2.26.2015

House Shopping Round 3: Third Time is Not the Charm

It's only been a month since we filled you in with our house hunting, but more and more has been coming on the market lately, so we've gotten the chance to visit more houses. Hooray!

1. The tear down with a giant lot

from here
This house wasn't in a super desirable area for me. It's a couple towns over (Hayward, for locals). I'm definitely in favor of staying in Oakland (for several reasons), and this is about another 15 minutes down the freeway. But the thing about it: it's on 1.66 acres. Di-zamn! Definitely worth a look-sie for us.

The sad thing is that the pictures didn't really share the full scope of work needed on the house - it's a total tear down. It looked like it needed work - but hey, that's what we're looking for. But man, in person: it was in rooouggghhhh shape. I'm not one for wanting to tear houses down (I'd always rather save a house), but this one I don't think could be salvaged. The house next door was also being sold (I think it had 3 acres if I remember correctly) and what the agents were proposing was someone (likely - SHOCKER - an investor) purchase both lots, rip both houses down, do all the due diligence to get it rezoned, environmental reports done, etc. and build a road between the two lots and develop several houses (5-12 depending on how you wanted to lay them all out). Boooooo.

Ultimately buying the land for that price and then basically having to rebuild a house was out of budget for us. And, we did the math and if an investor bought both places and had the team to get all the paperwork done before building started, you could really potentially make a killing (though you never know where the market will be in 2-4 years). So I'm sure investors were SUPER hungry to get both places and drove the price way up. The house is currently pending, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.

2. The new build the was built like shit

found here
The great thing about this house is that it was LITERALLY right next to Knowland Park (a several hundred acre park in Oakland). So, instead of having a next door neighbor, you have a giant park to frolic in. Not bad. The house was also on a decent size lot. The down side was that it was built 20 years ago, and I didn't have supreme confidence that it was built well.

We were right. Well, let me correct that. Chris didn't crawl down into the crawl space and check the foundation, nor did he sneak up into the attic during the open house to see how safe things were, but, there was no attention to detail. The open house was CRAZY and people were oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over so much and all Chris and I could do was be depressed about how much whoever had built this house had ignored. There were thresholds for doors going outside that were backwards, really poor tile jobs, shoddy trim work, etc. - it kind of sucked to see. Also, it had been "cleaned up" for the open house with "fresh paint" that was just slapped everywhere. I hate seeing that - paint all over trim, nothing even resembling a clean line and drips everywhere. The part I never understand is how most people visiting open houses don't notice those details. We just couldn't believe it.

All in all, the house made us depressed. It was already priced higher than we wanted, but we know in this market it surely got a bidding war and we'll only know the final sale price once it's gone through (it's pending). I mean, I guess it's not my problem if people want to pay SO MUCH for a house. But that one definitely needed a lot of updating and repairs and neither of us thought it was worth the price for us. I'm sure someone happily snapped it up though.

3. The lot with 2 houses on it

from here

This house is actually by another house we saw last time we shared in our house hunting. It's in a weird pocket neighborhood with only like 2 streets with houses on them. There are two houses on the lot, which is a little out of the ordinary, but could work (we could always rent one). The first house is a 2/2 and is very spacious, and the second house is a 3/1, but very cramped (it's actually a couple hundred square feet smaller than the 2/2).

We were excited to see this property because of the prospect of rental income and because the lot was fairly large, but something just wasn't right about it. We couldn't quite figure out how to make either house really work for us. The 2/2 had a funky layout without a truly functional living room - and I would WAY RATHER have a great living room than a great bedroom. And the 3/1 was so tiny and they had ripped out the kitchen. And, the "kitchen" was just fucking miniscule (like MAYBE 7x6). There was technically a "living room," but really it was just an alcove before one of the bedrooms. It was weird. We thought about maybe combining the two houses because they were so close together (maybe 15 feet away from each other), but that would be expensive. Then we thought about not really combining them, but having there be an outdoor walkway between the two and having the 2/2 house be the "living quarters" (knocking down a wall between the kitchen and the living room to give an ope floor plan) and having the 3/1 be the sleeping quarters. It was a snazzy idea, and we liked it, but there were things holding us back: neither of us could completely see ourselves living in the house very long. We liked the challenge of the project of making it work, and then we both concluded that we would probably lose interest and want to leave. And that's not what this move is about.

