Style and a Neighbor's Open House

When your neighbors have an open house, what do you do?

 You go.

My next-door neighbors recently had an open house and I couldn't keep myself from it. I didn't want to look too eager thus did not show up the minute the open house signs were erected, however I was somewhat punctual. 

I liked being the neighbor at the open house. The realtor asked me about my interest in the property, and as soon as I said, "I'm a neighbor." The realtor moved on to other house hunters and I perused in peace. My viewing was so peaceful, that I may use the "I'm a neighbor" refrain more frequently.

Source: Wikipedia
After numerous open houses over the past two years, I can say my neighbors were absolutely ready for an open house. They had cleaned, de-cluttered and staged somewhat. The one thing that troubled me with the open house, however, was the home's interior style.

Because of catalogs like Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and websites like Pinterest, modern homes all start to look the same. For better or for worse the sameness quality immediately draws one to a house, because what you are seeing is familiar.  

My neighbors house wasn't picture-perfect. They had remodeled the kitchen and had bought new furniture, but it wasn't what is in fashion today. This oddity of style impacted my impression of the home and I am sure many other visitors as well. Other homes in my neighborhood have gone into contract within a week of being on the market this home did not and I can only blame it on style or taste, because everything else about the house was right.

I recently talked to a realtor about putting my home on the market. He immediately talked about having a professional stager come in and stage our house while all of our belongings went into storage. I was dumbfounded by such a comment. The realtor obviously didn't know about my open house past-time, but beyond that I couldn't imagine putting everything I own in storage and then living with borrowed furniture while I waited for my home to be sold. Is this the price to pay for selling real estate or is it only the price to pay if you want to sell real estate fast?

My neighbors home finally went into contract. It sat on the market three times longer than other homes in the neighborhood. So, does style matter? Only if you want to sell your home lightning fast.


First Time on the Market!

3 bedroom, 2 bath
1,555 square feet

"First Time on the Market!" read the opening words from the real estate ad. The homes in this particular neighborhood were all of the 1960's vintage, and from the pictures on the website I could tell the home was in it's original state. I had to visit.

The home appeared average from the curb. What was not average, however, was the love and care given to the home in 55 years of ownership.The first clue of superb care: pocket doors. In 1966, pocket doors were the rage. It was a simple way to block off rooms of the house so ruckus adults could cocktail in the front while precious children slept in the back. The doors also streamlined rooms and made bathroom quarters more private. I once lived in a vintage 1960's home (which had had several owners before me), and most the pocket doors had been removed and sheet rocked over. The one door that remained was sticky on its tracks and sometimes didn't like to move. I attributed the stickiness to the age of the door, never tired to fix it, and just lived with it. I was wrong.

The house yesterday had numerous pocket doors and they all slid along their tracks as perfectly as the day they were installed. I marveled as I slid the first door back and forth. This simple example showed me that when something is well made and you take care of it, it will always take care of you.

After obsessing with the pocket doors I wandered into the kitchen. It too was model home 1966 perfect. There were Formica counter-tops complete with flecks of glitter and the
original cabinets had been painted in two tones to enhance their sleek styling. I recognized the stove from my childhood; a GE push button stove. It was not stained nor in any ill-repair, but again lovingly maintained so it could aid in nourishing the people who lived there.

In my tour of Open Houses, I've seen many remodeled homes with the latest gadgetry and trends (i.e. kitchen islands and granite). This home reminded me that there is beauty in working to maintain what you have. In our society we are pushed to think having the newest item is the goal. The home I visited yesterday reminded me that maintaining and cherishing what one has should be the goal.


Buyer Beware: Don't Trust the Signs

4 bedroom, 3.5 bath
3,195 square feet

I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago. The blog entry wrote itself furiously fast, then I carelessly hit delete instead of post. I've tried to re-create those original words to the best of my memory, and I present it here:

Today's open house was gargantuan in comparison to the homes I've been visiting. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. The ad claimed the home was over 3,000 square feet, however the size didn't hit me until I actually visited the home.

