The time comes in every renovators life when the first project is done. Our house isn’t DONE, but it is pretty close. The nook is now finished (I know, I need to post about the light we hung and a Before & After of course), and all that’s left after that is Chris’ office and the second half of the laundry room. Chris’ office should be really simple – a couple patches on the walls, ceiling repair, then paint. And the laundry room just needs the rest of the flooring, cabinets, new paint, and some other small things here and there. Still two rooms, but in the grand scheme of things, not a lot of work at all.
Then of course we are now a family of three, we need room for working on projects and we need room for storing materials for future projects we will be working on. We have a two car garage, but now that we’re working full time on our handyman business, that workshop is getting used daily and we’re running out of space for the tools and materials we need on a daily basis. On top of that, we regularly buy large quantities of materials for projects we’ve got down the line in a couple of days or weeks and we are running out of places to store them. Our front room is a regular storage spot for materials waiting to be organized, installed or built for a client. It’s not that our house doesn’t have enough space, it’s just not laid out great for us. For instance, the front room is probably a few hundred square feet of space that we don’t really use ever – except to exercise in with our recumbent bike and free weights and pile building materials in. And I always feel bad about that.
So what comes next? Well, I posted on Facebook last week that we did something CRAZY: we put an offer on a house. We didn’t get it, grrrr (I’ll fill you in later in this post about it), but it did let the cat out of the bag that we’re beginning to think about where we are, what we need, what we want and what comes next. Some of you commented on the post that you were wondering if we were going to move soon because we’re almost done on this house (and that seems to be what crazy renovators do). And the answer is: yes, we would like to move. And here are the details:
If it was up to Chris we would move away (probably to Michigan). Chris has always wanted land and to be self sufficient. We both really fell in love with Michigan while on the Renovation Roadtrip and now are lucky to have (what I would hope to call) friends living there And in neighboring states as well But I just can’t do it. I am a Bay Area girl at heart (4 generations here) and the thought of leaving makes my heart hurt. 90% of my family lives within an hour of our house. And I love that. So I have made Chris stay in the Bay Area
Then comes the question of WHERE in the Bay Area. Again, Chris wants LAND, so we had thought about moving to the outskirts a bit where we can get more land for A LOT cheaper than around here. However, now that we’ve started our business, about 95% of our clients (and just about all of our regulars) live in the city of Oakland. That’s super nice and super convenient. On days when we need to drive around to several client’s houses it’s nice knowing that it will never take more than 20 minutes to get to someone’s house. However, if we lived in another city (if you know Bay Area traffic), that commute will significantly change. And building up a new client base is always a question mark. And even if we did, it isn’t like we would leave our existing clients, so it would mean driving to and from Oakland to “INSERT HERE” city, very frequently. And end up costing a lot more in gas. And a truck doesn’t get great gas mileage.
Not to mention, I have the deepest soft spot in my heart for Oakland. I did not grow up here, but instead grew up in Albany and Berkeley. I moved to Oakland when I was about 21, lured by the affordable rents. And I loved it. I loved how diverse it was (4th in the US), how there was always something going on, how proud people were to be from here. It just kind of felt awesome. I also have a soft spot for the underdog, and Oakland has definitely had struggles (I did my senior thesis as an art major as a video installation on the social and economic differences of living “above” or “below” I-580 that goes through our ‘town’). I get sad when people get well paid jobs, have kids, “grow up” and decide to leave Oakland. And I didn’t want to do that.
So we will most likely stay in Oakland.
We definitely want to get the biggest lot we can afford. Again, if it was up to Chris we’d have 500 acres and a bunch of goats, sheep, chickens and an orchard. So if we can find 1/500th of that, that would be awesome. The trouble is – at least around here – whenever you’re able to get a big lot, the house is ginormous, and we don’t either want or need that. To us, the size of our current house is great (1600 sf), it’s just not laid out the way we use. If we could find a 1600 sf house laid out differently than ours is now and on even just 1/2 acre with good workshop and storage space, that would just be downright awesome. Of course that all comes with a price because the Bay Area is NOT cheap. Our budget for a fixer would buy us two finished 2000 sf houses in OK City for example. Oy.
We tossed around the idea of building our own home and acting as the general contractors to save money. There were a couple lots we looked into that were “cheap” because of interesting obstacles. We went to the city to look into them, talked with a couple contractors, ran some numbers and ultimately decided that building from scratch probably isn’t for us. There are all sorts of question marks when you build from scratch (especially around here) that if you’re working on a tight budget can completely fuck you up. We made the decision that it would just be too tight of a fit.
I got my real estate license about 3 years ago for my brother’s company. With the prospect of looking for a future house for us and my dad and step mom relocating to the area I decided it might finally be time to get myself access to the MLS and start looking. About a week after I got access the most AMAZING fixer came onto the market. It was on an acre, in Oakland, ridiculously in need of fixing, off in a more “country” area (if that’s possible). And it was being offered sort of close to our budget. It was definitely a diamond in the rough. I called Chris about it while he was at work, we looked at it that night and I told my parents about it. We all talked about it, sent pictures, ran numbers, had them look at it etc. It was a DUMP