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Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Posted by jane__ny (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 18, 12 at 0:09

We have run into this while house shopping in Florida. People add things (bathrooms, kitchens, decks) without getting permits.

We are in the process of buying a house for cash, which has a deck which was never permitted. We tried to get the sellers to remove the deck and they refused. We liked the house and decided to buy the house and remove the deck ourselves.

If we left the deck, what are the consequences? Could we be forced to remove the deck or get charged extra taxes on this?

Jane


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

If you want the deck removed by the present homeowners, just put in a complaint about it being constructed without permits and inspections at the municipality code office. They will come out and make them take it down if it can't be inspected in it's current state or isn't up to code. They can make them pay a fine also, or both tear it down and pay a fine.

Yes, if the codes office finds out you have this unpermitted deck then they can force you to tear it down even if you didn't construct it. That goes for any other unpermitted work as well. Be very careful and get a competent home inspector.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

In the county you are buying (Sarasota county per other posts), you will likely only be caught if someone snitches to the county.

If someone snitches and the county comes out and checks it out and if they find a permit was needed, these things could occur:

1) get an after-the-fact permit and go through the permit and inspection process. I think this is either 2x or 2.5x or 3x the original permit fee. I am not sure of the permit fee for a deck, but it is likely pretty cheap. If it is $125 for the permit fee, it might cost 2x or 3x that now. Not sure if permits are needed for decks and if only for certain size or type of deck.

2) If an after-the-fact permit is needed, the deck needs to be built per county code/spec rules. If not, those things need to be fixed. Such as setback to property lines, specs of the deck structure, etc.

3) removal is an option if you dont want to go through the after-the-fact permit. However, removal might be your only choice if the deck was built too close the the property line and it cannot be fixed property or if structure of deck is so shoddy that modification to meet cod would be too costly.

4) If you go with an after-the-fact permit, they county will likely add the market value of the deck to the overall property tax assessment. This is very minimal. Also they will probably include the sq footage of the deck in their records for the property.

Bottom line, if you dont call the county about this, nothing will happen.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

I would also be concerned about homeowner's insurance covering an unpermitted deck. What if someone is hurt as the result of it being built improperly without permits?


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deck

Per the Sarasota County website, a permit is not required for decks and patios directly on grade and without footings.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Sweet tea, thank you and I did check with the County. The deck appears well built and does have footings so requires a permit. The problem is our survey shows the deck encroaches, 4ft into the easement.

Adding insult to injury, the privacy fences are all encroaching on easements or property lines. We don't know who owns the fences (agent will check tomorrow), but the deck is the bigger problem.

We were suspicious of the deck and thought there might be drainage issues in the yard, (deck covers almost the entire back yard). Owner states there are no drainage issues, but they couldn't get anything to grow under the large oak trees and the kids would get dirty playing outside. Who knows?

We were planning to buy the house with the unpermitted deck until the survey showed the encroachment. Now we aren't sure what to do because it might involve title insurance. Our feeling is to insist the owners take down the deck and leave the yard in some sort of neat condition.

Terriks, you bring up a point we hadn't considered. That is important and I will check that out.

Live wire, I like the way you think! Might just consider something along those lines if they refuse to remove it.

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

While decks do require permits in most areas, they are just a whole different animal than home additions or major system work. Typically, in a deck, you can see just about everything without disturbing any of the construction. If you do need the city to inspect it, it would likely only cost a small fee to get approval. Of course, that is assuming it was built properly to begin with.

It really isn't the same as unpermitted work on the main structure where everything is hidden behind drywall etc.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"I would also be concerned about homeowner's insurance covering an unpermitted deck. What if someone is hurt as the result of it being built improperly without permits?"

Have you read a policy that has this exclusion?


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

what type of easement is 4' of the deck in? Or is it in the side setback?

Sometimes fences and other structures are ok in easements...it depends on the particular type of easement. Easements can be for power companies or cable companies to access their lines or for other things.

there should be rules for each particular easement of what is or isn't allowed within the easement.

