Happy Birthday Picardy

Our house is actually over 90 years old, but on this day last year we closed on our FIRST HOUSE! We've now been living on Picardy Drive for a year and we love love love it.

(online courtesy of pointnshoot )

Now for a trip down memory lane (which comes just in time because my fellow renovating chica over at DIY Diva just asked me about how we landed our sweet ass Picardy house :) ) It all started a little more than a year ago.....

Chris and I had batted around the idea of buying a house together for quite some time. Mostly the conversations went something like, "whenever we have a house...." It was something we aspired to, but not something we really thought we'd be able to do for a LONG time. Chris and I are both "working to live" not "living to work" types of people and would rather spend our time doing the things we really love than making oodles and oodles of money (although sometime it might be nice to find a way to merge the two...)

(can you get paid to take roadtrips? If you could, then we'd be RICH)

Then the summer rolled around. I was busy with my last year of school (6 yr plan, don't judge me! :) ) and Chris was busy with work, but we really started talking about ACTUALLY buying a house together. "We're WAY busy," we thought, but why not make our lives even MORE crazy? :) So we started looking around casually, first with the help of my brother who sent us some listings (he has his license, but is more of a developer and not an agent). We made HUNDREDS of dots on a map of Oakland of houses we'd seen and areas that we liked. We started talking about the idea with all of our sets of parents and everyone was extremely supportive and excited for us (afterall my parents built their first house with a one year old toddling around).

Then it came time to get a little serious. Chris' aunt referred us to an AMAZING agent, Jackie Care with Pacific Union (she is truly truly amazing and was SO supportive, informative and determined during our house hunting process) and we really started thinking that buying a house together could become a reality. My dad joined the hunt with us and was really helpful and informative and answered a lot of questions for us along the way.

Pretty soon we zeroed in on an area of Oakland that we liked, Maxwell Park. Jackie was really helpful in helping us find an area that we liked and found LOTS of great houses for us to look at. Chris and I knew from the outset that we absolutely wanted a fixer-upper. We didn't want to spend a lot of money for something we knew we could do better and for cheaper. Chris was interested in persuing construction as a career and my handy-woman skills get me by and I'm really interested in design, so a fixer was absolutely the way to go.

(good thing our kitchen doesn't look like this anymore)

We fell in love with our first house on Rawson Ave. and put in an offer with the help of my dad (we found out that in this economy getting a loan on a fixer was REALLY difficult). We found ourselves competing with another family and ended up losing out. I was devasted. I really liked the Rawson house and I vowed to not look anymore (Meryl...super emotional, making snap decisions, being a little dramatic...who would have thought?)

(I have no idea WHAT you're talking about)

But a couple days went by and my dad and Chris were busy one afternoon and Jackie had a great house she thought we should check out on Picardy Drive, so I went out after class to look at it with her. I fell in love. The street was amazing (all the houses look like little castles and are actually called Storybook Homes), the house was amazing (actually not really, but it had a LOT of potential), so I knew my dad and Chris had to come check it out. A few days later we all went out with Jackie to look at it again. It was an early October evening, still warm out, and kids from nearby houses were running around playing together. I LOVED the neighborhood (Chris likes to joke that it's, "Like 1960s America without the blatant racism," because all the kids play together, the neighbors talk and laugh together...it really has a great community vibe).

(it still makes me swoon a year later...even if it still needs a lot of work)

So we decided to put in an offer. But the house needed A LOT of work...A LOT. Nearly every single room in the house needed to be redone, and not cosmetically redone, but the plumbing and electrical throughtout the house needed to be replaced, dry rot needed to be addressed, a new roof was needed, a strange addition in the back needed to be properly supported, a few rooms would need to be completely gutted...the list went on. Jackie, Chris and my dad all warned me about how much work this house needed, but I was determined to own this little castle. So we put in an offer and waited...and waited...and waited.

(Chris on his hitchhiking trip when he was in college)

It tooks WEEKS to hear back from the bank (it was a foreclosure). Jackie was firm about a level we shouldn't go over to pay for the house because of the amount of work it needed and my dad, Chris and I all agreed that it was really only worth so much, so we had to be patient. About a month and a half after we put in our offer the bank FINALLY agreed to it. The house was OURS, almost. It had had a very recent in depth inspection, so we decided to close in a week as long as a structural engineer could come look at it and we could have a chimny inspection as well.

That week took FOREVER. I was so nervous and excited the whole time. But everything checked out marvelously (well, as marvelous as a fixer can. The good news was that the structural engineer said the foundation was great, which was our biggest concern). So, on December 30th, 2008 we closed on our house, and Picardy Drive was our NEW HOME!

(my what an inviting front door that is)

I fell in love with finding out everything I could about our happy looking home. I read books and articles about Storybook Homes and found out about the architects who made similar storybook streets in Berkeley, Alameda, and other areas of Oakland in the 1920s. I was ready to go. And so, without even owning the house for a week, our projects began. We started ripping down the kitchen, bought a washer and dryer (no quarters necessary!!!), purchased a new front door (because the foot too short hollow-core front door was NOT very exciting...see above photo), and began many other projects.

(breaking a big pane of glass is one of the more fun jobs)

Now that it's been a year I go back and forth about how much we've gotten done. Sometimes, I'm amazed with what we've done, and sometimes I think, where did all the time go because we didn't get anything done! It has really been a labor of love. Picardy has caused many tears, curse words, yelling, and uncontrolled frustration and anger. But it has also been absolutely amazing. Chris and I have learned so much about ourselves and each other and it has been a priceless experience to work together on such a rewarding project together day after day.

(I know, how cheesy is that?)
The process would not be possible without the love and support of our many friends and family members as well, and I am eternally greatful to them all. I started this blog as a way to vent my frustrations about the house and process everything that was going on with it. I thought if I wrote about it and explained it, it would be something fun to look at later, my friends and family could keep updated on what was going on with us (because we have no lives anymore and hardly ever do anything non house, work, or school related) and I might entertain a person or two along the way. So thank you to anyone who is reading this! Our first year as Picardy residents has been amazing, the work has been hard but worth it, and I hope that there is a person or two out there enjoying the process as much as we have!

Here's to a succesful second year!


Shiloe Bear said...

Congratulations on your one year anniversary! It's great to get the back story of Picardy. Here's to another year!

kitliz @ DIYdiva said...

I'm echoing the congrats. Your house really has some interesting bones, and it looks like you're making good progress on the "cosmetic" stuff. (Your kitchen looks great and I can't wait to see what you do with the round nook.) Thanks for telling the story! With such a cool looking house, how could I not ask?