A steep staircase carried me from the driveway to the front door above. I opened the heavy door and found an entry way littered with shoes. New carpet had been laid and the realtor asked all visitors to remove their foot wear. I donned my sweet baby blue booties and started my trek.

Off of the recently remodeled kitchen one could peer down into the neighbor's pool below. It felt odd and somewhat wrong to stare, the neighbor had zero privacy. The view toward the pool was slightly obstructed by an old arbor with dead vines. As I stared out the sliding glass door toward the pool, a sign taped to the door caught my eye. The sign read: "neighbor plans to remove and rebuild arbor." Buyer beware: you should never buy a house with the promise of what a neighbor might do in the future.

This sign turned out the be the first of many odd signs hung about the house. Some were taped to the wall haphazardly, while others were presented in thick stylish black frames and hung with hammer and nail. I couldn't decide if I liked the the entire signage concept.  Besides signs promising what a neighbor might do in the future, other signs talked of a room's potential or a space for a future laundry room (even through the house already had one). There was also a 'Do Not Enter' sign taped across the doorway into the garage which wasn't right at an Open House.

Considering all the signs, this Open House seemed to be offered as if it were still under construction or a model home on the subdivision tract where developers are trying to sell empty lots, however this home was neither of those. The home was finished and inhabited by a family so the signs did not help, but hindered my visit of the large home. 


The Open House & Curb Appeal

3 bedroom, 2 bath
2,083 square feet

The photographer they hired was talented. I put this particular Open House on my list because the backyard looked like a fabulous oasis and the front of the home gave a hint of art deco glam, circa 1930. As my husband drove down the narrow street with cars parked haphazardly and no real estate signs in view, I began to have my doubts. I watched the house numbers as he drove slowly in the rain. The best I could tell, we were almost there.

"Maybe they canceled because of the weather." My husband doubted aloud.

"No, it's right here," I pointed as a small real estate sign jumped into view. There was no curb appeal, I silently questioned why I had put this home on my list.

"Should we do it?" He asked.


And I'm glad we did. After we parked our car (blocking the driveway on the tight street), we walked into one of the most surprising homes I've seen. It was almost like walking through the wardrobe door in a CS Lewis novel. 

A bright naturally lit flagstone entry with a well varnished gnarled wood bench welcomed us. I wanted to hang my coat and stay, but I was just a temporary guest and began to wander.

The home owner had updated the 1930's home with every modern convenience imaginable, and it was beautiful! The bathrooms were Architectural Digest perfect with white porcelain sinks and modern stainless steel fixtures, the closets had been fitted with the Elfa storage system, a fabulously large laundry room had been carved out in the center of the home and the large kitchen was gourmet at its best.

I almost skipped from room to room, ecstatic that I had put this home on my list.

"Did you go in the backyard yet?" The realtor asked. "Don't let the rain stop you."

Out the sliding glass door off the kitchen, was the huge backyard I'd seen in the on-line photos. There were majestic redwood trees, a swimming pool, a classic cedar hot tub, a small shed which housed pool equipment and changing room complete with a shower and toilet. The yard also had stand alone building furnished as a guest bedroom. 

The rain fell harder, my husband and I did not stop wandering, but stood in the shelter of a rain proof umbrella standing over an outdoor dining table. "Do you love it?" He asked.

"Yes, this place did not look like anything from the street. What a treat!"

Going to Open Houses every week, I see much of the same thing over and over. This house is why I won't stop. Those homes which are unique or surprising are incredibly fun to look at and even more fun to imagine living in. This home would not be a good family home, but a perfect artist retreat or space for hosting salons. 

Next Sunday will be Easter, a holiday for many and probably even fewer Open Houses than Super Bowl Sunday. It's a good thing the Open House I saw yesterday was so incredible, it will tide me over.


Wet Cat Food on a Wet Day

Earlier this month I was invited to be a guest contributor to the mortgage website BeSmartee. It was my first hurrah away from my home blog. The column I wrote was easy advice for hosting open houses entitled "10 Things You Shouldn't Do When Holding An Open House", or simply Open House Dont's.

