By Jessica T
Wait! Wait! Don't renovate!Uploaded: Feb 5, 2014
When we starting telling friends and family we were pregnant with the twins, in addition to getting recommendations for night nurses, we also got a plethora of housing questions:
"Were we moving?"
"Would we buy a larger house?"
"Were we renovating and adding on?"
A realtor even told a friend that yes, without any doubt, we would be in the market for a bigger house.
"No," we told inquiring minds. We were doing none of the above. You see, we call ourselves lucky (immensely lucky) to own a house in this real estate market. We bought our home when the market declined precipitously in fall 2009. Acquaintances tell us we timed an amazing investment. The truth was, it was the only house and the only moment in time when we could afford to buy.
I still remember the open house, swarming with anxious couples. They stood in the backyard and whispered about the home's proximity to the train and its uncertain future thanks to high speed rail. That didn't scare us. I loved hearing the train go by at night when I was a child. My husband's father dedicated his professional life to public transportation in California. And we would be the first to regularly travel south on a train to LA. Other prospective buyers stalked the lawn discussing where a second bathroom could be added.
Modest though it was, we bought our house because we loved it. It was not an investment. It was a home - a place for our family to live and love. Though the previous owners handed over architectural plans for a two-story renovation, they also left a lovable cat and conducted a new-age ceremony to "attract the right owners." My husband thinks I'm crazy, but I cherished a fertility talisman I found in the linen closet and hoped for years that the abundant children our home had sheltered before would be a harbinger of our own future. (And, gentle readers, it was!)
You see, our house is a small, 3 bedroom, 1 bath home that housed up to four children and 2 adults in a previous era. It could certainly accommodate our growing family. But there's another even more compelling reason for keeping our home modest..
Everyone is familiar with nightmare stories about renovations - unreliable contractors, inordinate delays, ballooning costs, and the discomforts and indignities of living in a construction zone. If the kids move out and the nest is empty, the house becomes a vacant shell of abundant beds and baths that continue to require cleaning even when they aren't in use. Thus, many older couples, having survived a renovation, are forced to downsize.
But what about the story my hairdresser recently told me? She has young twenty-something clients who have explained shamelessly that they'd prefer to live with their parents in Portola Valley where they have a master suite and pool than to move to San Francisco to live on their own in a (gasp!) small crummy apartment.
As my daughter and I struggle to share the mirror over the sink in our only bathroom when we are getting ready in the morning, I remind her why she needs to get used to it. (Her primping in teen age and mine in middle age are likely to get worse before they get better.) "This experience, will give you a great reason to move out when you are eighteen!" I declare.