Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Finally back with new Bathroom pix!

These things take time, so say they, and boy, howdy! are they ever right.  Well, here I am finally, back with some news and pictures.

When I left, I was going to come back and tell you about the nuts and bolts of the new master bath, tile, lighting, shower fixture, and the marriage of old and new tile.

First, we chose to tile the floor with the same creamy pale terra cotta tile used in the rest of the house to blend in with the bedroom.  Once we decided that, I was going to pick the tile for the shower.  I went back and forth, back and forth, retro or  earthy? I wanted to blend it with the original blue accent tile, and the pale gray speckle field tile, plus the new floor color.

I went to Buffkin on Merritt Island, where they have a great selection. I browsed around and chose a lovely retro pinwheel design, white oblong tiles with a sapphire blue center.  I felt this would fit with the retro design and the beautiful sapphire blue dot would go with the blue trim tile.  I planned to have the shower done in this tile.  This was early in the process before we were ready to begin so I did not place an order.

I shopped shower fixtures for quite awhile. I had seen a one piece with jets, shower and hand held shower all in one piece and really loved it.  You only need one hole in the wall and all the plumbing is in the fixture.  Greg Valdyke, the contractor, sent me to Alligator plumbing to check out their selection, and they did have one, by Kohler, I believe, for $7000!  Yikes, that was completely out of my range. So, off I went prospecting on the internet, and what do you know, I found one that I liked at for much less money, the Vigo Soho Stainless Steel Shower Panel and Sprayer.  Here it is:

With that ordered and set, I went away to wait for construction to be finished.  It took a good while what with building the room, installing new drains, pouring new floors, tweaking the floor plans.  Greg took down the original door to the half bath and then half the walls on either side of the door, plus widened the opening to make it accessible.  We were thinking along the lines of aging in place.  The light from the window can now shine into the enlarged former Hobbit room.  Unfortunately, we were not able to salvage enough of the salt and pepper tile or the blue trim tile to finish the opening.  What to do what to do?  The shower pan is poured and Greg is ready to begin tiling, so back to Buffkin I went to order my tile.

I walked in the door and they had a new display of pebble and sea glass tile.  I fell head over heels in love with it. It had the blue, it had the gray, it had cream color, all the colors of the other tiles in the bathroom, so I thought it would blend and bring things together well.  We could use it on the edges of the opening, too. With the tile was a brochure showing it installed on two walls and the floor of a shower, while the third wall was a creamy terra cotta tile, also used on the floor.  I stole that idea and ran with it.  The beautiful pinwheel design tile went out the window.  Here is how it all turned out:

View from the bedroom with new full size door. The washer dryer stack is to the right of the doorway.

We salvaged the original vanity, soap dish and glass holder.  The original tile topper got destroyed removing the broken sink. So sad, but I think this is beautiful.
The fixtures are new from Lowe's. 

 The art glass shade was ordered direct from Elk Lighting
The shades are a more blue, the ones pictured were more white. Oh, well.
See how Greg Valdyke contour decorated the surround to hide the original top of the medicine cabinet, which had an oblong fluorescent fixture.

 The original Saturn and Star door knobs on the salvaged vanity cabinet.  New ones ordered from were too small but fit nicely on the two mirror doors of the medicine cabinet.

 Tile mural I found on eBay from seller Artworkontile. It looks like the river bank east of our house. Also the frameless glass wall and sliding door for the shower.  There is a half wall to the left that is also topped by frameless glass.

This is how we covered the edges of the half walls. On the other side there is a curving section of the pebble rock which looks very beachy and cool.  

Greg had not worked with pebble before and when he cut the tile to fit, the corners were jagged. I asked if he could smooth them out somehow, and he did a beautiful job with his diamond sander.  There were a lot of edges to smooth, here, the edge of the sink, the outside corners of the shower, they all look great done this way.

The Kenmore washer and dryer is one piece with the washer below and the dryer above. We got it from Sears.  It fits nicely in the corner next to the door and leaves room next to the shower for a hamper and some shelves. It sure beats doing laundry out on the back patio.  I don't know about you, but I would really worry about some critter or other being in there when I go to open the washer up.  Eek!