This past weekend I visited two open houses and through my visits could add two more tips to my Open House Don'ts: don't leave out wet cat food and don't hover.

Wet Cat Food
I've been to many open houses where I've encountered cats. I typically get one stern look from the cat as it scurries off under a bed or behind a piece of furniture. The run-ins are quick and harmless.The first open house I visited on Sunday had a warning taped to the front door. The rumpled piece of paper dampened by the rain put visitors on notice that cats were in residence and were not to be let outside.

I entered on alert for the cats. The felines never appeared through the entire visit, but what hit me the moment I walked into the house and stayed with me after I left was to smell of wet cat food. If one were to list scents that are objectionable, wet cat food is quite high along with fish, onions and dirty socks. The house looked like it had new carpets, but I could only smell the cat food. These particular cats were well loved in the home and had water dishes and food bowls in multiple rooms. The home owners may be great pet owners, but the food bowls should have been emptied and cleaned in favor of the three hour open house.

Hovering Realtors
I mentioned in my BeSmartee column that you want prospective buyers to feel free
to roam your house and open closets and kitchen cabinets. A realtor hovering and following one from room to room does not put a buyer at ease. The second home I visited on Sunday was empty, and I was the only one visiting the house on the rainy Sunday. The realtor followed me from room to room questioning my interest in the house. I know it's rude to spend time on your smart phone while in the company of others, but I would've felt better if he stayed in the front room and with on his phone rather than hovering.


Amenities and the Open House

My Sunday was spent at a volleyball tournament out of town. I thought at one point I could sneak out to see an Open House or two, but my daughter played too many matches and the outing never materialized. As I drove back toward Sonoma, I wondered what my blog post would feature since I had missed the inspiration in the weekly Open House. With my daughter sleeping in the backseat, I thought about all the homes I've visited. What made the good ones memorable versus meh? I figured it out. The thing that made an Open House memorable was the amenity.

The dictionary defines an amenity as: something that makes life easier or more pleasant. So yes, the amenity or thing that made the house more pleasant was what made a home memorable. Early in the 20th century, indoor plumbing or electricity were amenities, but as we have modernized our amenities have changed and become truly luxurious. Below is a list of amenities I've seen:

-Swimming pool       -Bocce Ball court                -Artist Studio
-Sauna                     -Hot Tub                            -Tennis Court
-Outdoor Kitchen     -Fire pit                             -Wine Cellar/cave
-Koi Pond                 -Game Room                      -Bonus Room

By Vic Brincat from Keswick, Ontario, Canada
The most common amenity is the swimming pool. While I do live in California, I do not live in the warm coastal region, but the cooler wine growing region. A realtor friend of mine told me that swimming pools are not seen as amenities in this cooler climate. While I hear his words, I honestly feel a bit happier and more relaxed in those homes where aqua waters beckon in the backyard. A pool makes a home feel like a small resort and everyone likes a resort living.

Game rooms are probably the next most common amenity I've seen. I only count them as such when they are a separate living space above a garage or detached from the house. When a home owner has converted a dining room to a game room, I never see it as an amenity, but instead a smaller house.

The bonus room is tricky. Realtors seemed to call it a bonus room when the space is not something that could be permitted as living space. I've seen rooms in sub-floors with ceilings that top out at 5 feet and stair cases roughed into attic areas. I would never call these types of bonus rooms amenities. The only time I would call a bonus room an amenity is when a prospective buyer could actually use the room, stand in it and feel comfortable. Low ceilings or nails poking in from the roof are not bonus rooms but should simply be labeled storage areas.

By Exscape Designs (Own work)
Outdoor kitchens seem to be gaining in popularity. The ever present backyard grill has matured and is now joined by a counter top and outdoor fridge with a seating area. Sometimes these outdoor kitchens are custom built and other times they are large pieces purchased from a home improvement store. Like the swimming pool, the outdoor kitchen screams resort living and can be enjoyed by all ages.

