Sunday, September 16, 2007

The best part of my trip

View from Beverly Hilton, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

Was waking up to this.

Unfortunately it only constituted about 2% of the otherwise tedious trip.

Good Morning @ 25,000 Feet

DSC_0411.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

On my way to LA....

Slater Street: Front

Slater Street: Front, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

Fixer part 3, end.

Meredith and I have a new realtor, and we went back to the 'fixer' (now known as the Crest house) today with our friend Michael Turner. Michael has been in the trades 35 years and has done or seen most everything. He's specialty is electrical work, and that was a big question about the Crest house. Not so good news in the electrical department. Michael said it was too messed up, and badly wired to be safe. He'd only get involved in the project if we committed to completely rewiring the house, down to every last plug and switch. Eeep! To make a long story short: We are bailing on the Crest house. It needs too much, in too many areas, with too many variables for our time and money. Someday it'll be a beautiful large ranch house, but right now it's a bit of a quagmire for the money.

So we keep looking. Next up: The Slater House. A slight fixer, in a good neighborhood with a great yard.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fixer part 2.

Paul & I just went through the house. It's better and worse than I'd feared.
First, the listing isn't accurate. It says it's a 3 bedroom 2 bath, with second unit and den. No it's not. It's a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, no second unit, no den. Or it's a 2 bedroom with den. Or it's a 2 bedroom, with a possible 2nd unit, no den. It does have a garage, and it does have 2 fireplaces.

The good: Most walls, trim, and all teh windows are intact. The roof looks newish, the gutters look passable. The view from the upper garden terrace is very nice. The third bedroom is a surprisingly nice space. The squatters didn't do much visible damage, other than dirty carpets. There are several skylights, and lots of nice natural light in the house. Two fireplaces! It's got good bones, and a decent layout.

The bad: The front chimney is pulling away from the house, the kitchen needs to be gutted and redone, the bathrooms would need to be redone eventually (they'd need to be fixed in the short term). The windows are all single pane and original.

The surprising: Original wiring and plumbing. The bank is apparently firm on price (give 10k or so).

Paul's take (paraphrased): Take a remodel budget of 30k, you could do the floors, kitchen and a bathroom or two (while fixing the chimney), but doors, windows, other bathroom, electrical/plumbing, etc would all have to wait. Basically you could make it livable before you move in, and then gradually fix the rest over a couple of years. At the end you'd have nice, 600k+ house built the way you want it. Do the major stuff (floors, kitchen) clean the rest, and gradually update the wiring room by room. The chimney (which freaked me out) is 'not a big deal', he believes the front of the house has settled a bit and that tipped the chimney enough that it's load is now pulling on the front of the house, not straight down as it should. The fix? Strap the chimney and tie it back to the roof, then reline the flue. From what he could see, the foundation looked ok.

More photos here

The fixer.

We are at the thin end of the market, and we are picky: Nothing to far from town, nothing built after 1960, no condos. That gives us (at the moment) 3-4 houses to look at. One of them is plenty big, with a large yard on a hillside with views of the city,'s in bad shape. It's a ranch house built in 1947, that was in good shape until about a year ago. The family tried to sell it, they moved out, the bank took possession and there it sat. At some point squatters moved in and made a mess. It isn't destroyed, but it's pretty trashed. Someone, it's unclear who, decided to put in walls all over the place splitting up the living room dining room, the appliances in the kitchen are gone, the carpet is in bad shape. But it's a lot of house for the money and could be a great space with a terraced yard. 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 2 fireplaces, single garage.

I spoke with my parents, who've dealt with destructive renters, about how much work it would be to rehab the interior. They seemed optimistic. Sure it would be work, but as a team we could get it livable fairly quickly, and end up with a great house and a relatively small mortgage.

So this morning I'm going through the house with Paul. He's a contractor (True North Construction) and has an incredible eye for remodeling houses and design. His own house is a thing of beauty, and a testiment to his vision and forethought. If he likes the idea, then I'll come back with a team of friends all of whom are craftsmen in their respective trades: Ben and Paul for the carpentry, Orion for the masonry work, Michael for the electrical, my Dad & Mom for paint and trim. We'll see.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The search goes on....

We went and looked critically at 'the little house' yesterday with our Realtor (yay Clark Rosen!) and my parents, and our ardor has cooled a bit. It's still the sweet little house, but it is really very tiny, and super-high priced for what it is. There's no denying that is in fact a two bedroom, with little to no storage space, and the yard is smaller than I remembered. That said, there's not much else out there in our price range, and it does have a great 'feel' to it.

We decided to wait on making an offer, and see what else shows up, or comes down into our price range in the short term, to think about how much we are willing to 'simplify' and how much we just want to buy a house.

I'll post the set of photos I took on my flickr page under 'Little house"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Home sweet freakout.

The home buying saga continues...

We gave up on the idea of buying a house a while ago due to the state of our finances vs. the state of the market. My how times have changed. Months of working on my credit score has garnered modest gains, and the market has suddenly cooled off, the combined effect means we are just barely able to get in.

We've found a house and now we are starting the bewildering, stress-filled process of loan applications, meeting with realtors, lawyers, planners, and others who are gently guiding us along. I want to give a huge public thanks to my parents for their support, and their experienced advice. They have been a tremendous resource, and having them an intimate part of the process has kept me from freaking out too badly. Thanks.

I'll stay mum about the house for now, except to say it's tiny, cute, and a better fit than our current place. We will have to jettison/liquidate a massive percentage of our stuff, but we are super-excited about that as well. We've gotten to the point where we have too much stuff and it's become draining to even think about, so forcing a downsize will go a long to way to clarifying and focusing how we want to live.

Our goal (fingers crossed) is to be in a new place before the end of the year. I hope all 3 of you reading this will come to our housewarming/christmas party. :)

Beware the watcher in the HOV-lane

DSC_0214.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

This is the geekiest plate I've seen. Waaay geekier than 'G33K' or TCPIP. I'm proud to note that both Meredith and I spotted it and instantly knew it for what it was: Brilliant.

Now I'm just jealous I didn't think of it first.

It could be worse

DSC_0209.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

But at least I had a view that didn't face into the hotel. Most of the room had windows that opened onto corridors. This is what a lot of the rooms got to see.

What a view!

DSC_0208-Edit.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

I have to go to LA for business several times a year, and sometimes I get put up in a hotel. Note to self: Descriptions of a 'lovely seaside location' can be exaggerated. Here's the view from my room.


Kiya, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

She has a ball. Perhaps I'd like to throw it?

more dogs

DSC_0171.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.


DSC_0160.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.


DSC_0150.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

I love photographing Heidi.

Birthday lunch, incomplete

DSC_0055.jpg, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

For my dad's birthday, my brother, M and I made him lunch. Steak, and "potatoes" (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets). Very tasty.

We have a boat!

We have a boat!, originally uploaded by ScottyJ.

Ok, it's catchup time. This is from much earlier in the summer, but for a short afternoon, we had a boat. I'm rowing, and Z is clearly a pirate (note the forearm tatoo).