Coping: A Painful Home-Buying Lesson

Housing:  It’s a very big deal – and statistically the largest investments any of us ever make.  Turn over?  Sure:  On average it used to be every seven-years, or so.

A year or so back, friends of ours sold their “dream house” up north because they were finally tired of the weather.  Won’t mention the state, but let’s just say its winters are cold and the summers short.

None of which would be so bad, but these are outdoor people.  Pets, hikes, camping…all much better in some places (they chose Arizona) than others (like the up north).

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So they bought a house.  Not too much quibbling on the price – and then they poured in money to detail it out to their liking.  They found the “contractor’s secret source” for quartz and granite counters – so those were upgraded.  But there were two major surprises to the home that we’ve made note of because if/when we leave the ranch/tree farm/ outback, we don’t want either of their experiences.

The first was the cabinetry.

After the deal had closed, they starting moving things in only to discover that the kitchen cabinets had serious issues and needed rebuilding.  As my friend explained, “We could have avoided it – or negotiated the price down a bit more – if we had just systematically gone through every drawer and door in the house…”

It was an expensive “live and learn.”  To be sure, the contractors they hired worked out well and the place gleams now, but that was an important lesson for me.

Another one (though it matters less in the city) is to remember to have your land surveyed before the deal or at time of sale.  In most states, if you don’t make your property lines compliant right away, you’re essentially giving up future claim even though it may be your land.

The second lesson from our friends involved LG appliances.  The home didn’t have a fridge, for example, so a new fridge was part of the purchase agreement.  To their credit, the sellers provided exactly what was wanted.

Now, fast forward 10-months, or so.

The LG refrigerator has its compressor go out.  Not the kind of thing that should happen in the first year of normal operation.

In fact, so dicey are the LG refrigerators that a law firm over here has a page titled “LG Refrigerator Compressor Class Action Investigation…

Back to our friend’s experience:  This happened within a year of the unit being purchased by the home sellers.

What slipped through the cracks, though, was the receipt for the unit.  When LG was informed of the failure, they couldn’t find a repair person who was close – and without documentation our friends were up a very expensive creek.

As it turns out, there are companies that DO insure home appliances for home buyers (good) but in the case of our friends, the sellers had not added the refrigerator OPTION.  Bad.

Now you can see the lessons just piling up, can’t you?

First: The purchase receipt wasn’t passed along.  A copy of the warranty registration would have been nice, too.

Second:  Even if you can’t get all receipts, you can get insurance which (from our understanding) is an expense to the sellers.

Third:  Some appliance coverages are OPTIONAL – so you need to specify in the documentation of sale WHAT appliances are covered.  Their fridge was not.

This turned into something of a nightmare:  Several hundred dollars worth of food lost and then finding out they live in “no repair person country.”  Great.

A Fourth lesson involves Appliance Brands.  Which is why we like to read up Consumer Reports and other rating services.

If you don’t want to subscribe to CR, our approach to Amazon ratings is simple enough to learn.

We would look at an LG refrigerator like this one and see that Amazon reviewers were 67% ONE star.  Not the one we’d pick, obviously.

As you may know, our “star use” idea goes like this:

We won’t spend our money on things where we don’t have at least an 80 percent chance of “being happy.”

So this LG fridge (when I looked Monday) had only 28% with a rating of four or five stars.

We have generally had good luck with Kenmore appliances, and they have a refrigerator/freeze for about $500 less over here.  The risk on this one is they don’t show how many stars it gets.

On the other hand, if I were shopping for an appliance right now, Lowe’s seems to have a decent on sale over here.  I just count stars.

I don’t know as much about Lowe’s “star rating” but if I went by simply 4 starts plus 5 stars divided by all stars given,, the fridge at Lowe’s would imply an 82% chance of being happy.

This is one of those few areas that Amazon doesn’t quite “own” yet, compared with the Big Box stores.  While Best Buy has some highly reviewed items, Home Depot is worth a look, too.

In fairness to LG, they get higher marks on some of their other models. But, we’ve had good luck with Kenmore and Kitchenaid.

Even so, refrigerators are a very tough piece of equipment to “get right” these days.  Even our Kitchenaid would still only get three or four stars if we were to review it.  The ice maker seizes up and needs to be completely cleared of ice and washed out with hot water two or three times a year.

Plus, every time I put in a new water filter cartridge, I have to run 5-gallons through it before the auto shut-off in the door stops dripping.

