"Your hair looks beautiful!" the assistant at DiPietro Todd in Walnut Creek, said to me last weekend, after a color, some highlights, and a professional blow dry. I'd rushed across town to make the appointment after a vigorous morning of volunteer gardening at the AIDS Grove in Golden Gate Park and the difference was dramatic. (Those talented hairdressers work magic and they are worth every penny!)
"It should," I happily conceded, "I spend a fortune on it." (Not that my husband needs to know that.)
Regrettably, it's not just my hair that requires ongoing upkeep as I age - almost everything requires more maintenance these days (only my hairdresser knows for sure). Let's admit it, we all benefit from some general upkeep and ongoing maintenance from time to time.
Not surprisingly, homes are much the same. Now that the sun is shining and winter seems to have finally abated, I have been busy hiring one handyman after another to help me whip our property into fine form (Cliff is a lot of wonderful things, but "handy" isn't one of them). The windows have all been cleaned, the bricks, power washed, and I currently have a painter at the house working on several items that require overdue attention.
A tree company removed a very large and problematic Oak (I don't care how "majestic" they are, they're a mess). I've been pruning or planting every spare moment, the gutters are scheduled to be replaced, a new automatic garage door is the next item on my agenda, and I've asked my husband for wall-to-wall shelving in the garage for Mother's Day. (It ain't sexy, but it's organized.)
There's never a shortage of chores "to do," especially after the BIG storms we all experienced as of late. Ah, the joys of home ownership!
Still, as I check off each "done" item, I get a growing sense of satisfaction. These are gold-plated problems to be sure, but they need to be dealt with nonetheless. While I can't necessarily afford everything I'd like to do in the moment (One day I'll gleefully GUT the kitchen - heck, I'll take a sledge hammer to it myself.) I'm methodically chipping away at those items I can do, and I know that eventually I'll repair or replace the rest (just in time to start over I suppose).
I am inspired by my current clients and friends who have spent the last quarter of a century restoring their magnificent Victorian here in town: www.55Craig.com. They remind me that these labors of love, don't have to happen all at once; that patience is a virtue. Hmmm, that one I haven't quite yet mastered.
I have also had my share of Sellers who have unfortunately, let their homes deteriorate, and only when they contemplate bringing their houses to market do they finally address the long list of defects that now need immediate attention. (Oh dear!) They'll often need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to make their homes shine, and once having done so, they invariably ask themselves why they didn't improve their properties for themselves? (It's a fair question.)
Right now, I'm lucky to be working with two sets of Sellers, both of whom have taken meticulous care of their homes throughout the years, which makes it so much easier to prepare their properties for sale. Rather than eradicating termites and fixing the foundation, their lists are much more manageable and include items such as polishing the floors, mulching the gardens, and editing their closets, as is appropriate.
Not that they aren't working like dogs - THEY ARE (a strange phrase as my dog lives a life of complete leisure). Selling a home, even under the best of circumstances, is always a TON of work. But they aren't coming up against unanticipated and expensive repairs. Instead, they are staging their homes, primping their gardens, deep cleaning, and purging, as is appropriate.
So get your Spring cleaning groove on, clear out the attic (no one wants that old highchair anyway) and touch up the chips on the exterior stairs. Make a list of items that should be addressed - sooner rather than later - and then check them off as time and money allow.
Believe me, your diligence now will save you thousands down the road. Moreover, you will more likely retain your home's value, and realize the benefits while you are still living in the home, instead of someone else enjoying the fruits of your labor. A healthy home is a smart investment and I suspect you have worked hard to earn it. Now make sure your home stays in "fine form."
Speaking of "fine form," I've got to run, BOOT CAMP is calling. There's always more maintenance that's required. Just get used to it and do the work.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.