Our Old House — The happy Remodeler

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Photo-Unsplash Charles ph

I realize a house 75 years old isn’t considered old by east coast standards, but we live in Northern California, so although there are homes older here, our house feels old as it was not very well built.

So, this is a story about a remodeling project that came out of a decision to stay put and not “cash-out” as some are doing with the cost of housing exploding here.

We did entertain selling and moving, taking advantage of the price we could get from our house and buy something with a part of it and keep the rest for travel.

The limiting problem for us is that we wanted to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area. Well, even looking way up into the East Bay was still going to eat up all the profit we could get and we would have a lot less than what we already have.

Let me tell you what we have and why we love our big, old box of a house. We are on a double lot, so it’s about half an acre on a corner in Midtown Palo Alto. Not the high rent district in Palo Alto, mind you. But, we have a big chicken yard and about 18 fruit trees. I love my chickens and our trees. It is pretty rough and not really landscaped as some would imagine.

In addition to these quirks, the location is also not traditional as we are the only single-family home for a block as we are surrounded by apartment buildings. It’s a different vibe than other homes up and down your street.

After exploring our options, which did not include moving out of California, to really take advantage of the market, we made the decision to stay put.

That decision sent me on a remodeling mission. What it really meant was fixing issues the house developed over the years plus the fact that our 2500 sf house is divided into three apartments.

We have the entire top floor and the garage, which is more than enough room for just two people, and not an arrangement I’m used to. But it works for us. We have a large one bedroom downstairs that has one and a half bathrooms and French limestone floors. Can you tell I remodeled it? The other united is a lovely studio and the bathroom has a black Toto toilet and pedestal sink and three walls floor to ceiling in Caesar Stone. Can you tell I remodeled it as well?

The configuration allows us easy access to the studio using the stairwell without interfering with the one bedroom. We have opened up the stairwell and used the studio for us for a while. For now, we have it blocked off and rented out. It’s OK, as we own it and could take it over again.

Each of these two apartments is more like their own little home, rather than living in an apartment because they are part of our home. Living with your landlord upstairs is not like living in an apartment building. We are very careful who we rent to. We are comfortable in that people who want to rent from us are not your party crowd. Plus, they get lots of fresh fruit and eggs from our chickens.

When I get on a tear to fix up our old house, one job leads to another. We got a new front door and that lead to installing new interior doors because the new front door was contemporary and the inside doors were the original with crystal door handles. It just didn’t work. And the new doors meant that all the trim around the new front doors had to be repainted.

Changing the trim meant that the entryway had to be repainted as well.

You get my drift.

These projects have grown and multiplied over time and are intimate to me. I only get into this mood to fix up when I’m happy. When life is good, I care about my home. I know this because I’ve experienced a time when life was not going well and I didn’t care about my surroundings. I was looking inward, not outward.

So, you could say accepting the fact that we are going to stay in this home with renters has been a big life-changing decision that I’m very happy about. Life is good indeed.

Written by

Master researcher, journalist and non-fiction author. My new book, San Francisco Values will be out in June 2020. Connect with me at gerispieler.com

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