The other bathroom we left as is, only removing the plastic shower surround from the Cinderella tub.  The walls and ceiling are fully tiled, and the grout was coated with 25 years of nicotine and hairspray. It took Greg's son Darrell Valdyke four days to clean the walls and now they look beautiful.  The best readily available cleaner was Zep from Home Depot, let it soak and apply a ton of elbow grease.  Here are some pix of the tile:

 The tile around the tub, and you can just see the window with tile, too.
 Original vanity with original tile on top. The floor matches the counter top.
 This is the very retro Cinderella tub.
This is the crazy tiled ceiling.

My all purpose contractor for this project is Greg Valdyke of Titusville, Florida, 321-863-9520. He has done everything from replacing sewer pipes to tiling to electrical work, and added in painting, removing walls and rearranging kitchen cabinets.

Next time I manage to get in here with some updates, we can talk about painting the outside, landscaping, and a little bit of eye candy in the kitchen.  Big project still looming is the front porch build.  Little projects, weathervane needs to get back on the roof, new mailbox, more plants. It feels so good to bring this house back from the land of Nod.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Preview through new doorway 

Planning and Budget
I want to go into a bit of detail about the restoration, repair and renovation process we have undertaken.  As previously described, we bought this place in rather rough shape, as it sat empty for several years and before that with an owner in declining health for a number of years. Not that he let things fall around his head, but things did coast for quite awhile. Neighbors tell me all the time what a wonderful lawn Bill had, beautiful grass, with lush roses and azaleas lining the front of the house.  Nothing remains of Bill's meticulous landscaping now.

We knew at the outset we were going to have to have a new roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical work.just to be able to live in the house and get homeowners insurance.  Beyond that, we wanted to tile all the floors, take out a wall to open up the kitchen and living room, build an en suite bath off the front bedroom, demo two bed and bath units in the garage, put in two new garage doors, including an 11 foot high one for RV access.  We set an initial budget of $30,000 for the work necessary to get insurance and be able to live in the house.  The rest would be extra, but we wanted to be careful not to improve more than the value of similar houses in the same neighborhood.

We looked at two houses of similar size within two blocks, neither with direct river view.  Both houses had been updated with new flooring and all new kitchens. One had a lap pool added to the side yard making a beautiful indoor-outdoor sitting area next to the pool.  Both of these houses sold for less than $120,000.  We figured, with the cost of our house plus the $30,000 we put into bringing it to livable standards, we would still have $20-30G spending range before we were putting in more than we could reasonably get back if we re-sold the house.  We decided to do the things that we would enjoy most:  

  • Take out kitchen-living room wall and rearrange kitchen
  • Tear out carpet and tile all floors
  • Clear garage and carport, put in new garage doors (bonus, lots of good lumber and plumbing parts salvaged for other projects)
  • Build en suite bath for new master bedroom
  • Paint house
  • Work on landscaping
  • Get Lexan hurricane covers for all windows (replacing plywood)

Garage and Master Bath
The garage is oversized two car size, with a 13 foot tall ceiling. On one side there is attic storage built in above the open floor area, with access via pull-down stairs.  All along the side that faces the tall open part of the garage are awning style windows for heat management.  Once we have this restored, it will take an RV that is 10.5 feet tall and 28 feet long.  On the RV side there were two bed and bath units built in. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the units, but both baths had beautiful fully tiled walk in showers, one yellow, one blue.  I wished there was a way to just use the baths, but they were not in the right place. The blue bath had the only working toilet in the house.  

Listing photo of only working toilet in the house, 
in bed & bath unit in garage

Below the attic storage, the owners had put in a family room.  The existing garage door could be opened to show a screened wall with screen door.  This side of the garage contained a beautiful Brunswick Gold Crown pool table and, after the clearance of the two bed and bath units, lots of salvaged materials and other stuff.  The floor is tiled with some kind of vinyl tile, and the walls are plastered and painted.  On the house end, there was a bump out into the garage space for a half bath and a transitional closet, also the large oil furnace, and a clothes dryer with no vent to outside.  (The washer was outside on the patio, rusted through on the sides.)  The owners had put in a large carport for shaded parking.  My Dad fell in love with the carport but it really was in poor condition.

