Posts Tagged ‘real estate

05
Dec
19

Mill Street Blues: Love It or List It, Too

Previously, on Mill Street Blues: Billie and the Jarhead were engaged in a battle with time, aiming to get the porches stripped and stained, the foyer ceiling insulated and replaced, the kitchen pipes to stop freezing, and several other tasks completed before winter temperatures set in and all work that needed to be done above zero degrees Fahrenheit came to a screeching halt.

Adding to the intrigue: a new project.

From the listing details available online, it had all the makings of a great flip: A low price. A great location near lakes, streams, and a gorgeous state park. A generous lot with a large garden plot. An attached two-car garage. A single-level ranch floor plan with two fireplaces and vaulted ceilings.

Sure, there were downsides. Like the floor to ceiling knotty pine walls. And the wall to wall knotty pine ceilings. And the mushrooms growing out from under the baseboards. And the leaky roof. And the saggy kitchen ceiling. And the master bedroom carpet—the color and condition of which brought to mind a black and white movie murder scene.

I take that back, as I would hate to offend fans of black and white movie murders. Let’s just say it was disturbing.

And let’s not forget the light fixtures, which were seemingly everywhere—including places one wouldn’t expect a light fixture to be. Like, say, five to ten inches from another light fixture. And we’re not talking about a set of matching or coordinating fixtures arranged together for stylistic reasons. No. We’re talking about a cluster of crap arranged apparently at random, perhaps by someone with exceptionally odd taste or poor eyesight.

I am not even remotely kidding. Imagine a flush mounted glass ceiling globe hanging just beyond the reach of a five-blade ceiling fan featuring a three-bulb light kit with scalloped glass shades, on the other side of which hung a white metal fixture with three angled spotlights on chrome hinged posts, all located within a 3-foot by 3-foot area in the center of a knotty pine plank kitchen ceiling—which, fun fact, I could touch without standing on my tippy-toes. Whenever I imagine someone working in there, I picture them hunched over like the doctors on M*A*S*H trying to avoid the blades of the helicopters as they raced to evaluate the incoming wounded.

And that was just the kitchen. In almost every room there were three to five light fixtures that were completely different in color, size, style and material. I say almost because one bedroom had just one light fixture. Just one. Now, I have no hard evidence to back up this theory, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this may have been due to the lack of a ceiling—which  had caved in at some point, leaving a large gaping hole above, and a pile of wet wood, insulation, and drywall on the carpet below. I didn’t scour the debris pile for additional light fixtures, but I’m guessing there was at least one more in there.

But for the exception of that bedroom, there was an excess of lighting and an utter lack of theme or sense to its location in every room of the house. So much so that I wondered: Had all these fixtures been acquired, perhaps Grinch-style, from the homes of neighbors while they slept? Or maybe secreted out of a store or factory one piece at a time in a coat or lunchbox over decades like the car in that old song by Johnny Cash? And then hung where they could be admired like a serial killer’s trophies?

Well, we bought it anyway. And almost by accident. After having one offer rejected by the seller three months earlier, and another ignored a month after that, we assumed we would not be flipping Murder Manor this summer or any other. It’s just as well, we thought at the time (ironically, I realize only now.) We had more than enough on our plate as it was. If our offer had been accepted, we reasoned, we may not have the funds to finish the Craftsman and get it on the market by June.

And then, as if to prove fate has a sense of humor, our realtor called to say congratulations. The seller had reconsidered and accepted our offer after all. Which obviously meant that the previous buyers had found something seriously wrong with the place (besides the weird lighting and the scary flooring) and wanted nothing more to do with it. Or the appraiser had found something seriously wrong with the place (besides the missing and saggy ceilings, and the gaping holes in the roof) and the previous buyer’s bank had refused to fund the purchase.

Big deal, we scoffed as we prepared to sign the contract. By then we had renovated so many properties, we were no longer afraid of surprises. In fact, so accustomed were we to bombshell revelations, you couldn’t have shocked us if you’d hidden electrical wire between a sheet of drywall and a layer of mud, handed me a hammer, and told me to hang up a picture.