I look forward to next weekend and lining up my Open House visits. Perhaps my amenity list will grown. In the meantime, tell me: what is your favorite amenity?


The Oscars & The Big Short

It was Oscar night last night. I watched, because I always do. I love the pageantry and pretty dresses.  In other years, I've seen many, if not all the nominated movies. This year was different, however. Of the eight movies nominated for Best Picture, I had seen one: The Big Short. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the movie for a quick lesson in the collapse of the housing market circa 2008. When I saw the movie on Christmas Day, I cried. It cut too close. Yes, I lived through the housing crisis and yes I kept my home, but my husband and I both worked in land development and suffered lay-offs and pay reductions. We survived, but it hurt.

Last night when The Big Short was introduced as a nominee and a clip of the movie played, I cried again. I felt the loss and pain of those people who lost everything, lost the American dream they worked so hard to purchase. Yesterday was especially poignant because I had an Open House first. I visited a home that was being sold as part of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I was not greeted at the door by a realtor eager to make a sale, but a representative from the bank. He did not know anything about the house, and encouraged my husband and I to look around.

Most Open Houses I see are trying hard to be sold, with freshly planted flowers, paint, and snacks for the prospective buyers. But this home looked like those Floridian homes depicted in The Big Short. The life of the inhabitants had been stopped midstream. There was lunch half prepared on the counter and the bathroom looked like somebody was still primping themselves before the mirror. In other words, the people who lived there looked like they were home and I was an intruder. 

The man from the bank complained that the owners were not being compliant or cooperative. I felt sorry for the man trying to have the Open House, but I also felt bad for the owners. The house looked loved and also looked like it was working hard to raise a good family. It did not want to be sold. Whose fault is it? The bank for making a bad loan or the homeowners for not meeting the terms of the loan? After seeing The Big Short it seems like the blame could be placed before the lender, perhaps the loan was too easy to acquire. I thought the collapse of the housing market was over, but after my day yesterday, I just don't know. 

I usual enjoy the Oscars because the show takes me away from my day to day. I get to sip a nice drink and watch movie stars in action. Yesterday, however that did not happen. My day at the Open House followed by the scenes from The Big Short were too close together, and an unpleasant reality set in.


To Stage or not to Stage

The sun was out, the sky was blue and  I visited four open houses this past Sunday. Two of the homes were from the post WWII era (1949 and 1948), one from the 1950's and one from the 1960's. The four Open Houses were in various states of showing, one had been flipped and staged, one was empty, one looked to be a shared rental and one had been de-cluttered and mildly staged with personal belongings.

Before and after some staging
Staging seems to be all the rage, but I must say from visiting the four homes, the house which had only been staged in the living rooms and  dining room seemed to have the least soul. When a developer builds a model home and has an interior designer decorate the inside, there are still remnants that remind one of real life such as trophies in the child's bedroom or a grocery list artfully placed in the kitchen. The model homes feel real and one can imagine living in them. A half staged home absent of what would be visible in real life leaves one empty. The home half staged on Sunday was the home built in the 1950's and recently remodeled for a flip. I walked through and was not grabbed or enticed by anything I saw. 

The two homes built in the late 1940's were opposite in states of showing. One was empty, the other was not polished or Open House ready. The empty home was absolutely darling. The kitchen had black and white tile with original cabinetry off of a dining room with a built in hutch. It seems that at some point in time an owner added a sun porch on the back of the house. Although it was empty, something about the home had charm. If I were in the market, it would be desirable. The home looking like a shared rental taught me that it is imperative to prepare for an Open House. If those that lived in the house had put some things away or stored some furniture in the garage, it may have been easier to imagine the charm. The great room was great, but everything feel apart after that.

A small reminder of
family life helps buyers see
themselves in the home
The last home I visited was a single story ranch home built when ranches were the rage. From the moment I walked in the door, I could tell the owner had undertaken some serious de-cluttering. The house was clean without too much of anything anywhere. There was evidence of toddlers living in the home, but just enough to help one envision this home as a family home. Perfect.