If you are talking about side or front or rear setbacks, then this is a different issue. Setbacks are the rules for how close a structure can be to the property line. Sometimes variances are allowed with the setbacks that allow you to be closer to the property line.

I doubt there is a drainage problem with that house for these reasons
1) that home is likely built higher up (had fill dirt). this means the water would run away from the home.
2) Sarasota county is flat. It's not like other areas with hills that can push lots of water toward the home if the home is lower elevation
3)The soil is very very sandy. water soaks into the sand quickly.
you really don't hear of drainage problems in the area.

The seller's reason for the deck sounds plausible. I don't think she would have installed a deck to hide drainage problems (that don't exist in the location for the most part anyway).

I think you are placing way too much emphasis on this deck.Remove it if you want to remove it or keep it if you want to keep in. If you remove it, you will have sand in its place(then you either leave the sand or mulch it or sod it or install pavers or a concrete pad or crushed shell.).

If you keep the deck then you have a deck and a very very very very very very very very low risk of someone snitching to the county about a deck that is not permitted. If someone snitches, you either get the deck permitted then or remove it. removing it won't cost that much.

Your realtor told you that you are making too big a deal about the deck. I agree with your realtor. This is small potatoes. Don't worry yourself over this miniscule issue.

Geeze, the home probably is going to need a new shingle roof in a couple years and that is going to cost way more than the deck issue.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

What else is built without permits? If you are really concerned go to the building dept and ask about it. Of course you could get the owner in trouble, depends on your county's code. In Los Angeles, the inspector would come out, and inspect it and the owner could get it certified, IT it met code restrictions. That might be cheaper that if you did it.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Sweet tea, the Realtor says its 'nothing.' The lawyer says its a problem. The deck is 4ft into a rear easement of 8ft.

We are completely lost understanding the terminology and rules. The Realtor says she will tell them to take out the deck. The lawyer says it is a title defect (?)and even if removed, the property should be inspected after removal. He states that the removal of the deck alters the state of the property from what we have seen. We have a right to inspect and decide whether to go ahead with the purchase.

We can't imagine the sellers tearing out this deck, fixing the property if we don't agree to buy the house.

We found out the 3 fences (rear, 2-sides) are owned by the sellers. One fence is on the neighbors property. No one knows if the neighbor knows that. But another buyer might want the fence removed.

All we keep hearing from everyone is, "this is Florida, no one cares about fences. Fences are all over the place!"

So, we are not terribly concerned about the fences. My husband does not like the problems the deck presents.

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

What are the actual easements? Not all easements are created equal. For many, building a fence across may be perfectly legal as long as it doesn't impact the stated purpose of the easement.

BTW - a "title defect" is any issue that could call the title into question. That includes all property and structures.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Jane, fences do matter! Here in Volusia Co. (FL) you can put a fence ON the property line or a couple of inches inside your property, but you can't put it on your neighbor's property. That's encroachment. Your neighbor has the right to demand that you tear down the fence and rebuild it on the property line. We've always put the fence 2" inside our property line of we are paying the cost of the fence.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Although every HO policy is different, some clearly DO refuse to pay a claim on non-permitted work; it happened here twice in out township for two different home owners for fires in basements that were finished without permits.

That was BEFORE the massive insurance pay outs for all of the natural disasters that have occurred over the last few years which have caused many insurers to be overly cautious in issuing policies, and limit liability any way that they can think of to do so.

That said, you would have to make certain that your policy would cover any problem that may occur regarding an non-permitted structure, which is not always that clear cut without asking the insurer, which could open up a can of worms. Other things to consider...does the home have public water and sewer or septic? If septic, is it under the deck? Is there the chance of an underground oil of propane tank of any sort? If so, where is it?

In addition, if you are applying for a mortgage, be aware that the lender may not allow you to close without the permits and easement encroachment.

Our first house, a new construction, did not have carpet in one of the bedrooms...only sub floor...as they ran short and had to order more. The bank at the time would not allow us to close with only sub-floor. We argued the point and won by proving the carpet was on order.