That may have shocked us six years ago. But it would not have shocked us six weeks ago. Or even six months ago. Now we know to check for wayward wiring before we cut or hammer into anything. Especially when dealing with distressed properties. Ah, life’s teachable moments…

Anyway, even after all of that, it wasn’t long before we were asking ourselves some familiar questions. Like, “Isn’t this a cool layout?” And, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a fireplace again?” And, “Can you imagine sitting here every morning/afternoon/evening and not having to watch the neighbor’s dog do its business while we’re eating breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

So although we had decided in 2018 to love Mill Street, once we saw the potential for Murder Manor to become our Maison D’amour, we were suddenly quite keen to list the wing and gable farmhouse.

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Of course, since deciding to keep the Knotty Ranch, we’ve already received some bad news that, in sum, tells us it won’t be ready to occupy until April 2020. Which is why it somehow looks worse than it did when we bought it six months ago.

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On the upside, that gives us plenty of time to work on all the things I mentioned in the recap, above, as well as everything else we want to do at Mill Street before it goes on the market. We’ve already made some good progress with the kitchen, having gotten the window trim and wine boxes in and ready for painting. We also got the foyer ceiling and window replaced. Just have to paint them now, too, along with the door and the new crown moulding.

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Barring any more unexpected issues, we just might get everything done in time to have a summer off for a change. Guess who won’t be holding her breath.

 

 

 

12
Apr
19

Mill Street Blues: Hunting & Blathering

Fans of HGTV are familiar with the House Hunters series and its progeny, House Hunters International and House Hunters Renovation.

For the uninitiated (and those for whom the title is a bit too cryptic to decipher) House Hunters involves one or more people—usually, but not always, a couple; and usually, but not always, attractive—looking for a home in a specific geographic area aided by a local real estate professional. Over the course of thirty minutes (minus 8 or 9 for commercials) the parties view and assess three properties, each one ticking off some—but never all—of the boxes on the parties’ wish list.

Yep. Three. No more. No less.

As if choosing a place to live were like The Dating Game.

“So, house number one: What is your idea of a nice romantic evening?”

“Great question. I think my idea of a romantic evening would be lying down beside you on my deep orange textured shag carpeting, where I’d gaze with you winsomely upon my velvet avocado wallpaper and show you what seven thousand dollars below budget feels like.”

“That sounds, uh, interesting. House number two: same question.”

“My idea of a romantic evening is sitting with you before a roaring fire under my vaulted ceiling with exposed beams, surrounded by real linen blend wall paper and sustainable bamboo hardwoods, eating ramen soup and hot dogs.”

“Wow. You must really like ramen soup and hot dogs.”

“No. That’s just all you’d be able to afford after paying the mortgage and utilities.”

“I see. And house number three?”

“Well, I can’t offer either velvet or linen wallpaper, but I am in a good neighborhood and right on budget. That being said, a romantic evening to me means taking you to my kitchen, showing you my huge peninsula…”

You get the idea.

And if only it were that easy.

We could make it even easier, I suppose, by posing it like that age-old philosophical question: If you were marooned on a deserted island, what is the one thing you absolutely would have to have with you?

Only in this case, it would be, if you could live in one place and only that one place for the rest of your life, which place would it be?

It would be a tough choice—especially for me and the Jarhead, who have moved so often our friends and family probably think we’re in witness protection. Or on the lam.

In case you’re about to check Google or the FBI website for our names and photos, let me save you the trouble: The only thing we’re guilty of is criminal indecision.

And in case you were going to check Google or the American Psychiatric Psociety website for a list of psymptoms of psychological disorders, let me save you that trouble, too: What we have is a type of addiction where you can’t live in a house without modifying it in some way, and also a form of hoarding where you are unable to sell a house you’ve fixed up without first living there—if only for 385 days, like our last one.

And if you believe that, I have a lovely bottle of windmill noise cancer pills to sell you at a good price.

Seriously, though. If we had to choose a home from a pool of just three, it would be like having to choose only one cat from the shelter (as in, next to impossible) or asking my friend Von to select a piece of chocolate from a Belgian sampler (meaning, delightful or deadly, depending on the odds of finding a piece that contains cashews, almonds, or coconut.)