Of the four houses visited, the clean ranch home was in the best state of showing and had the most emotional impact. Purchasing a home is an emotional decision. You want the people visiting to have an attachment the moment they walk in the door. If they are distracted by clutter, or not attracted by functional staging, there is not impact and thus no sale. If I had to show an Open House, I would either show it empty or show it clean with small reminders how life is should be lived.

For more observations and tips on Open House Don'ts, please see my guest blog post.


Old is New in Marin

5 Bedroom, 4 Bath
2,860 square feet

I hit the road today and found myself looking at Open Houses in Marin County. For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area, Marin County is the county immediately north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And as one gets closer to the Golden Gate, real estate prices increase, thus the houses today were in the $2 million range. 

There were two beautiful victorian homes in the Historic Forbes Neighborhood of San Rafael, just a few steps from one another. One home had been completely restored back to its 1889 grandeur complete with antique radiators under each window. Speaking in full hyperbole, the realtor bragged it was one of "the best restored homes in all the Bay Area." I admired each room and walked on.

'Fully modern make over' is the term to best describe the second home on the walking tour. The bathrooms and kitchen were fashioned after what is hot now: marble counter tops, sunflower shower heads, and a Japanese style bathtub. This home had once been the neighborhood eyesore and a contractor purchased it and worked hard to turn the home into something with numerous wow factors.

The 2016 version of a 1960's fixture
The first wow was the light in the front entry way. Orbital and starlike, the light begged for attention. I saw the inspiration for this light fixture last year when I visited an estate in the hills above Sonoma Valley. The estate of Dot and Bill had been built in the 1960's and nothing had been touched or modernized since. I eagerly snapped photos of the wallpaper, light fixtures and patterned carpet, like a museum employee cataloging Brutalist architecture. One light fixture in particular kept my attention for days after the Open House; the same starlike light. The stark and bare fixture flooded light in all directions, like a solar flare. The brass fixture stood over a room of shag carpet with blue and green shapes imitating the earth as if the room were a world unto itself. I sent a picture of the light to my father to prove I had traveled back to the 1960's that day.

The original 1960's light fixture
magine my amazement when I found this same light in the entry way of the thoroughly modern makeover in Marin. The Forbes home had been built in 1900, so the light fixture was not there to signify the home's historic past, but perhaps a place holder in between 1900 and 2016.


Super Bowl Sunday

4 Bedroom, 2 Bath
2,013 Square Feet

Who would have an Open House on Super Bowl Sunday? Apparently not too many people. Some Sundays I've had to prioritize my list and never make it to many of the houses that interest me, but today I had two to choose from, and one I had  already seen.

The house which my husband and I visited in the fall has been on the market for 4 months. It's a brand new home, the last to be built in a subdivision.The builder as included all the modern upgrades that a buyer would want (stainless steel appliances, giant island in the kitchen with granite counter tops and open floor plan), however the home is on a very busy thoroughfare. So busy, the home has been on the market for four months.

Down the same busy road, I found today's Open House. The home was built in 1939. The original shape or footrpint of the home was hard to determine. It seems many homeowners since 1939 have wanted to add a room here or there. The result is a home with disjointed rooms that do not quite flow.

Somebody has recently bought the property and dressed it up right with new paint, carpet and flooring throughout. The highlight of the home was the giant laundry room. Laundry rooms are many times forgotten. In my home the washer and dryer stand against a wall in the garage. In other homes the room consists of a narrow passage way in front of the washing machines. At the home today, the laundry room was larger than two of the four bedrooms. If one were handy or crafty, this would be a terrific sewing room or craft room.

I once read that real estate bargains (for single family homes) could be found along busy roads. The houses today were both well updated, however the price the owners are seeking are not the "busy street" deals I've read about. Time will tell if the owners will get the price that are asking or if the road will force a price reduction.

My Super Bowl Sunday is about to start. Ripe avocados wait on the counter...


