Posts Tagged ‘Home Sweet Home’

April 6, 2018

No Longer Like Squatters

In December Domingo and I finally figured out what to do with the big empty space by the entrance way. It’s intended to be a living room, but we already have the oversized family room with more than enough space to entertain friends and family. What we needed was a work space for the kids, a place to do homework and art projects. We moved their table from the upstairs playroom downstairs, and purchased a book bag shelf with cubby to house their book bags and all their supplies. All that was missing was a seat for adults to sit and watch the kids or read to them. I ordered a love seat online to complete the space.

I was amazed at the quality of the love seat. It was only slightly more than the very uncomfortable Ikea couch I had been sleeping on post giving birth, but with an incredibly soft fabric and a supportive cushion you could just sink into. I couldn’t help but think about replacing that canvas colored ikea couch, as well as the medium reddish brown rocking chair with the upholstery coming up besides it.

I felt kind of ridiculous replacing perfectly functional furniture (not exactly frugal!) but I’m so glad I did. The ikea couch and old rocking chair clashed. Neither was particularly comfortable, the rocking chair hadn’t aged well and the couch never was. It just seemed to disconnected. So hodgepodge. Neither felt particularly like they belonged. Not only does the new stuff match, but it’s much larger and fits the room better. Every time I walk down the stairs, turn the corner and catch a glimpse of the new furniture I feel content. Everything fits together. It’s as though we planned it. That added sitting space from the longer couch will be useful as our kids grow!

Between the new furniture, the filling of the last empty space and the new wall decorations and it’s finally starting to feel like a family lives here, and not like we squat here. After almost 3 years, it’s probably time to finish putting together the house.

October 27, 2016

On the Fence

Snuck a picture of the new fence going up from inside the house.

We finally decided to replace a large section of our backyard fence. Of the eight posts originally holding it up, only one was still connected to the ground. The fence stood mainly thanks to the twenty year old rose bushes that grew up around it. Shortly after we moved in we noticed it was leaning just so slightly that the gate wouldn’t close. As time went on it began to list more and more. Fences are surprisingly expensive. All total the fence will be our second most expensive repair.

In retrospect it should have been obvious the fence was failing. During our home inspection the inspectors made sure to emphasize their company did not inspect fences, and they could recommend someone who did. That should have been a major clue.

I’ve been thinking lately about all those other houses we put offers on, and whether or not we would have done things differently.

Most of the houses we put offers on only one of us saw before hand. Domingo would go with our real estate agent during his lunch break since we wanted to buy close to his work. He’d watch the kids and I’d go on the weekend. Most homes didn’t stay on the market beyond the initial weekend, so we’d skype in the other one to facilitate quick decisions. The house we won was one that I saw first. Domingo first stepped foot on the property during our inspections.

I like to joke that it wasn’t the house I would have bid on in a normal market. I wasn’t keen on the layout and the kitchen is not my style, but it had the right number of bedrooms and (by sheer luck) there was only one other interested buyer. I knew Domingo would like it. Although the yard wasn’t big, the location made it feel more separate from the neighbors than the typical California bay area home. Domingo enjoys his privacy. Since then the layout has grown on me. I do enjoy making our house my own. It has nice large walls for me to fill with my favorite photos of my favorite subjects.

As I’m sitting here in the family room, listening to the hammering of the new fence posts, I find myself once again opening up zillow and redfin. The home with the spiral staircase and second fireplace in the dinning room that I loved? Risen in value by 2.3%. The gorgeous ex-model home that wasn’t at all what we were looking for, and yet we still fell in love with it? Risen in value by 3.5%. The one that was decorated exactly as I would want my own dream home but accepted an offer before we got a chance to see it? Risen in value by 5%. Our home? Risen in value by 25%. That’s not a mistake, nor is a period missing.

That’s especially not bad considering the HVAC system and fence, and all other work only comes out to 2.7% of the purchase price. (It’ll be higher once we re-carpet and paint, of course.)

I don’t know how accurate those other home values are. I’m inclined to trust Redfin’s estimate of our property. Our neighbor a few doors down from us sold his home at the beginning of the month. It’s smaller than ours, both in terms of bedrooms and square footage, although I think the upgrades were more recent and look newer. The asking price (also the sale price) was significantly more than we paid for our home just a year and a half prior. The difference between their sold price, and redfin’s estimate of our home could easily reflect an additional bedroom.

I am amazed sometimes how things work out.

This past week we needed the services of both an electrician and a plumber, and somehow managed to escape the week only $200 lighter.