The driveway side of the house, as it was, shows the chalky white and brown paint, the filled in part where the RV door had been, and the capacious but dilapidated carport.

This is the outdoor laundry, washer was
completely rusted out.  Dryer was inside by 
the furnace, and not vented to outside

Demolishing the two bed and bath units yielded some lovely wood planks and some good plywood, which was saved for the master bath construction.  The shower doors, toilets, sinks, faucets and some of the tiled in fixtures were also saved for use in other projects.  We were not able to salvage much tile, unfortunately.  It was all the salt and pepper pale white or gray 4" tile with blue or yellow bullnose trim.  

Once the demo project was complete, we got in the new matching garage doors at a cost of $6,000.  Greg, our builder, used some of the recycled timbers to build a door frame for the RV door.   I am satisfied with the job but mystified why the garage door contractor left the extra two door openers on top of the unit on the RV side, 13 feet up, also he did not put lightbulbs into the units.  Required city inspection cleared the job and we are in business. Greg retrieved the door openers and put in the lightbulbs.  I <3 Greg ValDyke, general contractor:  321-863-9520 in Titusville, FL.

The Hobbit Room to Master Bath Metamorphosis -- The Beginning
With that out of the way, we could start figuring out how to upgrade the odd Hobbit room plus garage half bath into a full master bath.  Originally, there was one hall bath in the house.  A half bath was added in the garage, then at some point, the owners decided to connect the front bedroom to the half bath in the garage by adding a square closet like passageway that I called the Hobbit Room because the doorway from the bedroom into this room was tiny.  It was cut through the concrete block wall and was only about 20" wide and barely 6' tall.  On the left just inside the doorway was the 50 gallon water heater and all the hookups for the washer and dryer that had been in that spot in the garage.  The floor was down about three inches from the floor in the house, and the plain cement was covered by a scrap of rug.  The walls on two sides were paneled to match the bedroom paneling.  Just on the other side of the water heater was the door to a nicely tiled half bath with blue fixtures.  

 Post demolition of closet, showing door 
to half bath, water heater, and on the left
the Hobbit door.

We decided to move the water heater and plumbing and extend the new part of the room to the same size as the original half bath. You can see the color difference of the wall where the original Hobbit room ended.

Construction begins, using salvaged wood 

A view of the Hobbit door

Of course, we all know that construction requires coordination and patience.  The room construction had to wait for the new furnace as that would go on the outside of the new wall opposite the half bath door.  Once the furnace was in, the water heater was moved next to it, then the wall could be built.  Then we had our room size and could start planning the laundry and shower that will go inside it. 

Now we discovered a plumbing problem, with water coming up through the newly exposed floor.  Greg had to break up the concrete floor and discovered the cast iron pipe (4" pipe?) was riddled with holes, just rotten.  So, we had more plumbing to fix, new pipe from the toilet to the yard.  It was lucky to find it at this point.  The toilet was also not working and needed repair.  

My goal was to salvage the tile and fixtures from the original half bath and find some great tile for the shower and floor that would pull everything together.  Planning was pretty flexible. Greg is great to work with, doesn't mind at all working to a point and then maybe changing plans.  He really tries to keep costs down.  We decided to take the half bath walls down to half height to let light into the shower and laundry part of the room, while preserving a bit of privacy.  Greg needed to mix, pour and level new cement floor to match level of house. With all this done, we could start on the decor part of the shower and laundry part of the room.

 Bigger view of room under construction, walls of half bath 
taken down to half height

Original tile detail, floor filled in and tiled, leaving 
one inch of original trim showing 

More next time, when I will tell you about the tile we chose, the shower fixtures, lighting, medicine cabinet and vanity, plus the artistic blending of the new and old tile in the half bath area.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Time Capsule House Is a Work in Progress

I happen to really like Mid-Century decor, good thing, because we got a lot of really nice mid-sixties furniture and decor with this house, built in 1963.  It was a savings to use the existing furniture rather than buy new.  First thngs first, Stanley Steemer came in to clean the upholstered furniture, which they assessed to be in great shape.  The sofa legs had been replaced with little casters, making the sofas a bit low, as shown, so we have  replaced them with tapered walnut legs six inches long.