Maybe it’s that there are few really perfect home appliances.  Maybe, like everything else in the world, “value-engineering” is the art of designing appliances with more and more features (some have five and six doors now!) which in turn will need more frequent (and higher-priced) replacements.

LG?  I understand the company position WRT our friends. No doc, no help.   But I also get to vote with my wallet.   So do you.

Now let’s take the Global View:  Ask yourself what it says about the world when a Kenmore refrigerator/freezer our family got when I was six years old managed to keep working well (doing service as a second fridge for the parents) when I was 20.  The damn thing is probably still working.  That’s great engineering (and did I mention made in America?) for you.

What happened since is the ugly creep of planned obsolescence – and of all the useful things the climate-change jihadists and the SJW’s could be whining about that would lighten humanity’s footprint on the planet…here’s a REAL serious example.

Don’t see people out demonstrating for “longer-lasting home appliances” on the six o-clock news, though, do you?

Naw…no money in that for the MainStreamMedia to palm.  Those advertisers need to keep telling us “life’s good.”

No, it’s not.

We’re going backwards for those greedy corporate types and we’re too damn stupid to call ’em out on it.

Write when you get rich,

33 thoughts on “Coping: A Painful Home-Buying Lesson”

  1. I didn’t know that Kenmore was still a going concern – I too remember my folks praising that company’s appliances – we had a washer and dryer. (Never had that much experience with Kitchenaid, except for their very good (and expensive) mixers . . .)

    • Worked for Admiral appliances in the 1970’s. Back then an old refrigerator was just moved to the basement or garage for beer duty. We had a Kenmore that lasted from 1988 to 2012, and now are on our 2nd replacement. Frigidare burnt out, and extended warranty was a joke. Samsung (now) has already had 2 service calls and makes the strangest noises at times. Should have just spent the money on repairing the Kenmore (bad motor mounts)

  2. You can add Samsung to list of do not buy! Two different friends bought new Samsung they did not last a year my new one was junk out of the box! It took the delivery guys an hour to remove the doors so they could get it in the house and put it back together to find out there was no Freon in the system!

  3. Why George you know “everything is a business model or screw you” so they make things to last just so long, just about as long as it takes to pay for it,I mean after all how would the C.E.O.’S keep making their millions without the suckers buying their new products to replace their old products, and as a rule the quality of the new product is worse than their old product which was worse then the one they replaced.Lol reminds you of the government don’t it, where the one you vote into office is just a bigger lair than the one you just voted out…

  4. I would like to find a set of older, fixable washers and dryers to use some of this homemade laundry detergent i learned how to make and really makes my clothes look new!

    PS – I sent you an email Mr. Ure.

    • Craigslist is your friend, but cruising the streets on junk pickup day might be even better. If you don’t have a pickup truck or trailer, consider getting one. Be neat and courteous and most people will be glad to have you reuse their trash. You can even put an ad on Craigslist to pick up their old appliances, but you’ll probably have more of a response than you want. You can always take what you can’t use to a metal recycler’s for money(not much).

      For myself, I believe in modularity. One device should do one thing very well. A washing machine washes clothes, and a refrigerator keeps things cold. I don’t want an integrated unit if I can avoid it.

  5. We’ve had Kenmore appliances for years — but no more. What’s best? Everybody has favorites (usually what they have!) but nobody knows. Guess I’ll have to renew my subscriptions to Consumer Reports.

  6. Back in the early 90s, we purchased separate Subzero refrig and freezer units. The refrig required service within the first 3 years, and then 2 years after that. I was talking to the repair person, saying how I thought if I purchased ‘high quality’ that that was what I got. He smiled at me and said, nope, not anymore. Once they started replacing the stainless steel parts with plastics things started going downhill.
    That said,I no longer purchase the most expensive appliances. Nowadays, they all work about the same and last about the same.

    This past year we had to replace just about all the appliances in our kitchen- they had hit the 13 years of service. Way beyond the expected life of today’s appliances. A site that I have found to be better than Consumer Reports is They are a company out of the Boston area – they deliver, install and service what they sell- so they know. They have a blog section where they review their products and compare them against each other. For me, their site has been more informative than Cr.
    Finally, words of wisdom about the LG and Samsung products. If one decides to purchase either of these two, before signing on the dotted line, make sure that there is a local repair person/company who can do the service in a timely manner. Around here in the PNW, there is a huge shortage of them for these two brands, so as my local appliance retailer said to me – you could be waiting up to 6 weeks for a repair person to come out and fix that frig… you want to go 6 weeks without a frig?

