When I accepted a new job in California in 2013, my wife and I initially thought we would sell our home in Albuquerque. After our appraisal came in much lower than expected, we instead decided to rent out our home to build equity for a few years before putting the home on the market.
We rented our home for 3 years, but when our renters left in 2016, we decided to take our chances selling our home instead of renting it again. We couldn’t afford to pay two mortgage payments, and no longer wanted to deal with the stress of the possibility of our home going unrented.
We were referred to a realtor who estimated that we had the potential to make up to $40,000 in profit after commissions if we did basic touch up work and installed new carpet.
I hired my buddy Tom to do the minor repairs and hired a local guy referred by my realtor to install new carpet.
Tom did his repairs, the carpet layer installed the new carpet, the realtor hired a photographer to take some high-quality pics, and we listed our home on MLS.
Within 24 hours of our listing going live, we had two full price offers!
We accepted the first offer, and I called Tom the same day and thanked him for all his hard work in completing the repairs he had done.
But that’s when he dropped the bomb.
He said, “By the way, when I went to your house to do some repairs a few days ago and the carpet guys were there installing the new carpet, I noticed that your entire slab is cracked.”
I was horrified. “What do you mean ‘cracked’?!”
Tom replied, “The concrete under your carpet looks like it’s been shattered like a mirror.”
I don’t know a whole lot about buying and selling homes, but the one thing I do know is that you never want to buy a home with a cracked foundation since repair costs can range anywhere from $10,000-$100,000.
I instantly remembered a friend’s experience from years ago when he learned he had a cracked slab as well. He spent about 10 years in a legal battle with their homebuilder before they got it repaired.
Another friend who was looking to buy a home when he learned it had a cracked slab negotiated $50,000 off the asking price.
Still on the phone with my buddy Tom, I asked if he had personally seen the cracks with his own eyes. He said yes.
Initially I thought, “I need to see it for myself,” but I knew Tom wouldn’t lie to me.
The reality sunk in:
My foundation had cracks.
Our full price offers had nearly guaranteed us a check for $40,000, but repairing a cracked slab could be way more expensive than that.
I figured there were two possible scenarios:
Scenario 1: Come clean about the cracks.
In this scenario, we would tell the buyer about the existing cracks, but he would likely get scared and withdraw his offer. Who would want a home with a cracked slab?
The 2nd buyer who had also presented a full price offer would presumably no longer be interested either.
Or we could fix the cracks, but the repair process could take weeks or months.
Either way, the home would just be sitting with no renter for who knows how long.
Long story short—this scenario meant my family was probably facing financial devastation.
Scenario 2: We stay quiet about the cracks.
In this scenario, we would simply refrain from telling anyone about the cracks. I figured we wouldn’t technically be lying if we were never asked about whether there were cracks in the slab. After all, our inspector hadn’t seen them, so nobody would likely ever find out. We could go ahead and sell the home, get our $40,000 out of it, and then hope that the owner never discovered the cracks on his own.
Neither scenario seemed like a good option, so I called my wife Ashten to reveal the bad news about the existence of the cracks.
We went back and forth with both scenarios, wondering if staying quiet could be considered the “right thing to do”.
But later the same day, our realtor emailed me a disclosures document that required that I indicate whether I am aware of any existing issues in the home.
I opened the disclosures document to see if any of the questions specifically asked about cracking in the floor.
Sure enough… question #17 couldn’t have been more direct:
“Are you aware of any significant cracks in the foundation of the home?”
[ ] Yes [ ] No [ ] I don’t know
I wished that Tom hadn’t told me about the cracks. Then I could honestly answer question #17 with “No” or “I don’t know”.
But I did know.
Should I lie?
The disclosures agreement required both my signature and my wife’s. Ashten knew about the cracks. Would she lie with me? Should I lead my wife in such a way, encouraging her to lie? What kind of message does that send to my wife? Should I tell her that it’s okay to lie? What does that tell her about my integrity? What does that tell her about my willingness to tell the truth?
Maybe I didn’t have to tell Ashten about the document at all. Maybe I could just sign my name and forge hers so she never knew about the document in the first place. I would still be lying, but nobody would know that I was lying.
Maybe I could justify checking the “I don’t know” box because I hadn’t personally seen the cracks with my own two eyes. I knew Tom wouldn’t lie to me, but maybe Tom was mistaken. Maybe what he saw weren’t actually cracks, but just lines on the concrete?
I decided to contact the only other person who would have also seen the cracks—the carpet layer. Of all people, the carpet layer would know for sure whether cracks were indeed in the floor of the home where he just laid fresh carpet.
I tracked down the actual guy who tore up my old carpet and laid the new carpet.
I called him and asked, “Do you recall seeing any cracks in the concrete on my floor?”
He said, “Yes.” He went on to explain that the entire floor from the living room to the dining room through the hallways had hundreds of cracks. It was even worse than what Tom had seen.
I couldn’t sleep.
How do I lead my family? How do I lead myself?
If I tell the truth, I could go bankrupt.
If I lie, I lose my integrity.