Then, out came the saggy wrinkled orange, brown and cream shag carpet throughout, to be replaced by creamy tile with a stone texture.  But first, the wall between the kitchen and living room came down, with the paneling and trim carefully preserved.  The kitchen peninsula was moved into place where the wall had been, including the see-through glass cabinet above.  The refrigerator was moved to the spot where the peninsula attached to the wall.


NOTE:  The quadriptych above the sofa is available. It is a classical scene, so popular in the mid-60s in blue tones.  If you would like to have it, send me a message with your contact info.
PS, this is the exact carpet I would have chosen in the 70s, but now I remember what a pain it is to maintain.


Notice the barrel furniture.  The sellers said Granddad, who built the house, built the furniture.  One of the chairs, however, has an unreadable commercial label on it., a blog about preserving Mid-Century Modest homes and design, showed the same set which included a sofa and coffee table.  The owner stated they came from JC Penney in the late 1960s.

We also acquired the beautiful grandfather clock by Colonial Mfg. of Zeeland, Michigan.  The cabinet to the right is a sewing machine that came with the house.. To the left is a built in corner cabinet.  We changed the wood and wrought iron candolier above the table to the mosaic shell bowl.  We lived with a similar candolier in our other house for more than 20 years and I was just tired of that design.  We gave the candolier away to a lady who was redoing her house in the mid-century design.

The doorway on the left of the clock goes to a small bedroom, the archway on the right opens to a den which has a wonderful view of the Indian River.

Next is a quick taste of the before and after look of the outside of the house from the front.

Before -- white and brown with worn decorative shutters, no landscaping:

After -- change in progress, shutters removed, areas plastered to prep for paint, remainder of paint complete, Miami blue and soft gray trim.  Ginger the dog is admiring the new plantings, Queen palms and Flax Lilies.  Well, really, she is barking at the cat across the street.

Queen Palms and flax lilies are supposed to be sun and drought tolerant, also cold tolerant, all good traits for a south facing unshaded yard in Titusville.

Queen Palms and Flax Lilies

 Silver Bismarckia Palm with Aloe and Agave

Finished Bed with Silver Bismarckia, Aloe, Agave and Opuntia
Decorated with Coquina Rocks

The comfy screened porch is going to be rebuilt to give it a little more mass and prevent Ginger from blasting right through the screen when she sees a cat or squirrel.  The shed at the end sits right in our view of the River, so it will be moved at some point.

Next episode will be about the Hobbit room off the front bedroom that we have converted to a master bath, and a little bit about the removal of the two bed-and-bath units in the garage, and a little more of the outside work.

Here's a sneak peek of a detail in our new shower:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's been a busy winter!

The last time I posted, we were going to make an offer on the house near the Indian River, and I promised to come back and tell the tale of the offer and the ups and downs of real estate. Meantime, we have been spending just about every spare minute working on the project house.

Titusville is in an interesting state of transition.  With the end of the shuttle program, a lot of people are on the move out of town, and there seems to be little hope of attracting anyone in to buy the homes they are leaving behind, at least initially.  Prices are very reasonable for houses, more so if the owners are not under water.

In this case, the owners are the grandsons of the man who built the house.  They say they never lived in the house and do not know anything about its condition.  They recommend an inspection. The house is free and clear, so no mortgage to deal with on the seller end. We planned to pay cash, up to a certain amount, in consideration of repairs we knew would have to be made immediately, roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical. We also planned to remove the bed and bath units in the garage and re-establish the RV parking.

We placed a rock bottom offer on the house, conditioned on inspection results.  Back and forth we went for weeks, until we finally arrived at a price both we and the owners could live with.  Inspection showed the house was solidly built, but needed a new roof. The AC didn't work, the toilets didn't flush right, except for one in the garage.  The kitchen sink didn't drain and there was a big leak under the sink.  The electric box was OK, but an added one in the garage would have to go.  The needed repairs were about what we expected.  We found we could not get homeowners insurance until we had the new roof installed and the rogue electrical box removed.