  7. I think they are also trying to make things too multi-functional and too computerized… I just went through this will one of my sewing machines (I have a sewing business.) For my main sewing machine I have an industrial machine – 100% mechanical, never have had a glimmer of a problem with it. I have another smaller semi-industrial mechanical machine… not a single issue in a decade. But for my fancy stitches, I went all out and bought a top-of-the-line computerized machine… that has caused me nothing but pain and suffering in the 5 years I’ve owned it. I finally decided to find a fully mechanical – no computer – machine that can do the stitches I need, that can be 100% serviced myself – lesson learned! I love tech and am of the “Oregon Trail” generation, but not every dang thing needs a motherboard and a touchscreen.

  8. The older appliances do seem to work better. Before getting married, my future bride bought a new washing machine. We still use it every other day. By the way, our 32nd wedding anniversary is this April. That’s quality. I wish I was in as good a shape as the washer.

    • I have an old wringer washer .. The thing is fifty years old.. Its been sitting out doors for years.. I only use it for my load blankets. Still working..

  9. Got a weird one or two for you…….

    I’m helping a computer challenged friend buy a house. Wow! Learning experience for sure.

    Just looked at a gorgeous house overlooking a golf course. Easily within my friend’s modest range. Everything good until you look at the back yard, of which there is almost none. House backs up to an embankment with another house above it to one side.

    That might be OK if it had been engineered well. The embankment looks to be degrading, and someone planted kudzu. For the non-southerners out there, don’t do this, just don’t — it grows 2 feet a day. The kudzu is all dead-looking now in winter when these people are trying to sell, but it has overtopped several trees.

    My very rough estimate is $40-50K to really take care of this embankment issue correctly.

    And now for the weird one….

    Friend found a good house, good neighborhood, good location, well maintained. I pop address into Google. Hmmmm….. immediately find that a murder occurred there fairly recently. Murder involved mentally challenged teen shooting a family member. So, OK, my friend is not afraid of ghosts. Go to check out house — lots of video gaming equipment still there —which obviously did not belong to remaining family members.

    We go away and thoughts occur:
    * minor
    * mentally challenged
    * might beat murder rap and be released
    * video games known to be addictive

    Bottom line — does friend want to live with the possibility mentally challenged young man might one day return to play his video games? H**l NO!

    House search continues…..

    • “The kudzu”

      I’m in MI and never could get Kudzu to thrive.

      I had a guy from India send me a bunch of seeds. I only got one seed to grow, out of hundreds.

      The plan is/was to plant it all around Detroit and block it from being seen from space.

      • THAT was a great plan!! Maybe it would work in Flint too?? Michigan could grow kudzu as biomass for making methanol?


        Hope & Change maybe…read on…

        There have appeared recently two “repair shops” in Houston. One specializes in refurbing washers and dryers that are not IoT or digital control boards. They provide 7 year warranty to non-commercial customers.

        The other has reached me by word of mouth; they do refrigeration units the same way but use “ice machine” as their primary trade item. However, freezers and fridges they also rework. These are ostensibly for “man-caves” and painted camo or NFL/NBA/etc. They redo the door seals, pump in expandable foam (absent in favor of crappy foam cutouts in newer units) and even put old school thermostat controls into newer units after ripping out the digital. Water filters also removed – told me use an inline or whole house as the filters cost less anyway. 10 year warranty on “customized” units. They told me they got into this making fridges into keggers.

        Neither of these outfits advertise – and they are booming. Pretty good niche for a man wanting to run a business that trusts his own work. Both of these places are just beyond suburbia outside of Houston.

        I didn’t buy one, just went with a neighbor to have a look-see. But having just bought freezer/fridge/washer for the farm – wish I had known. Farm’s stuff is fine, but all used and old school so ez to repair.

        I had a Whirlpool fridge we bought 6 years back for suburban home. I am on the 3rd total unit replacement as we got the mega-warranty. Logic boards don’t do well in things that cycle humidity, and $75 for water filters that are required by the installed logic every XX days of service suck. That isn’t exactly what I consider a very “smart” appliance from the customer POV.

        With cars about to go into even more expensive levels with the new CAFE coming (Obama, again…), a business doing refurb on old-school autos seems to be something a man ought to be able make a living at. I think I could easily do a refurb of a 1960-90 auto and back up my work with warranty, and sell them for well under the $40k tag on mid-size vehicles. Hmmm…kinda like refurbing old HAM gear?

  10. GE lasted 30 years nary a problem, changed only for color change and very good year…away from almond brown…

  11. Some Kenmore appliances are made by LG. The salesman should be able to tell you who made the appliance by the serial number.