Then the other idea was to approach family about purchasing it as an income property. But, because the two houses are so close together, renting them independently of each other required them to be rezoned. And, the kitchen in the 3/1 house was never permitted (which was why the real estate agent suggested they remove it before it was put on the market), so it was technically a non-conforming unit. So, if we wanted to rent that unit out it would be wise to get it permitted. And who knows how much all of that work would have cost - in addition to fixing up each unit a bit to make them a bit nicer. Before we even seriously talked about it, it was pending. Oh well.

4. The house with crazy interesting architecture



I must admit, I kind of fell in love with this house before we saw it. It was the house I was most excited to see since the one we had our hearts broken on. I showed Chris the pictures and he was definitely interested. The house just had some great, original features

1526 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

1526 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

1526 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

1526 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

(all photos from here)

I'm a sucker for a house with original details.

The other awesome thing about this house was that it was 3 blocks from a major commercial area (Montclair for locals) and with good schools nearby. The lot was also fairly large. I was itching to get to the open house.

But, the second we walked into the open house, I knew it wasn't for us. And so did Chris. The photos give a great picture, but the house just felt very dark and gloomy. All the doorways were tiny, the layout was very strange, and it was in need of A TON OF WORK. The foundation needed to be replaced, the roof needed to be redone, there were drainage issues, one of the patios above the house was falling apart and was a serious safety hazard, the kitchen and bathrooms needed a ton of work...I mean, the amount of money that should be poured into this house easily exceeded $200k. Of course, you could have spent less and done a really shitty job, but this house was an amazing architectural gem and to toss cheap finishes, not properly repair it...it just made me sad. Someone really needs to pour their blood, sweat, tears and a ton of money to bring this house back to its amazing glory. And we just don't have that kind of money. Nor is it actually a house I could find myself really living in, which also made me a little sad.

I really hope that whoever buys this house really, really, really does it justice. It's an amazingly interesting house with so many great built-ins, little cubbies, and fascinating original details. Chris surmised that it must have been built for an eccentric millionaire because it really is quite an original home. This one is definitely one I'll keep my eye on to see what happens to it. I hope someone really takes care of it.

Well, those are the houses we've checked out lately. Nothing has really fit the bill. But we're definitely narrowing in on exactly where we'd like to live, and how we'd like to live, so that's progress that feels good. It's also nice that things are finally trickling back on the market. The unfortunate thing is the market is FUCKING INSANE here right now and houses are going for so, so, so much over asking. When we do finally find a house we want to jump into and put an offer on, the chances are it'll have many, many bids on it. We shall see what happens. Little football's due date is only getting closer and closer. We always like to add more on our plate :)

2.24.2015

Week 22: The Inside is Almost all Painted, the Tile is Still MIA

My dad and Wendy move in at the end of next week, AHHHH!!!!! There is still actually A LOT to do - all those finishing touches take forever. Chris and I each have to do lists to tackle, and they include a "priority" column - as in the things we really, really, really want to get done before they move in, and items that will probably happen after they move in. The good news is the painters are super hard at work trying to get everything done inside before the move in date comes. And it's looking pretty awesome.

The baseboards upstairs are painted now that they've been reinstalled now that the floors have been finished


And this morning when I was over there dropping off some tools for my dad and Chris they were prepping the baseboards on the main floor. Also being worked on are all the patches from the gashes from the flooring contractors


Booooooo. How do they gash the wall that high? Whatever.