DH had to go back home to work, so my Dad and I extended our rental of the little Spanish house and hunkered down in the beautiful weather to wait for closing day.

Keeping fit is easy here
We walked at least a mile every day, out on a fishing pier in Veteran's Park, and around the parks and neighborhoods.  My Dad is in his 80s and found the first few sessions out on the pier quite challenging. He was able to increase his distance a little each day, and after just a few weeks, was fitter than he had been in years.

Closing day SNAFU
Closing day came with the news that we could not close as it had been found that  the place could not be sold unless Aunt J agreed to it, as she has a life estate in the property.  Aunt J could not agree or disagree, as she was in a nursing home and not able to communicate.  A court date was scheduled for the middle of the next week. Now, that was pretty fast, but still very annoying. Apparently the nephew owners had been advised when they listed that, since the life estate was part of the trust they held, there would be no problem.  Wrong advice!

Court day came, and Dad and I dressed up and went down to the big courthouse in Viera to be on hand for the action.  We made our way to the hall outside the designated courtroom where we found one of the owners, his wife and their attorney.  There was another attorney present as well, turns out he was Aunt J's lawyer.  We were all chatting about this and that, nothing about the case, though.  When they were called into the courtroom, my Dad and I were not allowed in.  We thought it was fine to wait outside just to find out what happened.  A while later, Aunt J's lawyer came out and went steaming past us without a glance.  Oh-oh, we thought.

When the owner group came out, the owner was red as a beet. Turns out he has to buy out Aunt J, so they have to have the life estate valued and then pay her for it, then they can sell the house. That sounds like it could take quite awhile. The attorney said she thought she could get it handled so we could close by early next week. That would be miraculous, as we can only stay until the end of next week in our rented Spanish house.

We did manage to close the next Monday.  Dad and I spent the next three days working on the house, cleaning and assessing.  The house is a time capsule, with the furniture and decor items all from the late 60s and early 70s.  Luckily the decor is not really trendy and most of the furnishings will work well for us.  I was happy to discover that the king size bed in the main bedroom had a practically new mattress with no stains or issues.

Work to be done on the new house
We met with the contractor, our landlord Greg Valdyke, to go over the work on the house:

  • Estimates for the roofing and garage doors, 
  • Tearing out the units in the garage and salvaging as much as possible,
  • Removing a wall between the kitchen and living room and relocating the breakfast bar and display cabinet to the former wall area, relocating the refrigerator to the wall where the breakfast bar came from, 

  • Fix the plumbing in the kitchen and main bathroom, 
  • Tear out the carpet and install tile,
  • Paint the outside of the house a nice aqua shade with a warm pale grey trim.

Leaving Greg with the substantial honey do list and a modest advance, we headed back to cold and snowy Michigan.  Yes, cold and snowy, at the end of March!

Other info on Titusville:

Titusville is the county seat, but the courthouse is down at the other end of the county in Viera for some reason.  There was something about asbestos in the old court building in Titusville, but why move it way down there?

Fox2 Detroit did a little blurb on Titusville this Monday, January 30, 2012.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

February 2011 Rolls around

So here we are catching up to the present, we made it to 2011 in the winter escape saga.

Weather was not fun in Michigan, again.  My dad drove down from the UP to travel to Florida with me.  Unfortunately, he had quite a bit of trouble during the trip, and decided he would not be driving any more.  Oh, well, I have driven all that way by myself, and at least I had his company on the journey.  Jim and Ginger joined us ten days later.

The second house we looked at was still for sale, and the price had dropped considerably.  We made arrangements to see it again.

It was still spooky and dark inside.

The windows on the east side were covered with hurricane awnings grown over with vines and bushes.

The bathroom had a very ugly shower surround making it very dark. There is a window inside the shower.

The garage was converted into two small bed and bath units and a family room.  I could not figure out how to use those two units.  They did not have access to the house.  One's entry was through the back yard, the other opened onto the driveway.  The big double carport was in poor condition, but Dad fell in love with it. He could just picture himself sitting there, tending steaks on the grill and visiting with the neighbors.