Either way likely ended in a horrible outcome.
I decided to come clean to my wife and tell her about the disclosures document. I confessed how I had been tempted to forge her signature and hide the disclosures document from her altogether.
When I explained to her the potential financial devastation we were facing, her mind scrambled to find possible loopholes and possibilities to get us out of the problem.
I had already thought of every possible scenario she suggested, and I explained why each scenario that avoided telling the truth was simply not ethical nor the right thing to do.
I reluctantly told her that even if it meant bankruptcy, the right thing to do was still the right thing to do regardless of the financial devastation it could cause.
I called our realtor.
I asked him if I could contact the homebuilder to come and inspect the cracking to determine what repairs would need to take place before I returned the disclosures agreement. My realtor said it would be a good idea.
I contacted the homebuilder, and they sent a manager to the home who pulled back the new carpet to reveal the cracks, and began measuring all the cracks.
I eagerly awaited her call in California.
The manager called back and said, “The cracking is normal. They are not ‘significant’.”
I said, “Of course you would say that. You represent the builder, and the builder doesn’t want to be held responsible. How do you even determine whether cracks are considered ‘significant’ or not?”
The manager responded and said, “It’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of measurement. We literally measure the width of the cracks, and if any crack is more than 2 millimeters wide, we classify it as ‘significant’. If it’s less then 2 millimeters, it’s a hairline crack, but it’s not significant. Significant cracks can cause the home to shift, tiles to break and walls to crack. However, it isn’t uncommon during the construction of the home for concrete to cool too rapidly after it has been poured, which causes it to crack. In those instances, you will see cracking all over the foundation, but the home won’t be shifting and moving. None of the cracks on your floor are larger than 2 millimeters wide, your walls are not cracking, and there is no evidence for a shifting foundation. Therefore, your cracks are not considered ‘significant’.”
I cannot express the relief I felt.
We didn’t have to get the home fixed!
I called my wife and we celebrated.
However, putting myself in the buyer’s position, I felt that I would want to know about the cracks even if the builder didn’t consider them to be significant. I felt the right thing to do was to still come clean about the cracks to the buyer and let him decide if he still wanted the home.
I had the builder write a letter indicating that the cracks were not significant. Then I had my realtor write a letter to the buyer indicating that cracks were discovered in the home when the new carpet was laid. I included a copy of the builder’s statement indicating that the cracks were not significant.
I heard back from the buyer’s realtor the next day. The hairline cracks didn’t phase the buyer whatsoever! The deal was still on!
A few weeks later, we closed on the home and received the full price offer.
The buyer was happy. My realtor was happy. My wife was happy. I was happy.
But I also believe God was happy.
I felt as though the whole situation was a test for my wife and I.
In the Bible, a guy named Abraham was tested in a similar way. Abraham wanted a son to continue on his family name and legacy. After waiting patiently for decades, finally God granted him a son, Isaac.
But then God wanted to test Abraham’s loyalty to God and asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son.
I’m sure Abraham’s mind was spinning.
“Should I listen to God? Should I sacrifice my own son? Do I love God enough to listen to God, even though it will negatively affect the rest of my life? What should I do?”
Abraham hiked to a mountaintop with his son, laid him on an altar, and was ready to give him up as a sacrifice. Just before Abraham killed Isaac, God provided a goat to sacrifice instead.
It had all been a test. Abraham passed.
You may not always want to do what is right.
When I confessed to the cracks in my foundation, I had no idea what the outcome would be. However, it turned out to not be a problem at all. What seemed in one moment to be inevitable financial devastation turned out in the next moment to be of minuscule concern.
However, had I lied to my buyer or my wife, I honestly don’t think I would be sleeping through the night even now.
The irony is that I was tempted to lie in order to protect the rest of my life, but HAD I lied, I would have made the rest of my life much more difficult with guilt and shame.
You have probably heard it said that “the truth will set you free”. But it truly did! Telling the truth set me free from what would have been an agonizing life of regret.
It wasn’t until after the house sold that I realized this important truth:
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CRACKS.
I really believe that the cracks in my slab were less about the sale of my home and more about my willingness to do what is right when it isn’t convenient.
It’s about my character. It’s about my integrity. It’s about doing the right thing, even if I don’t feel like it. It’s about doing the right thing, especially when I don’t feel like it.
What “cracks” are you facing in your life? Are you covering something up? Are you facing temptation to lie? What are you attempting to avoid by not telling the truth?
Here’s my encouragement and challenge for you:
Do what you know is right.
Stop justifying in your mind why you should be allowed to do what’s wrong. You aren’t allowed to do what’s wrong.
If you make up in your mind right now that you’ll strive to always do what’s right, you will begin training your mind that there is no other choice in life other than to do the right thing.
Your integrity is worth more than anything you could profit by sacrificing it.
Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Doing what’s right may not always make sense, but then again, it doesn’t have to make sense.
God said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
If you trust in God and the fact that His ways are better than your own, your situation doesn’t have to make sense. Put your faith in God and the trustworthiness of His Word, and regardless of the consequences, you will pass the test.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
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