It's been an active Fall season for me, both personally and professionally, and one filled with exciting changes. Our high-school graduate headed off to college in Arizona. (He's adjusting to Freshman life at the U of A, while I'm adjusting to a quieter home life back here in Piedmont - thank you very much!) His absence has given me license to gut the entire downstairs and make long overdue adjustments to the existing floor plan. (A too funky bathroom had begun to resemble a science experiment - sound familiar?)
In both cases - departure and renovation - there is an audible disturbance to the force, and although I miss my elder son (just a wee bit) I am extremely excited about his new journey - as well as my own. (Not everyone gets turned on by a construction site, but I do!) It's a fresh start and a reinvention of sorts - for both Case and for me.
As a Realtor, the magic of "reinvention" comes in handy whenever I help sellers prepare their homes for market, which typically includes fresh paint and carpets, purged closets, updated lighting and primped gardens, BUT may also evolve to encompass entire kitchen and bathroom remodels as well. Not infrequently, once the workmen have left, the Sellers will invariably turn to me, and say, "Gee, I wish we had done this while we were still living here!" (So true!)
Heeding their observations, I am seizing upon my son's absence (and input) in order to execute some badly needed changes to the house that will benefit my family now. If we wait much longer, Tristan will be off to greener pastures and Cliff and I may find that A) our home is larger than we require, OR B) we are too broke to make the improvements. (Both likely scenarios in light of the expense of higher education!)
While we remodel downstairs, we will also earthquake retrofit the home, address some termite damage, replace an inefficient and outdated furnace and water heater, insulate the exterior walls, and put in new windows. Will these items add significant value to the home? Not likely, but they will certainly take away several objectionable hurdles that would likely be negotiated against the selling price when we do eventually decide to move on.
More importantly, these upgrades should significantly reduce our monthly utility bills and dramatically improve the way we actually live in our home today and that's really the end goal and the smarter choice to my way of thinking.
Gone will be the dark stairwell and long hallways, better suited to vampire bats, to be replaced by a sunny open family room, a brand new bath, a more convenient laundry area, a handy mud room and two bright new bedrooms (yeah!) While I believe each of these changes is ultimately practical (and will add tremendously to the home's appeal) I'm not necessarily expecting them to be profitable. Yes, our home is an investment, but it's first and foremost, our home - not a bank. Like many of us, the aesthetic choices I make regarding my home may not always be practical (a new duvet cover is nice but it doesn't add value) but they are, more often than not, justifiable.
So embrace change! These are indeed, interesting times and change (hopefully for the better) seems to me, to be a natural progression. I for one, am looking forward to it. Whatever comes up, I know that Cliff and I (and Case and Tristan) will handle these transitions the same way we address all changes - by simply placing one foot in front of the other and moving forward.
Reflecting on how far we have already come, it is amazing to me to contemplate just how far we can still go . . . and we will do it step-by-step.
Now isn't that exciting? I think so. . .
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.