Having a lemon tree has been one of the unexpected pleasant surprises of our house. I am forever spoiled with homemade lemonade.

It feels like we’re spending a ton of money on our non-fixer up home. I need to keep reminding myself that all these little things are to be expected. Or rather the number of them is not unexpected, even if each individual one might be unexpected. We’ve been lucky that so far each of the issues haven’t been too expensive, with one notable exception.

I’m the kind of person whose comforted by numbers. To keep from going completely insane I’ve been keeping a list of our home repair costs. By estimating the closing costs I can then calculated out the sale price we’d need in order to break even. That may seem a bit obsessive. I promise dwelling on them really does ease my anxieties, even if it appears otherwise to the outside world.

In my spreadsheet I’ve actually calculated out several sale prices: (1) what we’d need to break even just including repairs, (2) what we need to break even including estimated closing costs, (3) what we need to break even including all additional costs that come with owning over renting including monthly maintenance and taxes, and (4) number 3 with closing costs factored in.

Obsessive, relaxing. Tomatoe, Tomato.

It may seem like we’re spending a lot, but we’ll likely make it back again when we sell the house. According to both Zillow and Redfin, our home has risen enough in value to meet the first milestone. They disagree about the second one, and both don’t think we’ve reached the third. I guess the advantage of a high cost of living area is that small percentage change in property values translates to pretty large numbers.

I know moving was a good financial decision, but “knowing” isn’t really knowing without hard numbers.

Since we’re not planning on cashing in on the increased equity any time soon, I’ll just try to focus on the unexpected positives in our property – like our lemon tree – with a fresh glass of lemonade.

December 8, 2015

An Even Smarter Home

When we moved into our home, Domingo and I had only loose plans to paint and re-carpet. We didn’t plan on having any work done to the house. We weren’t even planning on purchasing any appliances. That is, not until the day of our final walk through, two days before closing, when it became apparent that the previous owner had decided to keep the refrigerator after all. (It was never specified in the contract, we had only a gentlemen’s agreement that it would stay.) It was our dumb luck that the washer and drier died a month later. Then the HVAC system. Then the garage door opener.

In the past 6 months we’ve spent more than 10 times in home home repairs than in all five years we owned the town home, and we opted to forgo painting and carpeting for now. Home ownership can be expensive. At least we’re running out of the things to fail!

One of the issues we’ve been dealing with recently is the irrigation system. It’s not working anywhere near where it should be.

The biggest, but sadly not the only, issue with the irrigation system is the controller box. The old controller box was an analog system and such a jumble of lose wires that the box door could not be closed. Worse, touching the door would cause the controller would change modes. All the way open, the controller box showed no zones were running. Close it a little and the controller box showed zone 4 was running. A little more, and zone 6 appeared to be running but zone 4 was off. The zone wires were even crossed. The sprinklers in the right side of the front lawn would sometimes turn on when zones 2, 4 and 6 were activated. Sometimes, not all the time. We still weren’t sure which zone those sprinklers were supposed to be in.

Our irrigation system was simultaneously unreliable and wasting a tone of water. Given the state of California’s drought that’s a very bad thing.

Last Thursday we upgraded to a smart irrigation controller. The new controller is digital and connects to the internet. We program in how much water each zone needs when it’s hot and dry. The controller gets the weather report and adjusts accordingly. By my estimates it will have paid for itself in a year. Two, tops. Assuming no more pipes break. Have I mentioned home ownership is expensive?


Domingo and I have this notion of turning our home into a smart home. We’ve been thinking about it ever since I started playing with Hue. So before I left Google I wanted to take advantage of my employee discount and purchase a pair of nest thermostats. During the check out process, Nest wanted me to confirm our HVAC system was compatible with their thermostats. Trouble was, our offer had only just been accepted. We were a month away from closing, and days away from leaving Google and my discount. I decided to chance it.

That wasn’t a good gamble on my part.

Two weeks after taking ownership of the home I took the old thermostats off the wall to discover there was no way to power the one for the upstairs zone. I brought someone out who confirmed my fears. Nest was simply not compatible with our dual zone system. I asked if it made sense to update the dual zone system. He said it would cost thousands of dollars, definitely not worth it for a thermostat, even a cool one like the nest. Wait for the old one to die, was his advice.

Waiting for it to die took 2 months and 6 days apparently.

I got the distinct impression he thought the death of our zoning system would take longer.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just our zoning system knocking on death’s door. The AC and heater were being brought down with it. That was not a fun discovery, but if there’s a bright side to this rain cloud, it’s that I got to use my nest after all.