Cheapskate Stories – Housing Sales and Group Dinners

by Sandy L on August 7, 2013

So, we’ve been living in our house about a month now and I continue to get annoyed about the cheapness of the people we bought the house from.  We went into this purchase with eyes wide open knowing that the house is a gut job and needed LOTS of work.  We paid what we thought was fair market value for the house in that condition. It was not a bargain by any stretch of the imagination as we paid pretty close to the appraised value.   As a reminder, the home was an estate and was sitting empty for about 2 years. It was up for sale for about 5 years at an insane price, but when we bought it, they finally dropped the price closer to the appraised value which was about $300K less than what they wanted for it initially.  We were the only ones who put in an offer of any kind. They should have been thrilled and according to what their lawyer said, they were desperate to have the sale go through.  The closing went smoothly but the aftermath has been irritating as hell.

What’s annoying, is that they took things out of the house that were integral to the function of the house but I really don’t see what value these items could have had to the sellers who both lived in big cities and presumably much smaller homes. For all I know, the items went into a dumpster.   They did things like leave the curtain rod holders, but took all the rods. (They were an old style design, so I couldn’t just get new rods to match, so I have to unscrew all the old hardware, patch the holes, put on new hardware..super annoying and taking forever).  They also took the medicine cabinet off the wall in the main bathroom so that I have no storage in my bathroom. They took towel racks out of the bathrooms and drawers out of the refrigerator. There were cabinets and shelving missing out of the kitchen making it very difficult for things to function.  They didn’t leave a shred of toilet paper in any of the bathrooms.  They unscrewed the extra lightbulbs out of the bigger light fixtures. This was an as is sale, but they didn’t leave the house as is..they left it stripped to the bone (with the exception of the garbage in the basement and yard, that they had no problem leaving).  They did leave a housewarming gift. It was a book by the author who lived there and an old photo of the house, but I would have preferred it if they left the medicine cabinet.

Although none of this stuff cost a lot, it’s annoying as hell and now I have a bad taste in my mouth for the quality of the people I bought this house from.  One of the sellers is a reporter at Time magazine. If I were spiteful, I could write a truthful article about my selling experience with this public figure.  Is it worth risking your reputation over a medicine cabinet and a few rolls of toilet paper? (The medicine cabinet was the one thing in the house that wasn’t falling apart and kind of went with the period of the house that I probably would have kept but they couldn’t bear to leave it even though it was bolted to the wall and technically was supposed to stay.)

So, when I sold my house, I did the opposite even though my house sold for 1/2 of what the new one went for. I left full rolls of TP in the bathrooms. I left paper towels on the paper towel holder. I didn’t unscrew the towel holder from the wall and take it with me even though it was a really nice one and I could have used it in my new house.  I left the pot rack on the wall, the chairs that went with my island, the compost bins in the yard.   I labelled all the strange perennials in my garden. I weeded the yard on the day of my closing. The entire house including the basement and garage could pass a white glove test.  I left a jar of currant jelly and a gardening book as a housewarming present. I think the transaction went very smoothly and it was a much nicer experience for both parties. I didn’t tarnish my reputation during a very big transaction for this young couple. I do a lot in the community and come to find out, we have some mutual friends because of it. I could have played hardball (the appraisal came back lower than the offer after they already sent in their second deposit), but I didn’t. I made a concession to make sure they were okay with how it all went. I don’t regret not optimizing my profit at all costs as 2 of the 3 purchases I’ve made so far were bad experiences and I didn’t want to be “that” person to someone else.

I recently took some training on building your personal brand as part of a work thing. The way you treat people in a business transaction is part of your brand. Your personal reputation has value. Being cheap, mean or spiteful (not sure which it was in this case) lessens your image.  If people think you’re a jerk, they won’t do nice things for you.  I have not always been this way, and I was not always in the financial position to make these kinds of decisions, but I’m trying hard not to be cheap, cheap, cheap about every little thing.   For example, I actually found a letter one of the girls wrote to their mom on mother’s day behind the radiator. It was a few weeks before mother’s day. I thought it would have been a touching thing to send it back  to her and I had her address.  However, on the same day I found the roll out drawers missing from the inside of some of the kitchen cabinets. They were missing, just a hole in the cabinet, no shelving at all.   Who does that?  So now that time I could have used doing a nice thing was spent rebuilding shelving in my kitchen cabinets instead.

One last story to end the rant. Back when I was single and fresh out of college, there would be a group of us that would go out to dinner all the time. (We all worked for the same company and made roughly the same amount.) Anyway, there was always this one guy who would drink more than the rest of us and he always threw in WAY less money at the end than everyone else, like $10 when he spent about $40 or nothing if he could get away with it.  At first, people were nice and put in a extra to not cause a scene, but then after a while, I remember not being able to go out with this group for less than $40 (17 years ago, that was a lot of money for one person’s share). People got sick of subsidizing this guy’s drinking habit and after a while we were like:  “cough up the money dude, or get a separate check”.  Some people started deliberately arriving early or late so that they wouldn’t have to be on the same bill as him.  Everyone would talk about it the next day. It got to the point where I wouldn’t go out with the gang if I knew he was coming because I didn’t want to be policing him at the end of the night. He eventually complied after much bitching and I don’t think he’s like that anymore, but to this day, that’s the one thing I remember about him: that he was so cheap that he didn’t mind screwing over his friends in order to save a few bucks.  That’s the friend line you don’t cross when it comes to frugal living. It’s okay to be frugal about your own expenses, but it’s not okay to save money at someone else’s expense. The exception of course is if a friend offers to take you out or host you. That’s a totally different ball of wax.

Do you have any good cheapskate stories to share?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellen August 7, 2013 at 4:45 PM

I bought my house from an investment company, so it didn’t come with anything. I’m not sure I would think to leave TP or paper towels for the next owners – when you first mentioned it, the idea of using someone’s leftover toilet paper seemed weird. But in the context of all the other nice touches, it makes a lot of sense.

I guess to me I always assumed you just tried to leave the house empty (without stripping it of course.)

We have that story a lot around here with all the foreclosures though – the old owners felt like their house was being “taken” by the bank, so they tried to take as much as they could when they left. They’re not thinking of the next owners, they’re thinking of the bank as this faceless entity.

I don’t know if your new house was a foreclosure situation – if you purchased directly from them, then that’s really weird of them to act like that.

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Sandy L August 8, 2013 at 7:25 PM

No, it wasn’t a foreclosure. The family had it for 25 years. They just had a very delusional perception of it’s value and wanted to get what they could out of it, I think. Just speculating.

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nicoleandmaggie August 8, 2013 at 8:36 AM

If it was supposed to be left “as is” do you have any legal recourse? Or at least someone to complain to officially?

Re: cheapskate, like we were discussing earlier, my father is ultra-frugal, but he is always extra-generous when it comes to paying his share or tipping. He can spend money on other people, just not on himself.

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Sandy L August 8, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Nah. It’s not a big deal. Just kind of tacky on their part. 100% of the stuff wasn’t stripped, just enough to be annoying.

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