Last but not least, once you buy the house, the deck is then your problem. If at some point someone is hurt, or the municipality gets a phone call where someone snitches, or it has to be removed for some reason, it will be your pocket that has to deal with the problem created by someone else.

Last but not least, I would be very surprised if you could get a clear title with encroachments such as you describe that are not clearly defined as utility easements, etc.......but I realize that every state is different.

IMO, factor all of this in, then decide....but I think that as you are paying an attorney for his advice and to protect your interests....go with it over the advice of the agent who will NOT see commission if the sale falls through.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"Although every HO policy is different, some clearly DO refuse to pay a claim on non-permitted work; it happened here twice in out township for two different home owners for fires in basements that were finished without permits."

And most likely anything you heard as econd or third hand (at best).


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

The sellers refused to do anything and it got messy. Their Realtor sent all parties involved a threatening letter. I would like to file a complaint about her (after we get our deposit back). Our lawyer advised us to walk away and cancel the contract. He did just that. After 5 months, we're back to square 1.

Sick part of all this is now the sellers will have to disclose the deck and all the encroachments...at least I think so.

Thanks for the good advice,

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

How did the other agent threaten you?
Under which part of the contract are you due your deposit back?


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"Under which part of the contract are you due your deposit back? "

The encroachments. We agreed to buy the house without the permit but didn't know about the encroachments until the survey. There was also an issue about the 'altered state of the property from when we made the offer.' If they removed the deck, the property would be changed from the way we originally saw it. Lawyer asked for the right to inspect the property, after the deck removal before deciding to go ahead with the deal.

The listing agent sent an email stating that we agreed to buy the house without the permit, therefore we couldn't break the contract. She sent this out to all parties involved, including our lawyer. She was wrong and our lawyer didn't appreciate the tone of the email.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Sounds like you are due your deposit back. Tell your Lawyer not to get his feathers ruffled... it just sounds like the other agent is representing her seller quite well. I send out phone calls and emails with "tone" and white lies periodically too.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"it just sounds like the other agent is representing her seller quite well."

I guess so. Except allowing them to list a house without permits and with encroachments.

You don't want to know how angry we are with that Realtor and her agency. They caused us a lot of grief and expense. Now they have to disclose, thanks to us! I think that agent should be fired!

Why don't Realtors have to bear responsibility for their listings? Why are they not required to check for permits before listing a house? If we knew to ask if the deck had a permit, I'm sure the listing agent could/should have asked.

I think her behavior is outrageous.

We are getting our deposit back.

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Jane,
It is not illegal or unrthical to sell a home with unpermitted work. There are some buyers who could care less. And most lenders do not require a survey, so apparently they don't care much about encroachments.
Did you ask for a Property Disclosure Statement when you were thinking of writing up an offer?


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

probably close to 100% of houses in my area had work done without permits. Some can be caught by someone seeing an additon, some are kitchen renvoations and bath renovations where no permit is pulled.

without a current survey I don't know how at RE agent could know whether they're encroaching on an easement. you're A) assuming they had a survey when they built the deck (I'm sure they didn't) B) had one done when they bought the house (they might have) and C) actually looked at it(plenty of people don't)

they may be difficult sellers and difficult realtors to deal with........ ut I don't see anytthing illegal here, Decks without permits..... generally are the least of the hiccups


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

I have to agree with ncrealestateguy and chrisk327. One phase of the townhouse development where I live has 60" square powder rooms downstairs. At least half the owners converted those to full baths although it isn't possible to meet code in that amount of space, and it hasn't stopped a single owner from a successful sale. Indeed, lots of people buy units with just a powder room, planning to convert it, and are very surprised when every plumber they call says it's illegal to do it. This has been going on since about 1995.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"it isn't possible to meet code in that amount of space,"

How did we ever survive with smaller than 'required' bathrooms?

The horror.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

How does someone even know if every improvement, repair or renovation done on a house was permitted and inspected?

ML


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"How does someone even know if every improvement, repair or renovation done on a house was permitted and inspected? "

You do not.

And many repairs and renovations do NOT require any permits.

Few places even try to enforce all the requirements of the electrical and plumbing codes.

