Friday, October 8, 2010

That's a brilliant idea, Stanley!

After being back in Los Angeles for a couple weeks and reviewing how powerless we are with the housing market, and our perceived desirability of our house, another idea has arisen from the ashes. We could refinance our house and get an equity loan, rent our house and start the required work needed on the French farmhouse. Cindy could stay in L.A. temporarily for a month, and complete her obligation at her work. This would allow Caleigh and I to go to France with the two dogs, allow Caleigh to get into her school, and I could get the house running. This mainly consists of updating the Kitchen and bath, adding a bath upstairs, and getting the house into the 21st century, phone, satellite, and wifi. The broader idea is that we could tap into our equity and keep the house in our name, then re list it in a couple years, when the market would be hopefully more desirable. There are so many variables in the entire plan that we have tried to adapt without placing ourselves squarely in the field of fire for the financially inept planners. Not unlike tap dancing in the middle of a chapter 13 minefield. It reminds me of that hysterical scene in the old “Black Adder” British TV show, when Black Adder (Rowan Atkinson) has been ordered to lead a charge against the numerically superior German line in World War I . “I would rather stand on top of a 10 foot step ladder in no man’s land at midnight, and have a lantern strapped to my head, while I lit a dozen cigarettes, and sang God Save the Queen.”
Our thinking is that while we are working on the modernization of the French farmhouse, we would be adding substantial equity to it, while our house in Topanga rides out the drastic decline that has been the housing market. If we rented our house in L.A., it would generate the mortgage, and property taxes, basically placing it in financial hibernation. Well that’s our two year plan, don’t try this at home. The main reason I’m writing this is to illustrate the many tangents that are followed in order to follow ones dream, as we chronicle this process I wanted to include the highs and lows and a good look at what transpires and changes in all facets of our journey. There are so many different things that we have to consider on a daily basis that the casual onlooker might not realize that these are decisions we have to make. Some decisions are easy and some hard, and the possibility that one decision could financially ruin us. But Cindy and I agree with that old line I keep throwing out, “There are no luggage racks, on a hearse.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Is time on your side?

After signing the required documents with the Notaire in Duras, Cindy and I followed the seller to the property where he gave us a quick tour. The word I remembered the most from our guide was the word “canalization”, while walking in a certain moist area of the pasture near the small pond he would point his finger and trace an imaginary line from one area to another and look at me and say canalization. Then while walking to the front of the main house he would mention the kitchen and shower and again point off to the low area of the property and say canalization. I understood him to imply that there was a gray water system that was not described in the septic report. Canalization, I now know from looking it up means, “Pipes; main pipe; pipe work, ground level pipe work, and so on.”
When Cindy and I were in the early stages of planning, some would argue that we were at the early stages of madness, I put together a spreadsheet and schedule for what I thought was the full scope of required work. This scope of work luckily included an entire mechanical system for the guest quarters, including the purchase of a used small excavator or “mini pelle” as they call it if France. As we were walking with the seller, there was a point where it all seemed so gigantic in scope, but after a few days cleaning the farmhouse, I was able to walk the site and rethink the scope, and must say that I still feel it is possible. That belief could be the results of the bacterial infection, from cleaning centuries of spider feces, to my nervous system and the added result of good French wine, but the longest journey starts with the first step…..right off the cliff.
I think the biggest obstacle is going to be the roof and treatment of the “poutrage” or girder work, framework of beams. Firstly the waterproofing of the entire roof structure, and then the aesthetic treatment of the interior beams from the standpoint of how it looks when you are in the unit and everything is finished. I know things will work themselves out, but this is the kind of sequencing and coordinating area that takes so many trades into account. If you start down a path in construction without a game plan, things will work out, but costing twice the time and money as a well planned project should require. I know my first project for the income aspect of the property, will be the foundation strengthening and coordinating all the conduits and sleeves required to be laid out prior to pouring a slab for the finished flooring to be installed on. That will be the most difficult planning to do, a real Rubik’s cube, but also the most rewarding as well. I really look forward to trenching for all the mechanical system requirements, then installing the conduits and pipes before finally covering everything with concrete and starting the forward part of construction. The initial demolition and trenching can’t be started until there is a complete agreement as to the final design of the three separate units. This will be amusing to look back and read this right before the concrete pour, thinking what an imbecile, “I looked forward to this, my kid hates me, and my wife ran off with a mime and didn’t say a word.”
It is at this stage where none of the accessory perks or fun items even sink into my head, the vines, farming the land, or even swimming in the planned pool. No at this stage I’m completely focused on the early stages of construction, and how I can’t wait to start. Cindy unfortunately is mired in the here and now, is our house going to sell, will Caleigh be able to start her school in time in France, how are we going to manage getting our property tax up in time , and sometimes even if this is meant to be. I am operating from the vantage point of ignorance, thinking that this is meant to be and things will work out, which isn’t really fair when Cindy wakes up at 5:00 am with constant doubt swimming through her head, and getting ready to start her day. In a few months we should have a better feeling as to where we are, but that’s true of life. Perspective is a gift of life, the longer you live the more perspective you have.