Fortunately, we aren’t forced to choose a project from just three pitiable properties. UN-fortunately, that means we can end up touring five, ten, sometimes fifteen houses before finding one that can be saved without spending more money fixing it up than can be made when it’s time to sell it. And if we’re outbid by another buyer or can’t put together an offer that’s acceptable to the seller, then we’re right back at square one. I’m not suggesting what we’re doing would make for a bingeworthy TV series, but there is plenty of drama.

And just for the record, we’re not going through these homes whining about laminate countertops, popcorn ceilings, or carpeted floors like many folks do on House Hunters.

Some of these people truly could use a lesson in perspective, come to think of it. Perhaps HGTV should develop another program called Get Over Yourself, where the participants from House Hunters tour three properties whose occupants are barely keeping a roof over their head so these jerks can understand just how effing good they have it, and maybe learn not to be so glib and condescending when talking about their own tastes and preferences.

Just sayin’.

Nor am I walking through our prospective projects in four-inch heels, false eyelashes, and a Brazilian blowout, and screaming at the mouse droppings in the kitchen, the chickens roosting in the garage, or the dude sleeping on the pile of clothes in the back bedroom. To be fair, the mouse droppings are the only item from that list that I, personally, have run across while touring a home, so it’s probably not fair to judge Christina until I’ve walked a mile in her designer platforms. But I like to think I’d know enough to shut my mouth and slip back out the front door so as not to get us shot or shanked.

Even without the chickens and the squatters, some of what we’ve run across during a tour or a remodel would still give you pause. A basement filled with rotting clothing and garbage may not shank you, but it will make you stop and think about the date of your last tetanus shot. As will the carpets covered in cat, dog and human waste; the rusted-out razor blades you pull out of the furnace vents, and the long, thin lines of sticky yellow-brown liquid that adorn the walls with bits of fuzz trapped in and around it like bees suspended in fossilized tree resin.

And let’s not forget about the graffiti, the freezers filled with rotten food, the cat litter clogged toilets, and the wobbly outline of a child’s hand drawn repeatedly in colored marker next to the scribbled words “Natalie’s time out hand” that you hope was written by a living, breathing child named Natalie, and not by a vengeful spirit come to haunt her.

Wow. That sure took a turn toward the dark and surreal.

If you’re not afraid to find out what’s around the next corner, be sure to tune in next time for Mill Street Blues III: Love It or List It.

09
Jan
18

Oh Why, Oh Why Weyauwega

According to industry experts, the average person moves about every 5 years or so, for an average total of about 12 times over the course of a lifetime. Like most military families, the Jarhead and I have far exceeded those averages, having relocated from one locale to another a whopping 12 times between 1985 and 2015, and having changed addresses within an individual locale 7 more times on top of that.

Impressive, I know. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Okay. That was a lie. I’m actually exhausted from doing the math.

You may recall reading some of these statistics in a post I published many moons ago that included other figures of an equally arresting and fascinating nature. Essentially I boasted that the Jarhead and I had just set a record for the longest time spent living in a single residence. At the time, I had expected to occupy that home for quite a while, and was looking forward to seeing just how high we would be setting the bar for that record if and when the time came to pick up and move again.

Well, if-and-when came a lot sooner than I expected. It arrived on September 6, 2017 to be exact. Although we had bought another home more than a year before that, it needed a lot of work and we weren’t entirely sure what we would do with it once the repairs and improvements were completed. Eventually, however, we decided it made sense to downsize and so, after 8 years, 10 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we officially became residents of (drumroll, please) Weyauwega, Wisconsin. In case you’re wondering and/or are not of the Cheesehead persuasion, it’s pronounced “why-oh-WEE-guh.

Since we began the process of moving to our newly adopted city, we’ve been asked the same question by many people: why Weyauwega?

Oddly enough, the majority of the people asking this question are themselves of the Cheesehead persuasion. In fact, 90% of those asking, “why Weyauwega?” are current or former residents of Weyauwega, with another 9.9% being residents of Oshkosh and other parts of the Fox Valley. The remaining .1% are from out of state and I mention them only to prove that I understand percentages and can add to 100.