Inside was very dark.  Furniture was listed as "negotiable."  It looks like it has been there since the house was built, 1963.  Curtains covered the windows and some could not be opened.  The dark paneling seemed to suck up any light and made it difficult to see details. The carpeting was shag. It was loose and had wrinkles but looked otherwise in good shape, for orange and brown shag.

Master Bedroom, again very dark, only lamp is on opposite side of bed from door.  No en suite bathroom. 

 Backyard is a jungle, very small but completely fenced.

Kitchen is not too bad.  Appliances were relatively modern.

There were no pictures in the listing of the odd arrangement in the other bedroom.  A small door led into a step down dark closet with the house water heater in it. On the other side of the water heater, another door opened into a fully tiled half bath.

The third bedroom was on the other side of the kitchen.  I had a problem with the access doors in that bedroom and the master bedroom.  You had to go through the master bedroom to access the garage from the house.  In the small third bedroom, there was a door leading to the back yard.  Personally, I prefer bedrooms not to be throughways that everyone uses.

We looked the house over carefully.  I still was not that impressed with it, but the neighborhood was just right, and the new price was closer to our budget.  Jim and my dad were in agreement that the house was solid and well built.   Our Spanish house landlord is a general contractor, and we had him look over the house as well.  He agreed with Dad and Jim, the house was solid and had "good bones."  It was in need of a new roof, new AC and probably furnace.  I had my doubts about the plumbing and electricity as well.

OK, we decided to make an offer.

Next time, the ups and downs of real estate and the outcome of our offer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is This the ONE?

February, 2010 finally came, and we headed to Titusville to stay in the Spanish house again.  This time it was DH, his mother and me making the trip in two cars.  DH and his mother were staying ten days, and then heading back, at least, that was the plan.  The weather was ferocious in Michigan but got milder as we headed south, and we truly enjoyed hitting palm tree country and sunshine. 

Once settled, we contacted our realtor, Anita Lytle, and set up some appointments to view homes. I was truly excited to see the one across the street from the Spanish house, because I love the neighborhood, and the neighbors, too.  The house was a Craftsman style that was built in the 20s and looks good from the outside.  It had three bedrooms and one bath, while we were hoping for two baths or at least, 1.5 baths.  The back yard was completely taken up with parking structures, with parking for six big vehicles and very little open space.  That was a big negative for us, but we felt we could work with it.  Inside though, the house had been redone, removing all the Craftsman character. It did still have nice wood floors and just a little woodwork, but it was updated to modern.  I did not like it, and we found it was a bit small for us.  It was also out of our price range.  Well, on to keep looking.

DH was waffling between a winter haven and a retirement home with lots of elbow room outside and in, and space for him to collect cars.  I found the perfect house, a newer construction with a huge porch on the front and a huge Florida room on the back, a two car attached garage and a six car outbuilding.  It was way out of our planned budget, but if you want a retirement home, honey, we COULD afford it.   Well, that kind of proved maybe we didn't quite want all that space, just yet. But it was a lovely home. It has since sold for quite a bit less than the original asking price.  

We saw quite a few homes, and Anita remained patient and upbeat, plus she kept nudging us toward reality as far as our expectations for what we could get for the money we wanted to spend.  We didn't see anything we could agree on so no house yet.

DH left for Michigan and Mom decided to stay with me, to keep me out of trouble, I think.  We spend the remainder of the month bumming around, eating shrimp and seafood, drinking Margaritas and getting  in lots of walking.  One night, poor Mom was horrified to see a Palmetto bug in her bathroom.  She screamed and screamed, which nearly gave me a heart attack until I found out she was OK.  Poor Mr. Bug was dispatched by my size 8 flatfoot weapon, and peace returned.  The landlord profusely apologized the next day and sprayed the place.  We didn't see any more bugs.  I have been having a hard time getting Mom to agree to come back to Florida with me, though.  I didn't put a link because they all have horrific pictures. Palmetto bugs look like ginormous roaches.  They don't crunch when you flatfoot them, though.

In May, DH had a conference in Orlando, so we came over to Titusville for a few days afterward.  It was distinctly warmer than February, and we kept seeing all these little black and red bugs flying around in tandem.  Strange looking.  I asked our landlord about them.