Beware of Dog

$1,175.000 (3 bedroom, 3 bath)
1,716 Square Feet

On Saturday I ventured to the hills above Sonoma to look at a near million dollar home that I thought would be fabulously fun to write about. The posting for the open house read: owner died in home in 2016. Being January 2016 meant the owner had only been gone a short while. I wanted to see if I could feel the spirit or see any trace of the other world. I did not. The house was too sweet and cared for and the realtor has an relationship with the deceased. It felt best to not write any more and leave the recently departed at peace.

I drove away with my friend in tow. She had pointed out an Open House on our way to the Sonoma home and thought we should stop in. The listing had not been on my radar which made me curious.

The driveway for the home was an abrupt turn from Sonoma Highway. Up a short driveway a decorative wrought iron gate stood half-opened. It was not clear if we were welcome; a fully opened gate would have been more desirable. A dirt road rutted and muddied by the winter's rain forked as we descended a small hill, the garage and home were to the right and an unofficial parking area sat left.

I parked and observed all Open House signs had disappeared. Was the house really open? The warning signs caught my attention next. The classic 'Beware of Dog' sign had been tacked on a pole near my car and at another location in the distance. It suddenly felt like a "Scooby-Doo" episode. My friend warily walked on, "Hello?" she yelled.

Thankfully a man who I assumed was the realtor appeared. "Is the house open?" I asked as we approached the front door. 

"Yes of course!" He greeted, then rapidly told us the home's stats. As he spoke a dog barked. My friend and I both looked around as the kind realtor spoke. He was not phased by the barking dog.

I couldn't concentrate on one word the realtor spoke because the barking would not stop. "Come in, Come in," he begged.

The dog sounded too close to move any further. I asked, "Is the dog in the house?"

"No, no. The dog's under the house." He waved his hand toward an ankle level vent. It was now obvious where the barking came from. My friend and I now felt comfortable and entered the home. 

The house with glazed orange ceramic tile floors was open and the kitchen seemed modern enough. Some of the beds had not been made which was odd for an Open House. 

A redwood lined creek in the backyard was the property's highlight. The homeowner had poured a large concrete slab between the home and the creek; one could easily envision joyous outdoor parties in this scenic local.

As the three of us chatted on the rear deck. The realtor started pointing out the property boundaries and an old barn, I looked off to my left. A mean German Sheppard-like dog glared at the three of us standing on the deck. The realtor kept talking, and soon the dog appear off to my right, still leering and now growling under its breath.

I had seen enough. My friend and I thanked the realtor for his time and said good-bye.

"I'm trying to talk the owner into dropping the price," he yelled after us as we sprinted to the car, now aware there was a dog on the property and he apparently didn't like hosting an Open House.


Flash Sale

$639,000 (3 bedrooms, 2 bath)1,680 Square Feet

When I started this Open House blog, my intention was to produce one entry a week. I look at open houses on Sundays and could commit to writing a blog post soon after. But today, I happened upon a flash sale. It was a dreary Tuesday morning. The sun did not want to come out and the cold nipped. I did something I hate doing and went to Costco. Surprisingly Costco was a dream and I was out of there with my eggs, milk and other unforeseeables in less than 30 minutes.

At a major intersection near my home I saw numerous 'Open House' A-frame signs screaming to be noticed. It was a Tuesday, not a Sunday so the number of signs was unnecessary, but worked.With my new commitment in mind I followed the signs and found an open house to peruse.

The house had little curb appeal. The color was nondescript and the circa 1960's ranch home seemed blah (or as my kids later said 'meh'). This turned out not to matter however, because the home's true appeal was the huge backyard with a beautiful outdoor kitchen complete with a barbecue, fire-place and ample counter space protected by timber beams wrapped in canvas. Beyond the outdoor kitchen the yard stretched left and right with a flagstone steps that lead to another outdoor living room. An orange tree sat heavy with fruit at one end of the yard and red hens protected by a quaint hen house stood at the other. The yard was huge (and marvelous).

