 2007

good relations with your neighbours will be far more valuable to you in years to come than good appliances

A good point -- mind, this is in no small part why we took our $$$$ worth of new appliance business to the little local shop rather than a big-box in the city...

The little local appliance shop is also a butcher's. They gave us what I'm told were very good steaks when we bought the washer and dryer. I heart the sticks.
posted by kmennie at 3:26 AM on July 17, 2007

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