Jill's away on vacation in Marblehead which leaves me manning the store alone. Even on holiday, she couldn't resist sending me a photo of a charming seaside building she spotted while out on a walk with her girlfriends. It makes for a good Instagram Post to be sure, but as your Realtor, I wouldn't recommend such a purchase unless you're ready to take on a major "fixer.'
Zoom in and it's not nearly so charming after all. I don't mean to be judgemental (uh yeah, I do) but someone needs to replace those windows and power wash the shingles, post haste!
While Jill collects seashells at the seashore, I've just put a darling young family into contract on their first home in Alameda. It's a bit of a "diamond in the rough" so it's no surprise that it comes with a few issues that require attention, some of which are immediately apparent (dated kitchen and bathrooms) and some which are not (dry rot, galvanized pipes, termites).
Wisely, most of these items were called out in the inspections the SELLERS conducted and disclosed prior to the offer date. In other words, this is a fairly well-documented house. Even so, as the only Buyers to emerge (a lucky break), my clients were able to include an inspection period to check on some of the issues that were outlined, but not necessarily well-qualified (asbestos-covered ducts, minor roof repairs), and to gather bids on items that will aesthetically improve the house from day one (removing soiled carpets to reveal hardwood floors beneath). The Buyers won't necessarily negotiate on these findings (although they might), but they'll have a much clearer picture of the scope of work required and the costs involved.
Unfortunately, multiple offers and STIFF competition on the majority of homes here in the Bay Area often means that the Buyers' due diligence has gone the way of the Dodo bird and that's too bad. We'd all be better protected from litigation if the escrow period proceeded with more parity. In truth, the best negotiations are those in which each side has given and gained in equal measure. But either way, given that our homes often represent our single largest investment, it's prudent to have a thorough understanding of not only the cost to buy a property, but the cost to own. In short, the bigger the house, the bigger the potential problems!
I spent the night with a good friend in Sonoma on Tuesday at her beautiful Tuscan-like estate a couple of miles from the town square. Andrea is in the midst of a substantial kitchen remodel which should make the house even more stunning once the work is completed. Her scenic property sits on a few acres, has a built-in pool, bocce ball court, working vineyard, a guest house and everything many of us dream about owning one day. It also has a leach field, a specialized irrigation system, solar heating, and came far too close for comfort to the Camp Fires last year. (Gratefully, their home didn't burn, although nearby neighbors' homes did.)
Her list of "To Dos" to keep the property up and running and fully functioning is nearly a full-time job and as a "vacation" home, I'm keenly aware that Andrea's not on vacation most of the time she's there. (Vacation homes may be like boats; they're better when other people own them, and we get to be the lucky recipients.)
Here in the East Bay, many of our homes are approaching the 100-year mark and while relatively young compared to their East Coast counterparts, they're no less prone to ongoing maintenance. In truth, even new homes require yearly tune-ups. In other words, EVERY home requires vigilance and care! The point is, you want to manage any concerns while they are still manageable, and not wait until your repairs have grown in both scope and price. (No amount of skill is going to repair those windows; they're headed to the trash heap.) As someone who's been involved in her fair share of renovations over the years, it's been my experience that construction only gets more expensive the longer we delay.
And on that note, if the last time your property had an inspection was when you purchased it many years ago, you might want to give your house a periodic "check up" so that any unrealized issues aren't a major shock or setback come time to sell. Even if you never plan to leave, looking under the hood every few years wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea. In fact, it'd be a very good one. (Our cars have regular tune-ups, why not our homes?)
So let me know if you need a vendor or two. I've got a long list of inspectors, handymen, and contractors ready to jump in; you can find them at JulieGardner.com under "Our Team." You'll also find window washers, gutter cleaners, housekeepers, etc., to help you keep your house in tip-top order because not only is it the sensible thing to do, it's the "centsible" thing to do.
Take it from a Realtor, Homeowner, Property Manager, Before & After Specialist and a "Serial Renovator," retaining the value of your home should be HIGH on your list of priorities.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.