The route to a ready-to-sell home has many turns and detours

#603 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2010, Hills Newspapers

It’s been exactly 19 days, less than 3 weeks, that we’ve been working on our next listing. I can’t believe what we have managed to change in such a short time. Our good seller and her daughter moved to a friend’s cottage, took everything they wanted and left what they didn’t. The house was turned over to us on May 2.

Earlier we had done a general inspection so we knew what we needed to know about the basic structure. We spent some hours alone at the house considering how best to spend money in prep. Certainly paint and refinishing wood floors but also appliances were needed and we wanted perhaps most of all to change the built-in electric cooktop to gas.

We called our experts and we went to the city. We gathered information about how the sewer ordinance would apply for this house, how much it would cost to run a gas line for the stove, who we would hire to replace crumbly sheetrock.

We called the fireplace man and the earthquake retrofit man and also looked at what we could do to prepare for the termite inspection.

We made a list of all the small repairs we thought the house would benefit by, things like new furnace outlets, matching door knobs, doorstops and towel bars.

The best room in this house is the large kitchen, large enough for cooking, eating, entertaining and doing laundry. The biggest part of our budget would be to bring this room up to date and looking great. Already there were many cabinets, lots of storage and Formica counters in pretty good shape. But the area around the cooktop had been damaged and so we spent time pricing and trying to decide if all the counters had to be replaced. We’d rather spend the money on new appliances. Plus we felt that the existing counters with white appliances would make for a friendlier, warmer look and feel than other materials would, so that’s what we opted for.

First we hired a man to cut out the area around the cooktop and replace it with stainless steel that extends up the back of the wall to the fan hood. The cooktop we’d be using was needed for exact measurements and so we quickly shopped for one both online and in local stores. We brought it to the house within a couple of days and our guy built a plywood framework to which stainless steel would be attached. We carried the plywood to a sheet metal shop where steel was cut and formed to it; we took it to the house and it was installed. Start to finish was about 12 days.

We chose white appliances; we like the look better than stainless, especially with plain flat-fronted painted cabinets, which are actually our favorite. It took some doing but we were thrilled to be able to buy new white cooktop and hood, Bosch dishwasher, refrigerator with freezer drawer at the bottom and automatic ice cube maker, garbage disposal and wall oven, for a total of $3,000. It cost extra to install but all were delivered to the house (different delivery windows, of course, kind of inconvenient) and the old appliances were recycled.

The garden was weeded and some pruning was done. Sheetrock went up and was mudded. Our furnace man got there to replace a duct and found that the furnace had a hole in the heat exchanger. That meant a new furnace. But the sewer situation turned out better than we had budgeted for so we switched the money over to furnace replacement and decided we had enough to change out the electrical main.

We moved on to paint colors and light fixtures. Tulip Floors sanded and repaired discolored boards so expertly, so well, it took our breath away, all in 4 days. Our window expert replaced broken ropes on double hung windows and built glass doors for the dining room built-in. We brought home the bath fan cover and the cold air return to clean and spray paint.

Somewhere in here a very large and well established bee hive was discovered inside the garage walls. No one could work in the vicinity. First a “swarm man” tried to get the queen so the others would follow and he could relocate the entire community. He tried for a couple of days but in the end, the “removal man” opened the wall, scraped out huge amounts of honeycomb and vacuumed up the bees.

Light fixtures always take a lot of time, time worth taking we think. We shopped and shopped, we went through our own stash of fixtures, we finally had the dining room fixture made of selected parts at Omega Too, and we think it’s perfect. Others we found at Ikea and Ace Hardware. Painting and gardening are in process.

Not everything is done yet; it’ll take another 3 weeks to get the house on the market in mid-June, but it is looking really wonderful and its underlying condition and systems are good too. We think both the seller and the buyer of this house will be getting what they need. And we are so enjoying ourselves.

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