Quick housekeeping note (and I feel like a goober even writing this because my current audience consists of me, but you never know who will happen upon the stuff you put on the interwebs, so I want to acknowledge the blog appearance): I am using a free theme called Dream On. I like the simplicity of the layout, but the banner comes with a picture of two little kids. They’re cute and all, but they’re not my kids. I don’t want to look at them. I thought I was going to be clever and replace the default banner picture with a picture of my dog. It did not work out exactly as I planned. I know just enough to mess things up, but not enough to make them look good.
About our house…
My husband bought our current house in 2006, at the height of the housing boom. He was a bachelor at the time, so his housing requirements included proximity to friends and work and a fenced-in backyard for his dogs. Although small, the house was suitable (I initially wrote perfect, but after I explain what we’ve had to do to the house, you’ll see that it was not perfect for anyone) for him at the time. When he made the purchase, we weren’t even dating yet and he certainly wasn’t planning for kids in the near future.
Alex and I started dating in 2008 and the following year I was pregnant with Old Baby. It doesn’t sound too bad when I word it that way. Here’s a more detailed version of events: we started dating in late December of 2008, and I got pregnant in early February 2009. We were talking about getting married and having babies within a few weeks of dating (and I should add: dating, not meeting). We were married a few months later, and welcomed Old Baby in the fall. During this time, the housing market started to decline. We weren’t in a position to sell and house hunt anyway, so we didn’t worry about it. Seventeen months after Old Baby was born, we had New Baby. That’s when the walls of our house really started to close in on us.
Our house consists of the following: two bedrooms (both decently sized), two bathrooms, a living room, a small foyer, a dining room, and a kitchen. It’s really an apartment-sized house. Fortunately, we have a large lot, particularly for our area. We have a screened in porch off the kitchen and a large deck in the backyard. In Florida, outdoor spaces are essential, and you can use them year round. What our house really lacks is storage space. Each bedroom has a small closet and we have another small closet off the dining room. That’s it. No pantry. No built-in cupboards. We do have an attic, but it’s hot at least eight months out of the year. Things that are left in the attic often disintegrate, so you have to be careful about what gets stored up there. We are fortunate to have a pretty large backyard shed that we use as a storage unit. Another short coming of our house is that it wasn’t built with today’s needs in mind. How many people needed a home office in the forties? Most of our rooms have to serve multiple purposes. The kids share a room. The living room is also a play room and our office. The kitchen cupboards have to store cooking materials, dishes, and food. The dining room closet has to store our paper products and our cleaning supplies. I often fantasize about adding just one more room onto our house…a mudroom, an office, a third bedroom, anything.
I suppose the obvious question is why don’t we just sell and buy a bigger house? We would love to, but the housing market would not work in our favor. The last appraisal Alex had was in December 2008. Right after that, our neighborhood was hit really hard by the housing market downturn. We live in a historic area near downtown. It has been a pretty desirable area for several decades, after having been gentrified in the 70s and 80s. Several blocks from us are huge Victorians, Craftsmans, Colonials, etc. Those homes really skyrocketed in value during the housing bubble. Houses like ours also got a bump in value, and while all of the houses have seen their values drop, without a booming economy, our house doesn’t have the square footage or historic charm that people who buy in this neighborhood are looking for. Even if our loan-to-value ratio would net us a sales profit in theory, I am dubious about whether we’d find a buyer.
We came to the decision a while ago that if our choices were to walk away and try to do a short sale or stay here for a few years, fix up the house, and try to sell without making a profit, we would do the latter. So, that’s what we’ve been working on for the past three and a half years. To date, we have managed to accomplish the following:
- New water heater
- New HVAC unit
- New windows in one bedroom and bathroom
- New water service line to the house
- Completely gutted and remodeled a bathroom (changed layout, new plumbing and wiring)
- Re-built backyard deck
- Added attic insulation to bring R-value up to 40
- Re-built the internal structure of the portico
- Updated light fixtures (we used the affordable ones that everyone says look like boobs. Maybe we can lure another bachelor into buying our house with those!)
- New internal doors
- Tree stumps ground down and trees cut down (hurricanes, yo)
Here’s what we still need to do
- Remodel kitchen
- Remodel second bathroom
- Refinish hardwoods
- Replace remaining windows
- Drill and fill insulation in exterior walls
- Spray foam insulation under house
- All new plumbing
- Paint woodwork and walls
- Front and backyard landscaping
- Add paved driveway
- Add picket fence to front yard
This list is always getting bigger. Blah. I should have picked a more lucrative career.