Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

While reading the Washington Post this morning, I discovered that ADUs are all the rage in LA. What’s an ADU you might ask? I’ve always called them DADUs – Detached Accessory Dwelling Units – but I guess California thinks “detached” is a given. Due to the sky high prices of real estate in Southern California, and recent loosening of zoning requirements, more and more young people are adding two-story ADUs of around 800 sq ft to their property. For some single home owners, they move into their ADU and rent out the “big” house. Others are more community minded; charging an affordable rent for the ADU as a kind of public service.

I guess the phrase “Granny Cottage” isn’t sexy enough?

Our Altamont Street house in Cville was our retirement plan – a two bed/foursquare brick beauty just a block from the Historic Downtown Mall. It was a duplex, with a whole one bedroom apartment in the basement. Over the years we rented it out to medical and graduate students at a reduced rate and planned on moving in when we could no longer drive. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I don’t love being a landlord and our plans to grow roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains changed when the Bride and Groom decided to stay in Nashville.

So here I sit, looking differently at our detached garage. Our first inclination was to tear it down, but the building inspector told us it was structurally sound. Then I got it into my head that we needed to build a lap pool, while I was confined to aquatic physical therapy, and voila, the garage would become our cabana! Looking back at my glory days on the Jersey Shore, it seemed fitting to recreate our beachy-style in this land-locked state. But in light of a looming recession, my pretty pool dream has come to be just that, a dream.

“What about a home gym,” my post-pandemic brain reasoned. I’ve got my Snug, so there’s no way the garage was becoming a She Shed. It should serve both our purposes, right? We could demolish the insides of it in a weekend with some help from friends and family. Heck, Bob has become a handyman extraordinaire in his retirement. And there would be no need for a permit because we’re not adding on any square footage.

But IF we’re thinking long-term, the idea of a DADU makes sense – for out-of-towners, and you’d be surprised how many people like to visit Nashville. We could rent it out and also have it available for family and friends. Bonus points for having a ready-made caretaker’s cottage for help in the future. That would mean adding a small kitchen and a full bath which would also mean permits… I’m not so sure Nashville is as excited about tiny houses as LA. but it’s worth looking into.

As with any building project, you start with a purpose, and like most Google searches I found my way from construction goals to finding my purpose in life. Pretty heavy lifting for a Monday morning. Usually, I’m not one to worry about such things. I tend to just get on with a day unfolding as it will. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason; I don’t believe that children are gunned down in our schools to serve some higher purpose. I guess this is where religion may help, but I’m OK being in the thin place between practical and spiritual.

That’s why I march and vote and donate for gun reform and I don’t pray. But if you DO pray, all the better. Let’s throw all we can at the problem until it’s fixed. I guess I was just born lucky, or maybe unlucky, to two mothers and a dying father. Knowing my purpose in life was as elemental as breathing air – to write and love with a capital L, to grow loving, creative children into adulthood and later to make sure that all our children are wanted and get to live long, happy lives. The “Dorothy Strategy” from the Wizard of OZ feels about right to me:

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

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Some people say it’s much too personal to ask others about their vaccine status; but not me.

We decided to take one last tour of a house in Nashville yesterday. This little beauty had just come on the market, and on Redfin’s realty site you can schedule a same day tour. So Bob and I had lunch, packed up the Bride’s Frenchie puppy Watson, and headed out the door with hope in our hearts.

We are puppy-sitting this week while the Bride is vacationing with the Groom’s family. He’s a handful but an awfully cute and funny one. When he’s not racing down the fence after the ever-present dog walker, he’s chasing the birds away from our feeder.

As we pulled up to this 2,200 sq ft house, a young woman in short shorts opened the door all smiles. At Redfin you work with one real estate agent, but they have associates who only show houses and are on a payroll. We’ve met quite a few associates this summer, all young and in “transition” – one of Ada’s favorite words. Like “peculiar!”

I asked our latest Redfinner point blank, “Are you vaccinated?” Or maybe I said, “You are vaccinated, right…” with Watson in one hand and my mask in the other. She replied,

“Oh no, let me run and get my mask.”

Lucky for me Bob was already down the block checking out the neighborhood. There was a huge modern monolithic house being built two doors down and tons of lawn signs saying, “NO Richland builders!” As you probably know, city developers like to make money, so they tend to buy and demolish one old house on one lot, and put up two “tall skinnies.” Maybe Richland builders are putting up huge/mega/homes with huge/mega garage apartments for the Air BnB market?

Last month we were met by a Redfin agent, in a different part of town, who was also unvaccinated. But at least she had a reason; she said she was fresh off of chemotherapy for cancer. You just can’t argue with that. So we masked-up and walked through the prettiest Southern Victorian you’d ever see. In fact, we were outbid on that very house.

But while strolling through yet another high-ceilinged-fireplace room, this associate mentioned she was planning a trip to Ghana and she had to get a yellow fever vaccine last week. She was a smart, young woman, impeccably dressed, who could somehow live with this contradiction: YES to yellow fever – NO to Covid 19.

Yesterday, as we were leaving our last tour, Bob and I sat on the front porch swing and asked this young woman in shorts why she’s not vaccinated. I may have even said, “If you don’t mind my asking…” She answered like a politician, which is to say she didn’t answer. We pressed, was she waiting for the FDA to approve it, maybe she didn’t have time with all the animals she has rescued at home? She dodged and deflected, finally coming back with routine things about the house.

I pointed out that Bob was a real doctor, if she had any questions, any questions at all… She didn’t. She was still all smiles and nice as could be, but I was acutely aware that she was endangering me, my grandchildren, and the rest of the planet. Spoiler alert, we didn’t bid on the house but not because of her; it just wasn’t our perfectly imperfect house.

