When A Home Sale Explodes (Good To Great – Part 3)

Have you ever had a home sale explode after you’ve been under contract?  We had a bomb go off last night, but we’re ok with that.  In the broader sense of our “Good To Great” move, it’s actually a good thing.  How, you ask?

Read on….

In today’s Part 3 of the “Good To Great” series, we’ll explain how our plan went awry after a bomb went off on our “Good” cabin sale, and how we’re handling it.  As I mentioned in Part 1, we’re writing this as it happens and we don’t know how this downsizing move to “Great” ends.  That reality continues, and the sale of our “Good” cabin now appears to be in jeopardy.  We’ll continue to keep you posted on our journey through this final year before retirement in this “Good To Great” Series.

For your reference, below are links to Parts 1 and 2 in this series, which outline the “Good To Great” move thus far:

The Home Sale

After we’d completed the move from the “Good” cabin to the “Great” cabin, we put the Good cabin on the market. On June 21, the listing went live.  We felt we were nearing the end of our “Good To Great” move.

We felt good.

We may have been a bit premature……

As mentioned in last week’s “37 Days” post, we (thought we) had sold our “Good” cabin last week, two days before our daughter’s wedding.  We had accepted an offer from a buyer offering cash, and I was already thinking about writing “Part III” of the Good to Great Series with a focus on the financial outcome of our move.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.


The Bomb

At 6:01 pm last night, the following Bomb showed up in my e-mail, from the buyer of our cabin:

As you can see from the pictures it appears that at one time a tree branch fell on the roof at the top ridge area and at the right and left gutter areas of the master bedroom porch.  The tree crushed the ridge vent there on the top and popped all the nails out so the ridge vent is not flush or secure to the roof and the gutter and the ¾ plywood is damaged and warped in 2 or 3 sections due to water intrusion from the falling tree.

Turns out the buyer owns a home repair business and was more observant than me about damage to the roof.  He was absolutely correct, a tree branch HAD fallen on the roof.  When the branch fell on the cabin in Feb 2014, I simply climbed up on the roof with my trusty chain saw and removed the large limb (I was still naive since I hadn’t fallen off a roof yet).

Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t.

Turns out the branch HAD caused some structural problems which I hadn’t realized.  I was oblivious to the fact until 6:01 pm last night.  The buyer was polite, professional and comprehensive in his email.  He even included pictures of his “findings”, showing the plywood warped under the shingles:

Defusing The Bomb

The buyer suspects a large portion of the roof will have to be replaced:   shingles AND plywood.  He seems to know what he’s talking about, and I have no reason to doubt his claim.  We’re talking Potentially Big $$.  He seemed reasonable, and I have no reason to suspect he’s “cooking this up” as part of a negotiation.

We have a real problem.  Our roof is broken.

And our home sale may fall through.

After receiving his email, I called my wife, told her what was happening….

…And Promptly Went For A Swim.

I like to think when I swim, and the 45-minute workout gave me time to figure out a plan.  My wife and I talked later in the evening, and agreed to the following plan:

  • This happened on our watch, and we’d take care of it.
  • Right is right, and we were going to be completely above board on how we handled this.
  • We would assure the buyers that we’d take care of the roof, and hope they’d proceed with the purchase.
  • We would file an insurance claim but pay for the roof even if insurance balked.

Last night, I wrote out a proposal to the home buyer.

As I write these words, we’re still waiting on their response.

Filing An Insurance Claim 3 1/2 Years After The Fact

To complicate matters, I changed insurance companies about 3 years ago.  The company insuring our house in Feb 2014, when the “tree incident” occurred, are no longer insuring the house.  Regardless, I called them and politely explained the situation.

They explained that their policy clearly states that in a case like this they would insure the initial damage, but they would not cover any subsequent “rotting or deterioration” that happened as a result of the delayed claim.

Not Good.

The majority of the cost will likely fall into the “rotting or deterioration” category.  Regardless, we must proceed, and capture whatever reimbursement we possibly can from the insurance company.

So…the claim is entered, and I’m expecting to hear from an insurance adjuster in the next 48 hours.

It’s Only Money

Easy come, easy go.

It’s only money.

No, that’s not my hand. Nor my $100.

Clearly, we have to fix the roof, so there’s no need to get stressed out about it.  Just get the roof fixed.

Ok, so we’ll make a bit less on the “Good To Great” move than we thought.  That’s ok.  The move wasn’t about money.  It was about something more important than money.

This move isn't about money. It's about moving our life from Good To Great. Share on X

We’ve got enough money for a great life, so the roof problem isn’t really a problem at all.  Keep things in perspective, and don’t sweat the small stuff (and recognize, most of it is small stuff).

