Talkin’ ’bout my renovation…

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We bought a house in a pretty nice town

(talkin’ ’bout my renovation)

Hear the peacocks all around

(talkin’ ’bout my renovation)

Everything needs to be replaced

(talkin’ ’bout my renovation)

Via Corona’s a total disgrace 

(talkin’ ’bout my renovation)

This is my renovation

This is my renovation, baby

 . . . okay . . .we may have recently seen The Who in concert.  On a school night no less.  Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and my Dad are all the same age, but I digress . . .

Today’s post is a joint effort.

We looked at houses all over Los Angeles  proper for more than a year.  It likely comes as no surprise that I (TMH) developed a Google Doc to track the highs and lows of the 100+ open houses and showings we attended.

Of that 100+, there were exactly six in our price range we thought we might like enough to actually buy.  There is hesitancy in this statement because the market here moves so quickly you often have to bang out an offer while you are seeing the house for the first time.

Of those, we made offers on four.

Three of the four sold for more than the list price–including one that went for $200,000 over asking.

Nope.  Not a typo.

We went into escrow on two.

We bought one.

Buying a house in Los Angeles is a tough gig.

Unless you are a gagillionaire (and LA is crawling with ’em), compromise is the name of the game in Los Angeles.  Compromise is the sassy neighbor of settling.  Compromise insists you surrender to the reality that being responsible, dual income adults will net you a bend-over-and-take-it tax rate but won’t necessarily yield an affordable dwelling.  Swimming pools, movie stars indeed.

Compromise gently  waterboards you until you accept that you’re ultimately going to pay far more than you wanted for far less than you’d hoped.   Once you finally give in, it then becomes about finding the house that sucks least.

How the idea of “sucks least” is operationalized depends on the buyer.  In our case it was about finding a house with enough space to host guests, located anywhere South of the 10, North of the 710 and preferably West of the 405. (Note:  For those of you who don’t live in the Southland, read a handy primer on why we refer to our freeways as advanced articles HERE.)  

At this point we’d like to give major props to our fantastic agent, Ashley Sackerman Bell.  Ever patient and helpful, Ashley effectively helped us buy two houses: Via Corona and the one we cancelled escrow on last minute.  I consider myself a pretty practical person and not especially prone to hysterics.  But man, there were moments…like when after two inspections confirming the presence of disturbed asbestos at “the house we didn’t buy” the sellers claimed it was our word against theirs (and their word refused to confirm or deny the presence of asbestos).  Luckily we figured out very early on that all we had to do was call Ashley and she’d be the constant voice of reason.   She put up with a haunted clown house, obnoxious selling agents, one dirty old man house owner, a pretty paltry house budget by Los Angeles standards and most importantly: us.  If you are looking for an agent, Ashley is your real estate professional.   

As you may have guessed from that anvil we’ve been beating you over the head with for the last three weeks (subtlety: not our strong suit), we didn’t instantly fall in love with Via Corona.  Though, she did offer up this beauty:

If you can’t tell, our little nymph  here is actually tiled into the wall right outside of the powder room.  Permanently.  We’re not sure if she’s returning the urn or stealing it like some kind of distaff Indiana Jones.  We’re going with the latter though because it makes her seem way more bad ass.

But.  But.  We (well, at least one of us) really do believe that with some love and attention, Via Corona might just be able to toss her glasses, shake out her ponytail and become suddenly, stunningly beautiful.

As soon as the structural engineer confirmed that the house wasn’t going anywhere, we started calling builders and contractors.  To be very, very clear: we have zero DIY ability.  I (TMH) can manage a project and a budget like it’s my job and TD can come up with more adjectives to describe “fixer upper” than the OED (most of which rhyme with spit bowl).  But, as we’ve said before, “almost” isn’t the same as “being” fixed.  So, to the professionals we defer.

Finding a builder was like a fairy tale – if that fairy tale is Goldilocks and the Three Bears–and the bears are actually 10-12 hirsute men (where are all the women contractors?).  Being home renovation neophytes, we were floored when, upon committing to a major renovation, a pair of Canadian twins with giant teeth  (that’s TD talking…the original sentence read “attractive Canadian twins”) didn’t just magically show up at Via Corona prepared with 3D renderings and witty sibling banter.

Stupid HGTV.

More on the builder-selection process once all this is said and done.  They say you aren’t supposed to talk during a no-hitter.  So, out of an abundance of caution, we’ll be shutting up for the whole game.  Including the drive home.  At least when it comes to dishing about our builders.

But, that won’t keep us from sharing the project list.  if you’re scoring at home, here’s the entirety of everything our current contract says we’re taking on:

  • Plumbing (all of it)
  • Electrical (all of it)
  • Rewire for cable, wifi and alarm systems
  • Sewer (done…dodged a major bullet, doesn’t need to be completely replaced or lined – they removed a root that looked like a decent-sized platypus)
  • Exterior cosmetic (anyone want a crapload of fake river rocks?)
  • Living room addition
  • Replace and reconfigure deck
  • Downstairs powder room
  • Guest bathroom–including moving everything around to create an en-suite
  • Master bathroom–including moving everything around to create a shower that wasn’t made for an elf
  • Juliet balcony off master.  Maybe. But don’t hold your breath
  • Walk-in master closet
  • Kitchen
  • Laundry room
  • Fireplace
  • Raise the 6’8″ ceiling in foyer (complete with 110% chance of finding asbestos!)
  • Raise the 7’0″ ceiling in upstairs hallway
  • Replace ALL flooring, baseboards, door and window frames
  • Replace all interior doors and hardware
  • Replace front door
  • Replace garage door
  • Interior paint through-out
  • Trim trees

So basically, like Demi More at 40, we are replacing the entire house with younger, newer parts.  Adjusted for inflation, Via Corona will still cost more to rejuvenate–like five Demis as much.  So, if you know any millionaires looking to make an indecent proposal…either one–or both of us would be into it.

Via Corona is the gift that keeps on giving.

It’s a miracle she don’t have mold (talkin’ ’bout a renovation)

She ain’t gonna die, but she sure is old (talkin’ ’bout a renovation)

And just because we were so proud of ourselves that we did SOMETHING on our own (we’re still patting ourselves on the back), here is a picture of what was formerly the master and smaller bedrooms’ reach-in closets.  Hello future walk-in closet!

UP NEXT WEEK:  “All that you can’t leave behind”

Next Up: Episode 4: All that you can’t leave behind

View a listing of all Via Corona posts: Via Corona

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