"Oh, those are the lovebugs!"  He explained they are harmless to people but you have to clean them off your car all the time because they can damage the paint.  He said they are  a relatively recent phenomenon, and they have two seasons, late May and September.  Apparently their population exploded since the 70s.

Not dissuaded by Palmetto bugs or Lovebugs, we went looking around neighborhoods we liked to see if any houses were for sale that we hadn't seen yet, and that might be in our price range.  We went riding up our favorite streets, Indian River Avenue and Riverside Drive.  These streets border the Indian River just south of Historic Downtown Titusville.

Downtown Titusville is not a huge mercantile zone.  There are two or three restaurants,  a coffee shop, a dress shop and some antique shops, mainly.  My favorite is the Sunrise Bread Company.  They have wonderful bread, scones, rolls, cookies and espresso, plus they have Wi-Fi.  It would be great to walk there, which is one reason we love the nearby neighborhoods.

We saw three houses along Indian River Avenue that were newly listed since February!  We got to see two of them. One had an offer and was not being shown.  Both were higher than we wanted to pay.  The first one was a smallish place with a tiny yard that backed onto commercial property on US 1.  The yard was well landscaped and private, though.  It had a one car attached garage and a one car driveway.  The inside was beautifully updated and charming, but some of the rooms were pretty small.  This one was about twice our price range.

The second one was by itself on a street between Indian River Avenue and Riverside Drive, with a potential view of the Indian River from the eastern windows.  We couldn't tell because the hurricane awnings were down on that side, and were overgrown with vines and bushes so they couldn't be opened.  The elder owners had been gone about five years, and nothing had been done since except mowing the lawn and light cleaning inside.

DH was really impressed with the construction of the house. It was built of cement block in part and brick in part.  It had a huge two bay garage. One bay was for an RV, so the garage was extra tall, extra long and extra wide.  There were two one bedroom and bath units built into the RV part, and the RV door was replaced with a wall and entry door to one of the bedrooms.  The other half of the garage had been converted to a family room, but the garage door was still there. There was a storage room built above the family room.  In front of the garage door was a wall of screen with a door, so you could open the garage door for air.  The two car wide driveway outside had been covered with a carport which was in sad, rusting condition.

Inside the house were two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room, and a converted porch that had been made into a bedroom and a den.  The east windows of this part were completely blocked by the hurricane awnings. The floor was mostly covered with a late 60s brown, orange, black and cream shag rug which was loose and wrinkled.  The walls were covered with dark paneling.  The old furniture was all there.  It was hard to see much because there weren't many working lights, the curtains were all closed, and the hurricane awnings were down over the windows on one side of the house.  I conceived a dislike for the place because of some major issues.  
  • There was no bath attached to the master bedroom.  
  • The kitchen was cramped and dark.  
  • The entry from the garage into the house was through the master bedroom. 
  • There was a peculiar little door in the other original bedroom that led to a dark box of a closet with the water heater in it.  There was another door on the other side of the water heater which opened into a half bath that looked like it was from a 1960s gas station.
  • The laundry was on the back porch, and there was no space for it inside.
  • The two units in the garage weren't really usable as part of the house. How do you ask your mother-in-law to sleep in the garage?  And I want a garage, darn it!
DH was inclined to really like the house because of the build quality, and I was inclined to really dislike it.  We did like the location.  On looking it over, we could tell there would be some substantial work needed asap to the HVAC, roof, electrical and plumbing systems. The place was priced lower than the other houses of similar size in the area, but the others were all updated, while nothing had been done to this place.  It looked like at least $30,000 would be needed to bring the house up to standard. The house had been recently listed, so we decided to follow it and see how it was going, and if it was still available in February, we would look at it again.

We headed back to Michigan, with DH thinking this house could be the one, and me thinking, No Way, José.

This is second place we looked at in the Indian River Avenue neighborhood:

Doesn't it look kind of spooky with those bent trees hanging their branches down?  They are live oaks, I think, with a bit of Spanish moss.  