I’m Glad The Buyer Discovered The Roof Problem

This is a good thing, if you look at it through the right lens.  Imagine if we HADN’T made the move from Good To Great.  In a few years we’d have been living our retired life in our Good cabin, only to have been awakened in the middle of the night by rain dropping on our bed through the ceiling.

We’d have had a major financial issue in the first few years of retirement, which we weren’t prepared for.

That problem is now solved.  The problem was there, we just didn’t recognize it.  Now we do, and we’ll get it fixed before we retire.  We’ll enter retirement with one less “Black Swan” flying overhead, and I’m thankful for that.

I’m glad the buyer discovered the roof problem.

Better than us discovering it 5 years from now.

Much better.


Life has a way of throwing curveballs from time to time.  Learn how to hit them.  Keep things in perspective, and focus on the broader goals in life.  In our case, the roof problem is a good thing to discover now, while we’re in a good position to deal with it.  Sure, it’ll be a hassle, but we’ll get through it.  Money isn’t the issue, creating a great life is what we’re all about right now.  Viewed through that lens, I’m almost kinda sorta maybe a little happy the roof thing happened.

That’s how you hit a curve ball.

Work on your swing.

It’ll help you move your life from Good To Great.



  1. Any chance you can still work out a deal with the potential new owner and have him fix for a (slight) reduction in sales price? That way everyone is happy and you don’t have to chase contractors for the repairs (and potentially be of cheaper). Worth the discussion, you’ve been honest so far, use that to your advantage.

    1. Yeah exactly, I would do this. With the buyer in the construction industry he can probably get it fixed for cost.

    2. Team CF, we tried to offer a reasonable settlement, but the new homeowner’s had convinced themselves that we’d pay for a new metal roof. Afraid they bailed out the day their diligence period was set to expire. We’re back on the market. Ah well, it’ll sell. It’s just a matter of when, and at what price!

  2. I’m so sorry to hear about a roof crisis. Not fun, but you certainly have the right attitude. This line says it all:

    “Keep things in perspective, and don’t sweat the small stuff (and recognize, most of it is small stuff).”

    I have a feeling that the buyer won’t walk away. He has enough evidence that you’re a man of honor. So he’ll give you a chance to fix the roof and deliver a solid product. Aaarrrggghhh! The joys of owning a home. Keep us posted, my friend. Talk to you soon.

    1. I wish your feeling was right, Mr. G. Afraid they walked this past weekend (I wrote the post last week, as I typically write 1 week prior to publishing my articles). We’re back on the market… Ah well, it’s small stuff!

  3. Is there a way to identify what damage, precisely, incurred when the tree fell on the roof? Homeowners insurance is meant to cover damage caused suddenly by an event, and anything the event might impact at the time it occurs.

    I like Team CF’s idea. For our porch problem, we didn’t get as clear a picture from contractors as your buyer is giving you. Perhaps you can get some other estimates, but if you trust him, perhaps not. We’re finding a lot of shady characters in the contractor world. For peace of mind though, you might consider hiring an independent inspector. Just make sure he knows how to inspect a roof.

    Talk soon!

    1. Too funny that you and Mr. G are commenting at the same time! We got some good roofing guys that we trust, and both of them said the same thing:

      Good news: The damage was NOT structural, and was actually quite minor. It’ll only cost us ~$1k to screw down the plywood and repair a few things. Good thing, since insurance said they wouldn’t cover it (and, we have a $5k deductible). We got lucky, even if we lost the fish. We’ll catch another one.

  4. 6:01pm? Well that’s no way to end a day. I think I prefer my shit news to come at 6:01am. 😜

    Regardless of when you received the news, you’re doing the right thing. I do agree with Team CF and see if you can lower the purchase price instead. Let them handle it how they want to (especially seeing as he is in the biz). Get that puppy closed and move on! Of course, if he chooses to walk, then you’re back on the line for it. Keeping my fingers crossed either way!!

    1. Yeah, a bad way to end the day. Ah well, it’s all small stuff, right!

      I do feel good about doing the right thing. It’ll work out, even tho we ended up losing this buyer. He got pretty difficult to deal with, so we’re actually ok about him walking. It’s back on the market now, fingers crossed!

    1. Sam, thanks so much for reading through the entire series, and for your generous offer. We DO feel good about finding it now, and are confident we’ll get this chapter closed in our journey from Good To Great! I’ll be in touch with you shortly….

  5. Oh man, not the ideal situation but like you mentioned, its a good thing the damage was discovered now! I’ll throw another in with the Team CF suggestion, if the buyer is open to taking the house as is with a reduced price, that would save you a bit of hassle/headache. Good luck and I hope the next few days/weeks go smoothly!

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Mrs. AR. We thought we were reasonable in our offer to fix, but the buyers had convinced themselves that we were going to buy them a new metal roof.

      They bailed at their due diligence deadline, and we’re back on the market. We’ll keep you posted!