At first I didn’t know what to make of such inquiries. Given the derisive laughter that accompanied some—okay, most—of them, it seemed as if the people asking the question weren’t seeking our perspective as much as offering their own. But having passed hardly any time there apart from the handful of hours we’d spent house-hunting up to that point, we had no clue as to what they might be trying to say.

So I would tell them the truth: We chose Weyauwega because it’s 30 miles closer to my dear Auntie Chachi (who was in failing health and who, sadly, has since died) without being further away from our son and daughter-in-law. In short we chose Weyauwega because of geography. Pure and simple.

It wasn’t a particularly sexy answer, but what was I going to say? That we were looking to cash in on the hot real estate market? That we wanted to pay more money for less variety at the local grocery and convenience stores?

I wasn’t about to say any of that to anyone–least of all a potential neighbor. Nor could I cite climate as the basis for our decision. Oshkosh and Weyauwega are only 30 miles apart, after all, and while I’m no meteorologist, I suspect they share an atmosphere. So I stuck with geography.

The reactions to our explanation were mixed. Most people nodded in amusement or smiled in a way that suggested we were naïve. Or maybe stupid. Or even crazy.

A few, however, appeared mildly offended. I imagine they were expecting us to wax romantic about the many virtues of their fair city, like the views, the lake, the boating, and the fishing. But unlike my brothers, we don’t fish or own a boat, and the only views to be seen from our place were the backyards of the homes behind and beside ours, and the feral cats who routinely hunted, mated, and defecated outside the condemned house across street.

A few others posed follow up questions, such as, “What are you going to do there?” and, “Make meth?” Which, I suppose, is an option. But unlike my brothers, we don’t know how to…

I’m just kidding. My brothers are hard-working, upstanding, law abiding citizens. Besides, if one of us were going to wind up making meth, it is far more likely to be me. Everyone knows I’m the bad seed.

Again, I wouldn’t know how to respond. Like the previous questions, I suspected these were less about our personal employment goals than a comment on the economy and/or job prospects in and around our adopted community.

Combine that with the fact that we didn’t really KNOW what we were going to do. As the proud owners of a beige 1950’s ranch with urine soaked hardwoods, bad plumbing and rotten subfloors, which we’d only bought after forcing our realtor (aka El Noble) to show us every single 3-bedroom fixer-upper and/or foreclosure that came on the market within the city limits, we didn’t have a firm plan other than to fix it up and sell our current home.

We briefly considered selling the new one instead. Especially after my Auntie died two weeks after we’d bought it and I no longer needed to live closer to her. But the new house was smaller and had fewer stairs, and the Jarhead and I aren’t getting any younger.

So we decided to forge ahead with our plan to move to Weyauwega. The Jarhead would keep working. He’d just have a longer commute. Unless he decided to retire.

After that, who knows? Maybe we’ll start a business flipping houses. Maybe we’ll get an agent, buy some musical  instruments and a big bus, and go on tour like the Partridge Family. Suffice it to say: we’ve got options.

And now—eighteen months and thousands of gallons of plaster, primer, and paint later—we know exactly what we got into, and have a far clearer picture of what Weyauwega has to offer.

Take the name, Weyauwega, for example. It doesn’t look to me like it should be hard to pronounce, but for some folks apparently it is. So much so that there are articles and videos all over the internet that include it as one of the Wisconsin towns that out-of-staters most often mispronounce. Check out one of my favorites by clicking HERE! Stick with it til the end, and ye shall be richly rewarded!

Although the folks in the video are Texans, the difficulty isn’t necessarily related to proximity. The men in my family were all born and raised in a state with towns and streets with names like Hiawatha, Minnehaha, Winona and Shakopee, but they still have to say “Weyauwega” three or four times before they get it right.

Hard to pronounce or not, it’s still a cool name. According to Wikipedia, Weyauwega means ‘here we rest’ because “the town’s origin was a stopping/resting point between two rivers when Indians had to portage their canoes.”

Seems appropriate to me. Although I don’t foresee myself and the Jarhead doing a lot of portaging in the future, once he’s retired, we do expect to get our canoe on, and to do a lot of resting.

Well, that’s it for this episode. Be sure to tune in next time when I present—

The Top 10 Reasons to Love Weyauwega!

See you then!




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