I thought about that country singer’s analogy of neighbors running with buckets of water if your house is on fire. People who refuse to be vaccinated, because they listen to Fox news and flirt with conspiracy theories, are not only voyeurs to our collective suffering. They are pouring more fuel on this fire. Don’t show me hospital confessions of people gasping for breath and begging finally for the vaccine. I don’t have the time or the inclination to watch people dying from their own stupidity or misinformation.

Oh, is that going too far, am I getting too personal?

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Let’s face it, you can never have enough storage. When we moved to Nashville, we were forced to rent a Pod, the first time we’ve ever had to pay for storage. But when you downsize to a two bedroom townhouse, while anticipating another move to a second home, you need a place to keep your antique French cupboard for example… because we all know our kids don’t want our big old brown furniture.

Although it seems they do want Great Great Grandma Ety’s fine china, and Great Grandma Ada’s Steinway grand piano!

Bob and I are starting to house hunt again, and we’re also about to list the old homestead in NJ. So while his brother Jeff is trying to find places for 50 years of a life well spent traveling and accumulating stuff, I’m looking for a modicum of closet space! We toured a historic home right up the block yesterday with soaring ceilings and absolutely no storage. Although it did have a garden shed in the backyard.

Usually Bob and I are on the same page, but this is a sore point between us. He is absolutely not interested in collecting stuff – he is in fact, the opposite of his Mother. While she stores her sisters’ bric-a-brac for years, Bob will throw out anything that isn’t tied down. “Do you need this?” is a common refrain. He continually reminds me that he is not into things, just experiences. Give him Predator tickets, not another tchotchke!

Not me. As you may already know, I covet shoes. Boots of all varieties too. I know I’ll never have my very own custom shoe side of the closet again… but a girl can dream right? And I LOVE books, real hold in your hands books. So a built-in bookcase would not be unreasonable! Books will always call my name whenever I walk into a living room. Naturally I was drawn to this article in the Real Estate section of the NYTimes, “Beyond the Built-in Bookcase:”

“One way to come up with ideas for creative built-ins is to look around your home for wasted space. Taking advantage of any oddly shaped leftover space is a great way to integrate storage while reducing the need for free-standing pieces…”

First you are supposed to walk around your home and make a LIST of everything you want to store, then determine if you are a messy kind of person who deals with clutter (I would change that description to “creative types”) OR a show-offy type of person who wants to display collections…

Artistic people need to think of drawers and closets, while collectors need to think of glass cabinets and open shelving. OK that makes sense. And now to tackle the wasted space part. Nearly every house I look at, the owner will say something like, “I just never knew what to do with this space.” Either it’s a corner with a huge air vent, or a strange architectural detail, like a point instead of a bay window. Designers like to hide storage in plain sight with invisible latches; “They send a signal of stealth wealth and attention to detail,” she said. “Built-ins have gone from being a statement to being a secret.”

Like a Murphy bed! Who doesn’t love a Murphy bed?

It’s another rainy day in Nashville. I think I’ll start my list of stuff to store with all my stringing and beading paraphernalia. It’s organized among clear plastic bins and can fit into a small painted chest, but right now it’s spread across the dining table because I’m feeling creative. Pantone’s color for Spring is Living Coral!

I’ve told Bob when we finally empty the Pod it will be like Christmas morning for me. He figures if we’ve lived without “it” for 2 years, we don’t really need it, whatever “it” is. I love my 1960s Dutch oven that I bought in a store in Cambridge Mass, after seeing Julia Child. Is this minimalism a Y chromosome thing?

To his credit, Bob does make a mean ravioli, and we sometimes eat at the table!



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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846



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It’s Good Friday, although I always wondered what’s so “good” about being crucified. For Christians however, it’s the beginning of the holiest time, when Jesus Christ willfully died for their sins, only to be born again on Easter. Suffering and sorrow, followed by jubilation. The casket had to be closed, in order to open.

My family is currently planning a Passover celebration, hopefully in the Blue Ridge this year. If you recall, I’ve successfully passed on the making of haroses to the Bride, and since Bob has been telling and retelling the Jewish story of exile and redemption for ages, we thought it might be a good year to have the seder at our house. Cousins and friends could come from Richmond, and Southern matzoh will be enjoyed by one and all!

But first, this week, Bob and I will visit our attorney for a house closing.

Our “second” home, the little foursquare brick home in town, the one we bought as an investment property, as a hedge on our retirement plans, has been sold. We once thought the Bride and Groom might return to Cville to raise their family, and that we might sell our “country” house and move into town. It’s a wonderful, hundred year old house, with a broad front porch, and light-filled rooms with tall ceilings.

When we stopped driving eventually, our plan was to move into town, to walk to restaurants, and the theatre. We poured our hearts and souls and quite alot of equity into its renovation when we first bought it, giving its grandeur a second chance. We rented the house to mostly medical students and residents. It was like a “Grey’s Anatomy” house; one of the Bride’s roomies was actually named Meredith Gray, and more than a few weddings took place here.

It’s bittersweet to close this chapter of our lives.

But if Moses didn’t appear, if we didn’t leave Egypt, what would have happened to the Jewish people? If Jesus decided to leave Jerusalem, to not walk down the “Way of Grief,” what might Christianity look like today? There are always turning points in life, should you go or should you stay? The Clash said it perfectly!

We’ve been blessed with the best realtor, a woman who has become a friend over the years. Aly Moore I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for helping us navigate our way to this closing. I wonder what door will open to us next?    Altamont St 018FB



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