Back in Michigan, we continued to debate the pros and cons of the house.  Next time, I'll tell you the results of the debate, and what happened next.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jumping the Gun

OK, I was going along all nice and chronological, and my next post was supposed to be about how I house shopped from far and near, but I am here in Titusville right now, and I just have to post a bit about the here and now.

The weather is a bit unsettled, with some storm fronts scudding across, yet it is also sunny in between, and the temperatures are balmy, in the low 80s. The weather man says we have some fronts to get by before we come up with perfect weather for the weekend.  In Detroit it is cold and gloomy and windy and rainy, and the power has been knocked out a time or two. I am glad to be here! 

Florida Today is predicting Winter Weather tonight.  Here is what they call winter weather:

Temperatures tonight will dip into the mid-50s and only rise to about 72 tomorrow. These temperatures will be the norm through the weekend, NWS forecasters said.

Bring it on!

My faithful dog Ginger is busy chasing lizards in the fenced yard.  It is her new mission in life to exorcise the world of chameleons and geckos or whatever they are.  I, on the other hand, having watched them expertly catch many gnats on the screen in front of me here, really wish to preserve the little creatures, as they are performing a valuable service. Anyone trying to enjoy an evening walk while surrounded by a cloud of gnats will doubtless agree with me.

There was a huge ominous black cloud going over and a lot of wind.  The temperature dropped a lot, into the 70s it feels like.   It's lightening up now, looks like it missed us, at least this part of it.

Back to the Chronological Order of the Tale

I left off the story heading home from Titusville in March 2009, with plans to return the next February.  Back home in Detroit, I was interested in what kind of homes were for sale, as the real estate market was really starting to change.  I wanted to keep track of the market in Titusville, and see if anything really interesting came up.  Researching on the Web, I found listings on several different sites, and subscribed to some of them:

Realtytrac monitors the foreclosures, preforeclosures and auctions in any given area.  You can sign up for a seven day free trial, and after that, there is a monthly fee, or you can cancel.  This site seemed most helpful in identifying distressed property, so if you are interested in that, it's a great resource.

Zillow is another site that will show you what is available in any given neighborhood.  It might not be the most up to date, but it has a lot of information on some of the houses in any given neighborhood.  I found this one most helpful, because I could use their maps to explore an area and then narrow it to look at a specific block.  This is a free site.

Florida Today is a local news site for Brevard County, of which Titusville is county seat.  Their real estate search is powered by and you can customize the search to fit your interests. It is another free site.

The Brevard County Property Assessor provides full information about any particular property you want to look up.  Program the search engine for Real Estate Records by Property Address in most cases. You can find the owner name and information, square footage, tax information and more. Plus they have great aerial maps of the homes.  With a little practice, you can look up places by tax ID number if that is the only info you can find on the property.  Some sales sites will hide the address and just give the tax ID number.

I had a few other sites I looked at but these were the workhorses for my search.  They helped me identify which neighborhoods I might be interested in, by proximity to shopping, the Indian River, exits off I-95,  and more.  I also used the map programs, like Google maps, and Bing, to look more closely at homes that caught my interest, and to identify resources in the neighborhood. You can program Google Map to show you restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, churches in the area of the home in the Search Nearby field.   I liked the Bird's Eye view on the one site, and I liked to "drive" up and down the streets to look at the neighboring houses in the Street View feature.  Next best thing to actually being there.

Over the course of the summer, I compiled a list of houses I might like to see.  I contacted a realtor who sent me listings from her company's site, Tropical Realty.  These were very helpful as well.  The realtor told me that I could not expect to find these same houses still for sale in February, but she would help me whenever I needed help to see a listing or find out more about one, or any way she could help me.  She has now moved on to Re/Max which also has great listing information available. I recommend this realtor, Anita Lytle, for any realty issues in Brevard County.  She is very knowledgeable of the area and real estate in general.

To make a long story a bit shorter, come the next February, I did get in touch with Ms. Lytle, and we looked at some of the very houses I had listed in the summer. Real estate was not moving so much.  We came up with the same objections from Dear Husband, the ones in the neighborhoods I like were "too cheap."  Well, we can keep looking.

Next time:  We find The House in The Neighborhood that DH wants!