What? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Surprise. Shock. Amazement. Those are the reactions we’ve gotten over the last couple of days when we’ve told people that we were actually contemplating selling our 97 year old house and moving into one that was built in 2005. It may be hard to believe that old house nuts like ourselves would consider doing that, but we have realized that we may be at a turning point in our lives. What point, you ask? The one where we woke up and realized that we’re really, really getting sick of always having to work on the house. The point where we realized that the house owns us and not the other way around. The fact that we just figured out that we now have two little kids living with us.

It all started last weekend, when Stephanie found a listing for this house in SE Portland:

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The first question you might ask yourself is why someone that lives in a perfectly good house that’s at least 80% remodeled needs to be looking at listings on the internet. I ask that question all the time, because once in awhile something like this happens. Most times I can take a look at what Stephanie found and point out that the house was actually a remodeling setback, and then she’d say “yeah, you’re right…but I really love it” and let it go. Well, this time I was really interested when I saw the pictures, too, because as Stephanie pointed out…this was a house that needed no work! And it looked like a seriously cool loft, but with a yard and without the monthly dues.

We ended up getting in there for a tour, and it really was a great house. In the end there were some practical considerations that caused us to rule it out (like the fact that it had only 1 bedroom), but it really got us talking. If our current house had actually been far enough along that we could have sold it, I’d probably be posting about our new house right now. There were some ways that a room or two could have easily been partitioned to create an extra bedroom (hey, that sounds an awful lot like remodeling…), but in the end common sense prevailed.

We are actually open to the idea of living in something more modern, but what we can’t stand are all the generic, characterless houses that have been built over the last 4 or 5 decades. If it’s not going to be old, it’s got to be unique. We may even consider building something someday. Just today I learned about container houses, where people are converting used steel shipping containers and using them for the structure of a house. They can be used for portable housing, low cost housing, emergency housing or just to make a statement. I can’t imagine anything stronger than a house built out of them.Β  It’d be pretty much everything-proof. I’m getting the vibe that Stephanie isn’t willing to live in a collection of cargo containers , but if I were single I’d go build one right now.

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We have decided to start hiring out more of the work around here, which should accomplish two things. Ideally, it will just make us feel less oppressed by all the projects and get us back on track. If not, it will get us to the point that we could realistically sell the house, allowing us to consider other options.

We welcome anyone’s input on this. Have you ever been in a chronic remodeling situation and wanted out? Did you take the plunge or not? Did it work out like you thought?

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12 thoughts on “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!

  1. Arrrgh! I just typed a long-winded comment and lost it because I mis-typed the captcha!

    Synopsis: Make sure you won’t look back with regret if you do sell, and whatever you do, keep blogging!

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  2. The only way I’d go to something new is if it were built green, extremely efficient and had lots to cool character (uber modern, tons of style). I agree with your dislike of lack of personality in so many homes built recently. They are all “neo” this or “neo” that and end up looking like a young child picked up legos and designed the house. To top it off, they are made by builders who could care less as is often seen on “Holmes on Homes”.

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  3. I totally relate to the frustration of working on the house with two small kids– mine are 4 and 1. I find that I’m less bothered by the enormity of my list of repair/improvement projects as I am by the glacial pace with which I can complete projects when marriage, work and parenting take higher priority. Some days I want to chuck it all and move, but in my most honest moments I realize that I would probably find things I wanted to change or fix with any place I lived. Remodeling is as much about the homeowner as it is about the house.

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  4. Remodeling is as much about the homeowner as it is about the house
    This is what I’m afraid of. I think where we’d really like to be is to the point where all the “have to” work is done, and we still have some long term projects to satisfy those remodeling urges when they kick up.

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  5. I totally understand where you’re coming from. Remodeling or raising two kids by themselves can each be quite a challenge. Put the two together and it gets hard to keep your head above water. I sometimes find myself longing for more “finished space” and the large, open floorplans of modern houses. It’s a trade-off for sure, and as your family grows, your priorities change.

    If you do decide to move make sure you take into consideration all the costs of moving: Realtor’s fees, moving van, cost to get your house ready to sell, closing costs on your new loan (easy to forget about that since it’s usually rolled into the loan), etc…. Then compare that to the cost of hiring a GC to “finish” the house you’re in. Then of course there are the intangibles: Do you like your neighborhood? How’s the commute? If your house was “done” would it meet all of your needs?

    Good luck!

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  6. We bought our house with the intention of living in it for no more the 5 years. At the 3 year mark, we had finished all of the minor work, and had only major undertakings left. It was at that point that we set out to see what was on the market. We knew that if we were going to move we required an upgrade. There was NO WAY we were going through the trouble of packing up the house to have, as you say, a remodeling set-back.

    What we found was that most required more work than ours, were out of our price range, or we further out than we wanted to live.

    We took a month off from projects, and then jumped in to tackle the bigger stuff. Currently, we are working on the bathroom addition that we hoped we’d have done last November.

    Have we ever wanted to jump ship? YES!!! But, at this point our house is so customized to us that even if we moved into a “completed” house I would be begging Chris to tile the fireplace “like our old house.”

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  7. I understand where you’re coming from–I just moved into an 82-year-old home and the list of projects is daunting. But I just left a six-year-old condo, and the list of work there was plain depressing. (It’s a six unit building.)

    Most new construction is simply not as good as stuff built decades ago. Within a few years of moving in, the condo needed a new roof, new juliet balconies, deck repairs, replaced doors and locks, and a new garage door. There’s more repairs to come, but we wiped out a large chunk of our reserves taking care of stuff we would not have anticipated needing to address for 15 to 20 years.

    Our inspector told us that this was a national problem; aside from sub-par construction, new systems aren’t always designed to go with other new systems, and old houses breathe better overall.

    New homes have a whole different set of problems and upkeep requirements.

    If you are thinking new construction, I’d suggest being there from the design phase on so you have control over all aspects.

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  8. I am so NOT surprised by this. First, I look at both Bay Area and Portland housing all the time. It’s an obsession I cannot break. Second of all, there are days when I just don’t want to look at something else that needs to be fixed. And in the last two years, modern homes have grown on me and the one you found above is a GEM. I definitely get the appeal.

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  9. Thanks Casacaudill! Julio thinks my obsession with scanning the real estate listings is nuts, so it’s nice to know that I am not alone. πŸ™‚

    Not wanting to look at something else that needs to be fixed? Hoo boy, can I relate! How nice would it be to answer the question “what do you want to do this weekend?” with “go to the beach!” instead of “we could stain trim, or tile the kitchen, or patch the roof, or….”

    Don’t get me wrong. We definitely understand that “new home” doesn’t necessarily equal “no problems” but for a brief moment in time, the appeal of moving somewhere “finished” was undeniable. But when we caught ourselves saying “we could add a bedroom above the living room” and “we could build a loft and catwalk at the mezzanine level and connect the great room to the sleeping porch” it became clear that no matter where we live, we will always dream up new remodeling projects. So, ultimately, moving would simply have meant trading one big renovation for another, and the truth is, we’ve grown pretty fond of this “bungalow insanity.” πŸ™‚

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  10. Oh yes, we “look” all the time! (Sort of like cheating isn’t it?) Not so much because of remodel fatigue, though that is certainly rearing its ugly head as we prepare for the arrival of becoming-baby. For us its that any way you slice it the upstairs with the bedrooms is just too damn small and sinking more money into the house in this market (and in our neighborhood) doesn’t seem prudent.

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