Saturday, May 26, 2007

5/26/07 More open houses

Friday, we met with a realtor who claims to be an expert in our area, to get a feel for how much our house is worth. This is necessary information for the "remodel v. move" debate.

It was a productive meeting, and we really like this realtor. He's straightforward and informative. Indeed, my awful kitchen seriously depresses the value of our house, but he did say there were many positives of our house, and many unusual features.

The realtor came prepared with "comps," meaning, comparable houses for sale in the area. Comps for our house are challenging because there really are no houses quite like it, but some are more dissimilar than others. Two of the "comp" houses he showed us (on paper) had Open Houses today, so for fun (??), I took Julian and Katrina for a look.

(Dave took Gabriel to the
Watsonville Fly-In and Air Show, getting a preview of what it's like to spend a day being with your kid instead of primarily taking care of your kid, as one does with toddlers and babies. Julian had a mega-meltdown as Dave and Gabriel were leaving without him, disappointed beyond control about being left behind, poor thing. I did my best to make it up to him, though open-housing isn't exactly a fun kid-centered activity.)

Anyway. We got to see what $1.5M in Sunnyvale buys you, which is a larger house than we have, but still, some of the same old problems. A fridge on the other side of a too-small island from the sink. Bathrooms that need upgrading. Major landscaping maintenance. For-show-only bathtubs in master bathrooms. Crummy aluminum windows.

And then there's this. In a $1.5M master bedroom, here's your cable and phone:

In our master bedroom, and entire upstairs, and entire downstairs if we remodel, here's your cable, phone (2), and ethernet, in a single outlet:

Our master bedroom has 5 such data/phone/cable outlets alone, with the intent of not having to string wires around doors. All 9 upstairs data/phone/cable outlets are wired back to a subpanel in the attic (pictured), and homed to a master panel in the basement. Our garage and office also have such outlets, and the rest of the downstairs is poised to. (Yes, of course we can say "wireless," but so far it's only served to augment, not replace, good old land lines.)

Our house has all sorts of customizations that are, in some cases, a little over-the-top. But I like them. That's why I (even we in some cases), made them happen. I like my master bath with two showerheads and perfect bathtub and thermostatic valves (even if the bathroom is too small for a master). I love our underfloor hydronic radiant heat downstairs. I like our funky tilt-and-turn-hopper dormer windows. I like our upstairs wood floors, wood trim and doors; now that I've been open-housing, I see that it really stands out. I like our beautiful, bright, huge, if sorely under-utilized, garage. And I like our ultra-handy data/phone/cable outlets upstairs.

But I also know what I don't like. Open-housing with a three-year-old ranks right up there.

In fairness, Julian can be quite cute and charming too, when people address him directly. But he's mostly resoundingly irritating when I'm trying to talk to someone, and he's pulling on Katrina's feet or winding around my legs and just being a general nuisance, as only a 3-year-old can be.

Realtors, however, adore smiley petite baby Katrina. Still, she's some work too, as she makes it hard to hold things in my hands, lunging for everything with both arms outstretched, throwing her entire not-quite-14-pounds into the effort like a desert-crossing horse crazed with thirst. It's amazing how much damage such a tiny little person can do.

Ah yes, another thing you get in a $1.5M kitchen:

A range-top on an island, but underneath it is the same exact mess of exposed pipes and vents in a barely-usable prime-access space, with crudely cut contact paper to cover the bare wood on the bottom, as is in the nasty kitchen you're trying to leave behind.

I don't necessarily need a brand-new kitchen, but I also don't need a painful move (painful for the whole family) and leaving behind many things I like, only to get the same sorts of problems. I'm feeling entitled to an upgrade, and am rather cranky about the stunning price tags on these so-so houses.

In fairness, in a $1.2M brand-new house in Willow Glen, you get actual drawers under the range-top, in about the handiest place possible. This sort of uber-function gives me butterflies in my stomach.

And I just love the farmhouse-style sink.

In completely unrelated, far more cheerful news, I went running at Rancho San Antonio tonight, my first run of the week. And what do you think I saw at the end of Coyote Trail? An actual coyote!


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