Caveat Emptor - "Let the Buyer Beware"


The Latin phrase “Caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware” is a familiar concept for realtors and buyers and sellers of antiques and plain old junk.  Valerie, has had experience with caveat emptor as a real estate agent and as a savant of the second-hand.  After giving up a career to stay home with our son, Caleb, she tried her hand at home sales.  She was beginning to have some success when she realized that being a part-time agent also meant being a part-time mom.  With the arrival of a second son, Jacob, the decision was made and mothering became her profession.

After the boys started school Valerie found time during her day to clean up after the Barbarian hoard and think up ways to earn some cash from home.  She bought items at yard sales on Saturday mornings, then sold them on-line.  On-line sales were fine but limited to items small enough to be shipped.  Using her knowledge of on-line sales, Valerie switched to virtual yard sales where buyers in neighboring towns could haggle and shipping wasn’t required.  Things have gone well but one experience really put the “beware” in “buyer beware”.

One afternoon Val called after researching some local estate auctions.  A sale near the town of Belle, WV caught her eye and our evening was planned.  Arriving ten minutes late, Valerie was in “go mode” by the time we reached the front steps.  Valerie registered with the auction house and received her number.  There was lots of furniture and the potential to make a little money.  The auctioneer announced that the house was about to be sold.  After some rapid-fire, bid calling the sale was over and folks started for the door.  Valerie and I were confused.  “What about the contents?” Valerie asked a fellow next to us.  “It already sold,” he replied.  Valerie groaned.

I got over the lackluster auction pretty quickly.  I wasn’t keen on the idea of emptying an entire house on a deadline anyway.  But Valerie took it a little harder.  A day didn’t go by without a mention of her unrealized profits.  “It’s not fair” she would grumble. “That was MY junk” she would whine.  It was water under the bridge…or so we thought.

A week later my mother-in-law emailed us a news story that left us dumbfounded.  The local police department was investigating something odd at a house auctioned in Belle.  While emptying the house, the buyer discovered a mysterious sack.  When the “lucky” bidder tugged open the dusty bag, he came face-to-face with…human skulls and other miscellaneous bones!

“Do you think it’s THE house?” we wondered.  A follow-up story included a photograph of the house and it was THE house.  The homeowner had passed away and there was no explanation for the bones.  The news reports added that the police could not rule out some sort of “academic training aids”, but that wasn’t confirmed.  Thinking I could have opened that sack gave me the willies, to say the least.

And what was Valerie’s response to the news?  “Those were MY skulls!”

If you ever win an auction and find yourself staring at an old, dusty sack in an abandoned house, do what Val does, “Stay calm and junk on!”

Estate adventures and yard sale outings have allowed Valerie to remain a stay-at-home mom and supplement our family’s income, while giving her the thrill of the deal.  I’m thankful to have a wife willing to put her career on hold to focus on raising our boys.  The words of Proverbs 31 come to mind when I think of her dedication… “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also” (NIV).