The model codes have required a permit for changing every light fixture, switch, and receptacle.
You could change bulbs at least.

Plumbing codes have required every change beyond a faucet washer to be permitted.

The easy availability of parts has squashed most of this.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

I agree with others, I bought and sold houses unpermitted work.
I've never had a survey involved in a sale, it is not common to do so here.
When selling, I've also never been asked or given a disclosure until an offer is accepted and money is in escrow.
This also is not common here. I don't disclose no permits unless I have a buyer, but haven't had one complain about it.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

We are some of the buyers that could care less.

DH deals with inspectors all the time, and the stories he tells me are unbelievable. Many times he has to explain the code to the inspectors.

Now it mostly just to earn revenue.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

In Florida the information is public. In this case, the Realtor pulled the tax sheet and saw the deck was not listed. When asked, we were told it was not permitted.

We had a survey because our lawyer requested it. We had the original survey which didn't show the deck or fences. He felt it was necessary to do a survey, especially since the houses are very close together.

We have seen tax sheets which don't show bathroom which was added. We saw a house, the other day which had a bedroom added. We've seen houses with kitchens and baths in the garage (obviously rented out).

We are retired and living on a fixed income. If we were younger, we might be more daring. At this point in our life, we don't want to buy a house which will cause us trouble. We don't want to have a problem selling quickly.

Since our lawyer told us to walk away, we did. It was difficult, stressful and expensive.

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Jane, sorry for your disappointing, stressful experience.

My Mother is a retiree living in Sarasota County. The stories she tells about the local government .....

At one point Sarasota was a fairly affluent retirement area, not necessarily so any more. The real estate bust hasn't skipped them either.

It is good that you (and your lawyer) did your due diligence. Hang in there. You will find the right place.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Jane,
You could have posted an ad on Craigslist for someone to tear out the deck for exchange for the free decking boards. No cost to you. As far as the bathroom, you get the inspector to check it out with extra due diligence. As far as the fence, if it is really a problem, then just have it moved.
Remember, attorneys love to make mountains out of molehills. Otherwise, they feel like thay are not doing anything worthwhile.
Anyway, you will eventually find a home, but the way you are going, it may take a long time (it already has), you may burn out a couple more agents,(you already have), and you may spend a lot more money with nothing to show for it(you already have).
Hang in there.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"We saw a house, the other day which had a bedroom added."

Jane...I have to correct you on this one. In Sarasota county, up until maybe 5 years ago, a brand new 3 bedroom home could have had 1 of the bedrooms called a "Study" on the floor plans. The "Study" would typically have a closet on the plans.

In this case, the property would be recorded and taxed as a 2 bedroom home but the overall sq footage would be the same not matter if 2 bedrooms or 3.

This was a little trick that some builders would do in order to get taxed on one less bedroom, even though that room could be used as a bedroom and was shaped exactly like a bedroom.

If there is an extra bedroom in the home that is NOT on public record, the room was probably not added later. Instead, the original plans probably named the room something else...an office, a playroom, a study or library.

This is not uncommon.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Mistakes on tax roles and public records are nothing new (nor is describing rooms as something else to avoid 'bedroom taxes').

If no permit was required, there would of course be no record one was pulled.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

We have a new agent now and she seems very professional and serious. We feel more comfortable with her. We have put an offer on another house and am waiting to see what happens.

Yes, maybe we could have found someone to remove the deck but didn't want to deal with it. The deck covers the entire yard and would need landscaping. The fences could be moved, but we can't do it ourselves and can't afford to add that to the list of things this house needed done.

I really liked that house and am heartbroken about what happened. If this new offer falls through, we might revisit the other house. We are tired of looking and dealing with all this.

Sweettea, what you wrote is true regarding bedrooms/dens. In this particular house, the owners closed off a hallway and made it a bedroom. They moved a wall and put doors on both ends. To get to the third bedroom, you had to walk through this room (bedroom), which was part of a hallway.

