When I saw the listing for what would eventually become our new digs, I noticed two things: The current owner was putting it back on the market after only six months, and the price was 20% higher than it had been six months ago. Alameda's real estate had been going a little bonks that spring -- places were being snapped up within a week of being listed -- but not "20% increase in six months" bonks.
So we went to the open house to see what could possible justify this increase. Answer: Nothing. But I was dying to find out the logic behind the listing, so I asked the agent, who was playing Angry Birds on her phone rather than talking to any of the 20 people milling about, what was up.
"I noticed the price is 20% higher, despite the market only trending up 4% year over year," I started. "So what sort of value's been added to this house to justify the increase?"
Without even looking up from her phone, the agent said, "She painted."
"Were there diamonds ground into the paint?" I said. "You're asking $80,000 more than the prior sales price. What else was done?"
The agent rolled her eyes and sighed before saying, "The bathroom was refreshed too."
"Refreshed?" I asked. "What does that even mean?"
"Things were upgraded. It was resurfaced."
Reader, we were warned. And we bought anyway.
For those of you who may be wondering, as I was, what "refreshing" or "resurfacing" a bathroom means, it means the following:
-- Whomever put in the bathroom ventilation fan (crookedly, I might add) had it venting straight into the attic. Because nothing says "refreshed" like "I am going to make sure all the warm, moist air from a bathroom is pumped into the enclosed space between your ceilings and your roof." (We made fixing this a condition of the sale.)
-- Whomever installed the shower pan somehow also managed to nearly sever the supporting floor joist in the bathroom. (We made fixing this a condition of the sale.)
-- These same savants of bathroom renovation put an ungrounded electrical outlet at chest height not two inches from the shower.
-- Then they installed the new shower pan, a new vanity and the toilet on top of a layer of tiles that have been cemented to the the previous, still-intact floor. The tiles, by the way, go for $0.49 apiece. They look to be worth about $0.35.
I am all for wringing a profit out of your upgrades, but do not drink a beer, pee on my leg, then attempt to sell me your urine as an organic, small-batch microbrew.
Anyway! The initial plan had been to lay down white oak throughout the entire small front cottage, even in the bathroom, as this would allow me to indulge my boring Pinterest bathroom fantasies and it would eliminate the one-inch gap between the bathroom floor and the rest of the house.
(At left, our bathroom floor.) Except that, thanks to this bathroom "refresh" done by the prior owner, the job of replacing the flooring in the bathroom would not be so simple as "chisel away all the tiles that had been cemented onto the extant tile floor." It would involve removing all the bathroom elements that had been seated atop this remarkably thorough tiling job -- in other words, removing the shower pan and the attached vinyl surround, then removing the vanity and sink. And, because the floor would be dropping by so much, it would also mean a likely re-do of all the plumbing to adjust for the new height.
To cover 40 square feet of flooring in white oak, I'd end up gutting my bathroom down to the studs. This sort of development is known as "scope creep."
If I'm going to gut my bathroom, I'll be darned if I put back the same "refreshed" bits and pieces. But, alas, we don't have the cash on hand for a total bathroom remodel. And even if we did, there are approximately ten other big-ticket projects that are a higher priority.
So, for now, the bathroom floor stays as-is. I'll be brainstorming inexpensive ways I can actually refresh the bathroom so it doesn't make me grind my teeth in irritation for the next seven years until "Gut and remodel bathroom" pops up on the project list.There's a ton of remodeling and DIY advice out there. How to hire contractors, how to guarantee good work, how to do things yourself, how to get high-end looks on low-end budgets. But I think there's a gaping hole in the remodeling market: How to manage the emotional aspect of redoing your house. Because, really, I can't be the only person living in a fixer-upper who's marinating in a blend of irritation, incredulity, weariness, optimism and resolve.