Good news: the master bedroom is painted and it is so fucking pretty




Wendy was nervous about picking the darker of two colors that she liked. But this room has 7 (yes, SEVEN, I know, crazy) windows. So we all agreed a darker-ish color wouldn't appear too dark. And that was definitely the case. It looks amazing. Colors are always so hard to photograph, but we used Dunn Edwards Lunar Landing. The color looks really beige on my screen, but it's a really pretty greeny color with a hint of blue in the space. It really makes the room feel so serene. And I told my dad, "I just feel so fucking pretty in that room." I don't know how to describe it - just very soothing.

The bathrooms are painted also, and about 90% of the visible work is done as well (mirrors need to be hung, baseboards installed, etc.)



The walls are painted Ben Moore Natural Elements and the cabinets are Sherwin Williams Wool Skein. I think all the tiles and colors blend really well and make the bathrooms appear incredibly peaceful.

One not great piece of news is that the fucking tile for the master fireplace has still not arrived


It's a REALLY big question mark as to whether this will get completed before move in, but at this point, I really don't think it will. The saga of this tile is fucking endless and I will never, EVER use this tile company again. It's amazing the amount of things they've fucked up:

1) The pattern was labeled incorrectly when we selected the tile and we only figured this out when the tile shop showed us the picture of the order sample and I said, "That's not what the sample board looks like..." So we had to send the company a picture of the sample board and they corrected their mistake.
2) Then we ordered samples of the 2 colors in the pattern blend to see which one we wanted to use as the trim. Those colors were BOTH labeled incorrectly because when the samples came - they weren't the same colors as were labeled on the sample board. Another email with a photo had to be sent for them to correctly identify the colors.
3) When we finally got the correct tile pattern and colors and placed our order we discovered that they sent 3 different pieces of tile. The pattern is a 2 tile pattern, and they sent 3 different pieces on accident, so our tiler didn't have enough to complete both fireplaces. We sent back the incorrect tile to be replaced.
4) That replacement shipment was only supposed to take 2-3 weeks. Of course it took over 4
5) AND THE REPLACEMENT ORDER STILL CONTAINED THE WRONG PIECES. They basically sent the exact same pieces we told them to replace. OH MY GOD I WAS SO MAD. I just laughed when the tile shop called to tell me. It was all I could do to not cry really.

The "correct" tile was supposed to arrive yesterday. But these meth addicted idiots apparently don't have their shit together, and so it's still not here. Of course.

Let's go back to good news again.

The panel has arrived and been installed and can now be painted so it matches the rest of the rest of the line


And the faux door on the other side (to make the bookshelf cabinet at the end of the peninsula look built in) is in as well (the hardware needs to be installed to really make it look like a faux door)


And you might wonder, "What the hell is a paper cutter doing on the kitchen counter?" Well, I spent 5 hours yesterday installing contact paper in the kitchen cabinets


The good news about reusing the cabinets was that my parents saved A TON of money. The bad news is the people who lived here before were a little, uh, messy. So a lot of the drawers were stained, grimy, and just pretty gross. So we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned them and then I'm going through allllllll the cabinets in the house and putting contact paper down. I'm hoping **fingers crossed** to have all the cabinets everywhere (kitchen, laundry room, all the bathrooms) done by the time the parentals move in so that they can actually put things in all the finished cabinets.

Chris is over there today and will be over there Monday and Tuesday of next week getting quite a punch list worked on. Again **fingers crossed** we get all the items on the "before they move in" list done. AH!

2.19.2015

Trim is in and Painted!

I cannot believe the amount of you that voted in the poll about light switches on Monday, that is awesome! I'm glad I finally got my shit together and wrote that post because it was fun seeing how opinionated people are about light switches - I thought my dad and I might be the only ones :) And although I'm sad my preferred flips are in second place, it's only by a little. But, that does mean I have to tell my dad he's right - damnit! :)

But now, back to house stuff. And OUR HOUSE stuff!

It's been a while since I've showed you progress on the laundry room. As in, almost 3 months. Eek. And well, there's been an itty bitty bit of progress since then that does make me excited. This sliding door...


Is now properly trimmed!