Another funny thing happened yesterday. We went to see a house near the Gulf with beautiful views. It was built in the 50's and was very 50's. It was listed as a 3-bed/3-bath. After viewing the house we walked outside talking in the driveway. The driveway was covered by a carport, no garage.

My husband commented that he didn't remember seeing 3 baths. The listing agent immediately rushed across the driveway and opend a door revealing a full bath. This bath was under the carport on the far side of the driveway. Gets better. There was a second door which revealed a washer/dryer.

I guess you carry your laundry outside, cross the driveway and wash clothes. If needed, the bathroom was next door.

This was a first for us. I've seen bathrooms in strange places, but not out on the driveway.

Like everyone keeps telling us, 'this is Florida.'

Jane


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

I figured your agent would be cooked. But, remember, if you do go back to this home to purchase, she is due the commission, not your new agent. You need to be upfront with your new agent if you want to pursue this home. Your original agent was the procurring cause for the sale, if there ends up being one.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"Like everyone keeps telling us, 'this is Florida.'"

I have noticed your little passive aggressive digs on Florida in this post and others as well...like FL is so beneath you with its primitive ways.

I give you 2-3 years until you high tail it back up north because you think you are too good for FL.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

I'm inclined to agree with sweet tea on this. You obviously hate it here, so why come? I've been thinking for a while now that probably this is the real reason you've can't find anything in a state that's been absolutely flooded with homes for sale on nearly every block. You really don't want to do it, so you keep finding reasons not to.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Just what I think too.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

You know what? I few up in Florida (spent the first 25 years of life in Miami) and most of my family still lives there. I have to say that the prevailing attitude then was pretty similar to what Jane has reported. Most of the "natives" are pretty laid back. I remember the annual migration of snowbirds from up North, specifically NY and Canada every year when I was younger.

The huge surge in population in the last 20 plus years makes it pretty obvious that lots of people have come from somewhere else. DUH! Florida has a unique vibe and the pace is different especially if you are coming from somewhere other than a small town or other parts of the South.

I don't think Jane hates Florida, she just has expectations that are not being met.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

Sorry that should say grew, not few.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

brickeyee: "And most likely anything you heard as econd or third hand (at best)."

Unless it happens personally to you, it is always second or third hand at best. That hardly means that one should assume they are covered without making certain.

That said, I am acquainted with both parties, and the issues was confirmed by the township sub code official. This is a VERY small town. Not much happens here without it being widely know.


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Surveys, Permits, etc.

The whole permit/survey thing is dependent upon where you live. Surveys are pretty much a mandatory item required by just about all by all lenders in the greater NY area....as are termite (wood destroying insect) inspection.

As for permits, a good HI will be able to spot most things that seem as if they were renovated or added. If so, they will recommended in their report that the buyer ask the seller if they have permits. If not they can then check with the towns/city. NY & NJ is such a litigious states that most attorneys recommend the same.

That said, it is always wise to never "assume" anything, ESPECIALLY if it has potential to be an expensive "something".


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A NYC Deck Story

A NYC Deck Story

http://www.silive.com/westshore/index.ssf/2011/07/get_the_deck_out_city_tells_ne.html


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

"Unless it happens personally to you, it is always second or third hand at best. That hardly means that one should assume they are covered without making certain. "

Most folks never actually read the policy (let alone ask any questions about things they do not understand).

There is far more to the story than you have been told since your insurance covers your own mistakes.


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RE: Buying a house with unpermitted work?

My husband commented that he didn't remember seeing 3 baths. The listing agent immediately rushed across the driveway and opend a door revealing a full bath. This bath was under the carport on the far side of the driveway. Gets better. There was a second door which revealed a washer/dryer.

I guess you carry your laundry outside, cross the driveway and wash clothes. If needed, the bathroom was next door.

Welcome to the segregated south ... what you saw was the bathroom for "the help", because the though of having their black maid's butt on the seat of the same toilet as they used was enough to make many white housewifes get palpitations.

Or just read the book / go see the movie, "The Help" ... it 'splains it all.

Those are VERY convenient if you like to garden, or have children, because you don't dirty the house using the bathroom.


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