    • Good to know! Wish we made appliances in the USA, though…and not with cheapanese plastic parts…

      • Indeed the Whirlpool electric range we purchased has “Made in America” stickers all over it. Lowes offers us vets a 10% discount and I left the store that day feeling good. Generally I’m not a box store fan, however, we have had very good experiences with Lowes.

  12. Admiral made all appliance for Montgomery Ward back in the day. Kenmore was made by Whirpool, not sure now. Admiral was bought by Magic Chef (late 70’s) and then Magic Chef bought by MayTag. Refrigerators were basically a steel box with a compressor, Admiral ran 2 shifts and a coffin supplier wanted us to produce caskets on the 3rd shift. Think of the similarities, but we declined. Caskets might be a good recycling idea for the junk built today.

  13. as you say made in USA LG bought out Zenith Electronics way back ” The quality goes in before the name goes on” and I think they had the first remote for tv loved our Philco

  14. Seeking out a repairman’s advice as to which models to buy, or at least avoid, is a good idea with any technical appliance. Everyday at my company customers arrive wanting an inspection on their recently purchased used vehicle when the time for inspection is BEFORE the purchase. Quite often these are the cars with absolutely the worst ratings yet somehow these characters don’t think these facts will apply to them. Seek out those that know and listen.
    As an aside I have found the “Speed Queen” brand of laundry appliances to be of a high quality. No computers and mechanical dials. Now I must search for a high quality counter depth fridge.

    • I’ve owned a Speed Queen washing machine for two years and I am very happy with it. It is made in America, and has a 20-30 year life span depending on how much you use it.

    • Phew.. I bought the best Electrolux front load washer you could purchase three years ago.. Big tub wonderful great machine. Eleven months two weeks a dime or a screw came out of my pocket. Jammed the impeller on the pump. What use to be an easy fix. On the old washing machines the components were accessible today that option is available on set commercial models.
      Anyway I called.. Oops your a couple of weeks to late for it to be warranty.
      The cost.. By the time everything was figured out the base cost to get a technician here without parts just to the door was going to be more than a new washing machine.
      Needless to say that beautiful Cadillac washing machine went home with the deliveryman for the new washer.
      Around these parts plumbers appliance repairmen,mechanics and just general handyman services are hard to come by.
      Handyman services run hundred an hour plus alone.

  15. George,
    Just a note about consumer reports. You can usually use it for free at your local public library. I few up out west so I understand that local can mean anywhere from around the corner to its only a half days drive. I would like to point out that not everything is in the internet or if it is its not free to use. Your public library can be an important source of tree information. BTW growing up we had a Kelvinator fridge and an Amanda freezer both which
    lasted decades.

    Keep up the good work.

  16. and I highly recommend the “Appliance Samrai”‘s websites for information about brands (good and bad), known issues, forums where you can ask about that ice maker, manuals, part sources. I’ve used information from here to fix my own refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher — easy fixes, but I didn’t know that at first. Great stuff!!! (I have no ties with these websites or owners other than fandom. :-)

  17. My beer/deer fridge is from the 50’s. All metal inside and out. Painted the door once and replaced weatherstrip once. Will even do double duty as a freezer if you turn the dial to 9.
    It may outlive me at this point.

  18. Stupid Americans. Mfgrs go broke making refridges warranted for 1 year but last for 20. Smart Koreans make refers that last for what the warranty says: 1 year. What is the problem with that? Sounds honest to me; learn to read. wtf are you idiots buying 1 year refrigs for? To get the best lighting, humidity control and most doors?

    So buy an appliance with a 20 year warranty. OOPS, doesn’t exist, but the technology to do so obviously does. Smart France made planned obsolescence illegal. They will eliminate most of the country’s waste and block importation of most US and Korean products. Salute the French for winning a trade war by forcing other countries to make a lame demand that France accept garbage foreign products.

    You won’t read the extended warranty contract until after you get home. If you do read it, you will probably see that freebies or even a working appliance is not included, just a halfhearted attempt to replace certain parts and in practice, just a long series of brushoffs.

  19. Wonder if we will live long enough to find out whose apple cart is being so upset by the current administration. Cant just be Soros by himself.

    • As I said 10 years ago: Soros is the point man. He sits at the boardroom table, but his seat is ‘way down at the short end. Because he’s an unrepentant NAZI (sorry, “Hitler Youth”), he is a high-profile focus for the few who notice the odd goings-on in the World today, and his activities allow those of more-powerful and less-obvious players to go unnoticed.

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