Let's all please ignore the obvious mess in the front part of the laundry room (you like how my jogging stroller acts as a clothes drying rack?) Chris actually installed the trim in here in DECEMBER and it's been on my to do list to sand and paint it for, ohhhh, two months. But I've had several research projects going on for both my brother's company and a law firm I used to work at, so between bookkeeping/business catch up with our work, regular work for my brother, helping to remodel my parent's house and these research projects I didn't have too much time to spare between the holidays and Zoe time to actually work on any of my house project to do lists. Now that most of my work projects are done (hooray!) I've got a bit of downtime to get to working on the house before baseball season starts and work gets crazy again for me. Oh, and the second baby is born ;) And that means painting! (I feel like it always means painting.)

Sunday while Chris was at work and Zoe was napping (and later having Grandma fun time) I broke out the sanding block and got to work



Chris expertly cut the utility sink down around the trim (we couldn't move the sink an inch because the washer and dryer are butted right up against the step down without a cm to spare)


Once all the nail holes were sanded down I got the primer and put on a coat



And then it was two coats of ultra pure white semi gloss paint for the finish

please excuse the yellow lighting, I took this photo early in the morning before the house woke up and I'm always too lazy to adjust for proper white balance. You're welcome :)

HOORAY! I realize that installing and painting trim is not a crazy amount of progress, but it actually really makes a difference to me. I can't believe this is what it looked like when we first moved in


I hated that cheap aluminum slider (that didn't open properly), no trim and rickety old deck. It's a big improvement.

Chris also got the ceiling painted and the light replaced (more, brighter bulbs) several weeks ago. But I of course neglected to take photos of that. That seems to be the theme of my life recently.

Of course, we still need to install the cabinets on this wall


The countertop over the washer and dryer needs to go in (and I have to reorganize the glass cabinet)


 And christ, does something need to be done about this mess


Things you will find in this bottomless pit of crap are the drawer fronts that still need to be installed on our bed


And the hardware for them...


And a ridiculous amount of Zoe stuff that needs a proper place and tools that need to find their way back to the garage.

But, I always like to end on a good note :) Let's look again at the painted trim


And the view just outside that door


Our beautiful cherry blossom that is just about to bloom because it has been so unseasonably warm that all our trees are very confused


Yay for progress and Spring!

2.16.2015

Picardy Poll: Decora vs. Flip Switch

I've been thinking about posting this poll for years. Literally YEARS. And I have finally gotten my shit together and written it, mostly because I'm motivated by my dad switching out all the light switches in their house.

Here is the question I pose for you readers: do you prefer flip switches or decora switches?

found here

found here
Or, do you prefer old fashioned switches?

found here
Or could you completely care less?

This might seem like a completely ridiculous question, but I actually find it quite interesting. I am strongly in favor of flip switches. I love the satisfying feeling of the flippage of turning a light on or off. I like the nostalgia of old fashioned switches, but I don't find them as practical. My dad is strongly in favor of decora switches and we frequently give each other a hard time about it. I just find them so unsatisfying. I can't even describe the feeling of turning them on and off, it's just....a press. I like the SWITCH. :) I know, ridiculous. But do you have an opinion? And is it as stupidly strong as mine?

What Light Switch Do You Prefer?



2.12.2015

Week 20 & sort of 21: Sanded and Poly'd Floors! And, Um, More Paint Samples

Let's cut right to the chase: the fucking floors are DONE!

The beginning of last week they got them all sanded down on the main and second floors






And then through the end of last week, this weekend and Monday they got 3 coats of poly down. We've been relatively disappointed by this company (every flooring company we've tried - and we've tried 3 - has disappointed us) but the floors look pretty good. It's amazing the difference having the light colored Oak floors in comparison to the awful tile and AWFUL. White. Shag. Carpet. that was there before. Ewwwww