The price and unusual day for the open house begged the question. Why today? Why so much? My friend was with me and asked. "Because they're under contract to buy another home and need to sell." Was the answer. While it was not called a flash sale, it felt like one. The listing even called it a 'hot' home meaning: this will sell fast! Don't delay in making an offer. The home on Rancho de Sauna was a 'hot' home, but was not identified as such. Perhaps 'hot' is in the eye of the realtor or the home owner wanting it to be so.

I did learn something new on this Open House Tuesday. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies do not overpower the smell of new carpet and paint. I literally saw the realtor take the cookies from the oven and chatted with him as he plated the fresh baked treat and I could not smell a thing; odd but true. Perhaps baking cookies should only be a trick used when the home owner has not spent money to paint and re-carpet.


There were Clowns

$699,000 (4 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath) 
2,836 square feet

The for sale sign was tacked to the front of the house as if it were a used car on the corner. The house stood at the end of a cul-de-sac and the stark green and white 'HOUSE FOR SALE' sign above the orange garage could not be missed. It was efficient, but odd.

An aged wooden staircase lead from the driveway to the front door. The double doors stood wide open where a realtor and two Greek goddesses greeted visitors. "Welcome!" said the jolly grey man as he handed out the fact sheet. I soon learned the realtor hailed from San Francisco, a place where signs tacked to the outside of buildings was not so unordinary. The Greek goddesses stood tall in the living room, holding lamp shades high and saying nothing.

I roamed the large tri-level house. The main level had a kitchen, dinning room and living room. The kitchen had a recent(ish) update with granite counter-tops and rosewood cabinets. This room was the only modern room in the house. The rest of the house was stuck in 1980, the year the home was built. 

Standing at the kitchen sink, I admired the large kidney shaped pool outside. Earthen stairs marched up the hillside away from the pool.

The realtor noticed my observation, "the lot's almost half an acre-- there's a garden at the top."

I shook my head and wandered away. To get to the backyard you have to go down a half level through a huge family room with thick soft lint caked carpet. The backyard was my destination, but then there were clowns. Six framed portraits of clowns hung around the perimeter of the room above a navy blue sectional couch. The clowns smiled and grinned, I did not.

The clowns changed everything. I hurried through the rest of my visit.  The bedrooms rooms upstairs were sparsely furnished and the bathrooms were original. I thanked the realtor and continued my Sunday.

Compared the the Ranch de Sauna house I saw last week, this home was not a steal. It was not move in ready and would be much work to purchase and update. The floor plan and large lot were huge pluses, but the dank smell and dated ambiance (and perhaps the clowns) would be hard to overcome.


Rancho de Sauna

$699,000 (3 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath)
1,930 square feet

Divorce. The realtor said it was divorce and it made sense. The house had been impeccably remodeled starting with the master suite. The suite had a huge walk-in closet, a separate cedar lined closet and an added room with a Japanese style tub and sauna. The remodel continued through the other bedrooms and bathrooms, then made an abrupt stop at the kitchen. Yes, divorce. Too many arguments over too many details I suppose.

The house was also priced to sell. The asking value was mind blowing, considering the beautiful master suite, the huge lot (almost 1/2 an acre), and artist studio (I forgot to mention that part). I've been to many open houses and this was the first one where I audibly heard the word 'offer' from every party milling about the beautiful house. This place was a steal. 

I've been on a kick this past year. I'm addicted to open houses. Every week I look at the Sunday Real Estate section or scan my Redfin ap to scope out the open houses I need to see. I've seen homes obviously used for marijuana cultivation (strong stench and excessive security cameras) and incredible old estates that must've been the bees knees in the 1960s. The past year has been a blast.

There's a new plan for the new year. I will feed my addiction and keep looking at open houses every week, then I will review, remark and comment on the homes I visit. This will inspire me to go, do and see. The exercise may also show off some fun real estate in Sonoma County and perhaps you'll move here and we can share a glass of wine someday.