  6. Hate hearing about this curve ball, but WOWZER what an extraordinary example of handling a situation correctly you and Jackie have set!!! Work on your swing–excellent advice for handling those unexpected things life throws you!!!!

  7. Great attitude. How many people were told bad news today, by their doctor, their teenage child, their spouse, their employer, their contract builder, their lawyer, the IRS auditor, their automobile mechanic or their best friend. Some tiny things maybe worth an eye roll and a shrug and some unimaginable burdens dropped on their shoulders without warning. Whatever it is has already happened, all that is left is to deal with it. Some people will take a swim and then take life on, like you, and some won’t find the will to do that. But good examples like yours will maybe help one or two more find the will to resolve life’s problems. Good on you!

    1. “Whatever it is has already happened, all that is left is to deal with it.”

      Great point, Steve, and thanks for expanding it to the many other types of curve balls that get thrown. You got my point, and I appreciate you clarifying the broader application!

  8. Ah home ownership. I had a roof inspector come out before buying our current home. The last owner had solar panels installed and the roof inspector found defects in the installation. So we got some cash…of course I did not bother fixing the problem and 4 months later we had a leak. It cost us a bit more, but if I had not had the roof inspector I would have been out an extra $2k. At the end of the day, roof inspectors are worth their weight in gold.

    Good luck. Fingers crossed. I hope it turns out to not be too expensive.

    1. Good thing you got the $, and you knew you were taking the risk by not getting it repaired. That’s the way things should go. Fortunately, our repairs look like they’ll be minor, and we’re getting the repairs made this week! We lost the buyer, but we’ll catch another. It’s just a question of when, and at what price!

  9. Sorry to read that story.

    On the other hand, I admire the attitude that you show in dealing with curve balls and your long term view on the real goal: designing a great life.

    All the best

  10. Fritz

    We have bought and sold seven houses houses since 2004. I come to refer to these costs as entrance and exit fees. I even plan for them now as a part of the translocation cost. In every home sale there is usually an inspection done with defects found and corrective action demands by the buyer. Yours is on the extreme end of the spectrum which is unfortunate. It’s never fun and we have just bitten the bullet and made the fixes that were serious in nature. We have pushed back on frivolous demands with great success. I think your atitude and approach are right on. It’s just a bump in live’s road. Good luck We loved the Wedding pictures on FB.

    Dave Sacco

    1. Dave, great to have you on my site, Dave! I can’t believe you’ve bought/sold 7 homes since ’04, you’re having a busy retirement! I agree the inspection and negotiations are just part of the process. Sometimes it goes more smoothly than others. We’ve moved 10 times, and have never had a major issue. I guess we were due…

      Thanks for the kind words on the wedding pics. That photography was AMAZING (and, my daughter was a great subject for his work, if I do say so myself!). Great wedding, and another big step in our journey of life!

  11. This is perfect Fritz – “Life has a way of throwing curveballs from time to time. Learn how to hit them.” The more we learn about pitching and batting and adjusting our swing the better prepared we will be. I’m currently swinging away…and making some nice connections from time to time.

    Hoping everything works our ‘great’ with this latest curve ball thrown your way.

  12. I am sorry to hear about this unfortunate situation. You are handing it with grace. I hope that it all works out. I would be shocked if the buyer backs out based on how you have responded to his findings.

  13. Why a great attitude to have about this situation! If only we all could be so humble! Thanks for sharing as normal Fritz! I hope you are able to get it fixed and the insurance does help out!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Steve. We’re just trying to walk our journey in a way that works for us. Always best to take the honest approach, over time I’m convinced that works best. We’re getting the roof fixed this week, fortunately the repairs were less severe than the buyer suspected. Good news there, even tho we lost the buyer! Ah well, at least the roof will be fixed!

  14. Great attitude Fritz. I’ve learned to not sweat every curve ball thrown my way. I realize life has its bumps and we all must learn to expect them. I no longer let them bother me but I must confess, I’m not quite at your point where I see them in a positive light. I’m just happy I can pick myself up, brush off a little dust and keep on and enjoy the next good thing that happens. A situation like yours also reinforces the need for a FI plan where these types of costs can be anticipated.

    I’m in the NY area and would love to retire South but, unfortunately, family commitments are keeping me here for awhile. I love hiking and would love to have those paths in my backyard. Be well, Paul

  15. “Learn how to hit them. Keep things in perspective, and focus on the broader goals in life.” Well said. So much of success in life is about the ability to adapt. Well done, Mr and Mrs. Fritz. It’s all good. 🙂

  16. Sorry to hear, that’s tough news, but you and your wife definitely seem to have the right perspective! Your buyer will appreciate you taking responsibility so easily, if only everyone reacted so well. : )

Comments are closed.