But, it seems like flooring contractors don't really give a shit. I don't know what it is. Whenever we work on other people's houses we are SO CAREFUL not to ding things, knick them, whack into stuff - you're there to FIX something, not give a homeowner another item on their to do list. Case in point, allllllllll the dings alllllll over alllllll the walls

that's not a mark on the wall, it's a gash in the wall

I only took this one pic, but EVERY. SINGLE. ROOM has knicks, gashes, scuff marks. It's awful. The painter of course will touch up after the floors are done, but the amount of markings and shit all over the walls that these guys left will go over any painter's standard "touch up" line item. And that's fair for the painter. He literally has to repaint a wall or two in a couple rooms and he should get to charge a fair rate for that because that work was done and another trade just didn't give a shit. "Traditionally" floors are done last. But, honestly, in my experience, from now on, I think I'll suggest to homeowners to redo floors FIRST (and them put ram board down to protect them). Plumbers are famous for cutting the shit out of floor joists to make their plumbing job go more easily (instead of rerouting things a little in order to maintain the strength and stability of floor joists). Similarly it seems like flooring contractors just have no real care in the world for keeping a clean - and damage free - work space. And this company was well referred in the area and been in business for a long time - so we weren't just going on the cheap. But the smears, gashes in the wall, scuff marks everywhere, it's just really annoying. I know they are dealing with heavy equipment (and I know, because I've done the work myself) but they honestly seem to have no care about being CAREFUL. Of course, markings happen and that is totally understandable, but we have to repaint in SO MANY places because they didn't care. Like when they spilled wood filler on the brand new fireplace hearth and just didn't care at all to clean it up


Sigh. Whatever. I'm just glad they're DONE and none of us have to call them anymore to be more careful and stop leaving their garbage from lunch and cigarette butts all over the courtyard.

Moving on from my negativity...

Because no one could be inside last week, no other work went on, however, we worked at nailing down an exterior paint color. Initially Wendy was thinking about something in the green, or putty color range. Not too dark, but not light either. I painted these samples after color matching them from my book


But when Wendy saw them all, she wasn't too excited (as I shared last week). So we went through the paint decks and got some other samples and went through Pinterest searching under descriptive words she had used. I painted all those colors on the exterior wall this time (the ones on the right). I didn't think she'd like them (they came out so purple, it was weird) so I riffled through all of our samples we still had for the inside of the house and tried some of those as well (the ones on the right)


There were 2-4 in each group that my dad and I really liked, but again, Wendy wasn't super thrilled. So we talked a lot about what kind of color she wanted. My parents are always thinking of resale, so because of that, she's thinking about maybe a more traditional Mediterranean color scheme (creamy white with darker brown trim). I still think Wendy doesn't have to go that traditional for fear of alienating people, so we put together another set of samples and I painted them on the wall


It is CRAZY how purple the colors end up looking when they go on (this was right after I painted, and they tend to dry browner). Currently there are 46 samples that have been painted...


Hopefully there's one in there that'll work :)

We also met with a couple garage door installers last week to get this behemoth replaced


It might not look too bad, but there are a lot of dents in it and it is showing it's 20 years of service. The garage is such a huge portion of the curb appeal of this house, so my dad and Wendy decided to go with carriage looking traditional opening doors. They picked the doors they liked, but it'll take 3-4 weeks for them to be installed (their carriage style doors are special order items. Of course.)

Aaaannnddd lastly, today the glass shower enclosure company came to measure for the shower doors, yay!


That means that shower "window" will finally get the glass installed and it will sort of all make sense in the space! :) The plan is to have it frosted to about boob/shoulder height to allow for privacy, and then have it be clear above to take advantage of allllll the light this room gets. And to enjoy a pretty spectacular view while getting all shiny clean :)



We'll have to trim out the "window frame" on the bedroom side of the window



But that will come after the glass has been installed (10 working days out at least).

Welp, I think that's all the progress for last week, and mostly this week too. We don't really want trades inside this week just to give enough time for the poly to cure without heavy equipment sitting on top. But Monday the painter will come in to paint the last remaining rooms, touch up and paint the baseboards now that they have been re-installed with the floors done. And our tiler will come back to finish up one or two last projects.

THEN, it's finishing touches. Ahhh, my parent's move in date is officially less than a month away - time to get a move on!