Monday, November 28, 2011

Selling A Tree House

When is the most opportune time to have a tree fall on your house? Probably not four hours before you are to sign the papers to sell it. This I know from experience.

We were all packed, the U-haul loaded and ready to move. We had spent one more night in the house, on sleeping bags in the living room, and this was our rather rude awakening. It sounded like a freight train had hit the house, so I should have been relieved to find it was only a tree. Yet, as I walked outside, relief wasn’t quite how I would describe my demeanor. Imagine the scene: a grand old Elm tree (my neighbor’s tree) sprawled across the yard and extending onto the roof, completely obscuring one side of the house. Of course, it happened to be the side with the electrical connections. Splintered branches, and smaller limbs with leaves were everywhere. That might have been okay if we were Swiss Family Robinson, but we weren’t.

After crawling and climbing through the jumbled pile of entangled branches to inspect the damages, I breathed an audible sigh. We had been lucky. Aside from the superficial scrapes on the paint and a few minor gouges to the siding, the only real damage was the electric meter and weather mast. Both had been ripped off the wall and lay under the tree, twisted and bent, with frayed electrical wires waving in the wind. We were without electricity, but no major repairs would be needed. Even the three windows on that side of the house had managed to remain intact. Still, knowing we were supposed to sign the papers in a few hours, the fallen tree presented more than enough anxiety.

The first call I made was to the insurance agent. Typical of insurance companies, the response I received served only to further my angst. This was an act of God, I was told, and being the neighbor’s tree, we would have to collect any expenses incurred from said neighbor, or perhaps his insurance company. The neighbor proved less than accommodating in this regard. Incidentally, we shared the same insurance company, and the agent made it clear they wouldn’t be paying. This is the same insurance company that one year earlier had forced us to have two similar trees removed from our property due to the liability they posed if they were to fall on a neighbor’s house. Against my nature, I decided to not press the issue and take care of the fallen tree myself. In less than three hours the moving van would be taking us two thousand miles away and I didn’t want to be involved in a long term dispute from that far.

Calling an electrician, I arranged for a new meter and weather mast to be installed. Surprisingly, the total came to only $137. Then, calling a friend, who needed the wood, the cleanup was taken care of. This was over the protests of my neighbor. He seemed to think that since it was his tree, he should get the wood. I was as accommodating as he had been, with a simple, “I don’t think so.” The chainsaw was already running, which made it a little difficult for him to argue, or maybe I just didn’t hear him.

Later, we signed the huge stack of papers and I couldn’t tell you what most of them said – except one that I found fascinatingly ironic. It seems that by my signature, I certified there to be, among other things, no known structural damage or electrical problems. Now, I’m a straightforward and direct kind of guy, and in my usual matter-of-fact approach, I said, “Other than the huge tree that fell on the house this morning, I can’t think of anything.” The look on the faces of the buyers and loan officer was priceless.

“Was there any damage?” they wanted to know.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “It ripped the weather mast and meter off the wall and currently, there is no electricity.” After explaining the situation in further detail, they all agreed to proceed with the closing.

On second thought, the timing of this incident couldn’t have been any better. A tree fell on our house, but all of our stuff, was packed safely in the U-haul. None of our electronics had been affected by the surges and sudden loss of power. And then, four hours later, with the simple stroke of a pen, the whole mess became someone else’s problem.

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, his latest ebook, is available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®. For more information, visit or

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