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Archive for February, 2018

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Here I am standing in front of the latest addition to our property.

We are on a mad push to finish up the final touch-ups on “The Treehouse", our secondary rental on our property, so Zach and Molly can move in March 1st.

Last Friday, we added a new shed that sits outside of the Treehouse.  In reality, the “shed” is for all purposes an outdoor office that gives our renters an additional 120 square feet of optional living space.  It turns out that the maximum size of a building that you can do in Los Gatos without a permit is 120 square feet, and we took it to the max.  This is the first real building added to the property in roughly 20 years.

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I wish I could say that it was cheap, but it was extraordinary expensive.  Most of this is wrapped up in the fact that there are seven windows in the shed, and a beautiful glass door.  If I had decided to make it a stereotypical shed, without any windows, the cost would have only been half as much. 

While it doesn’t have the architectural lines of the houses, it does have the same coloring, which my wife worked hard on.   We are getting very close to the end of our six month project to clean up the rental.

There was just a tremendous amount of work that needed to go into this rental to bring it to market.  Lisa, our previous renter moved out in September.  Lisa had lived there a very long time, and she was willing to live with a bunch of challenges because the rent was very, very cheap for the local area. 

For example, she was willing to walk down what was a hiking trail from her parking space to get to her front door.  The trail was carved into a side of a very steep hill, and the hill was held up by wood retaining walls that were in a state of failure.  We ripped out the old retaining walls, put in a beautiful cement gravity retaining wall, and then we made a wonderful cement path that led from the parking to the front door.

Then we freshened the insides of the rental to make it into a little gem in Los Gatos.  By the time we were down, we had changed out all the appliances, replaced cabinets, replaced counters, cleaned up some very dated wiring that was unsafe, change out plaster walls for sheetrock, and fixed more than a few plumbing issues.

Why put all this work into the place?  Because we wanted to match the site to the rental.  Out the front window and off the front porch of the Treehouse, you have a striking view of downtown San Jose, which can be seen in the following picture.  When you have this much beauty, we wanted to carve out something really nice.

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Renting to Zach and Molly was an interesting tale.  I had a goal of renting out the place by March first, but I didn’t want to finish it, then have a long wait for somebody to find us.  So, even though the place still had a lot of work to do, I posted the following on Craigslist and Zillow just 14 days ago.

Be a part of California history.

Soon to be available! Live in the cottage that is part of the 4.2 acre Yung See San Fong estate–registered by the US Government as a National Historical Place, described on Wikipedia, and featured in the 1922 Sunset magazine as a key House of the West.

Perched in the hills of Los Gatos, the property sits just over a mile away from Los Gatos High School, four miles away from Netflix, and approximately 11 miles to Apple Infinite Loop Campus.

Nicknamed as the "Tree House," the cottage was built over 100 years ago as part of the estate of author Ruth Comfort Mitchell and her senator-husband Sanborn Young. The old time outsides of the cottage are enhanced by the beautiful and modern insides of the cottage. Featuring quartz counter tops, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, Samsung duel-fuel range, and Kitchen-Aid convection microwave hood, the cottage is a cook’s dream.

Accessed by key-less door entries, covered with trees and with a striking view of downtown San Jose, the last resident stayed here for 10 years, only leaving because of a proposition of marriage.

While small at 500 square feet, the floor plan is thoughtfully laid out with 1.5 baths, laundry/pantry room, generous walk in closet, and custom en suite bathroom. Color scheme is neutral gray walls and white ceilings.  Brand new dark wood Felsen Ceramic Composite Plank flooring. Outside parking for your horse or horseless carriage.

Up to 120 square foot out-building will be built depending on your desire. While a one year lease is offered, preference will be given to individuals that will sign a 2 year lease, with second year locked in at 5% higher rental rate than first year. We are in final stages of the refresh, and are targeting a March 1st move in date.

If you act now, you will be able to help us finalize the window coverings, laundry room sink, washer and dryer combo, and specify what you would like in the outbuilding, which can be a workshop storage or possibly even extra space for a separate office.

Pets are not accepted–unless you really want one–and then we will consider interviewing the pet and making sure that he or she won’t upset the numerous deer wild life and Bryce–the current presiding dog–that populate the property.

Historic gardens for vegetables and fruits is not currently being used but we would happily support anybody that decided that they would like to show off their green thumb. For those times when your in-laws want to visit, the main house on the property has an additional 300 square foot bed room, with an outside separate entrance, en suite bathroom, and sitting area that is rentable for tenants of the property. Originally created for the Senator’s mother, the room is the perfect place to stash the in-laws that insist that you haven’t been spending enough time with them.

Private estate thus shown only by appointment. Tree house is not visible from street. Credit score of 680+ required with verification of income. Owner pays for water, shared trash. Tenant pays for electricity, gas and other amenities.

Yes, I know it is very long, but I think it was an entertaining read.  And we are very proud of the history of the place.  After it was posted, we got an email within an hour.  Then another inside of another hour.  Things slowed down a little bit, but by the time the next day had come around, we had roughly four people that wanted to come and see it.

Zach and Molly were actually the first to get there on Saturday, and by Sunday the next day, they decided that they wanted it.  They stated that they were highly charmed by the place, which must be true because we still had a ton of electrical cords, work in process, and other junk laying about the place.  The shed wasn’t even up, when they decided that they wanted it.

Zach is going to work for Apple, after being recruited from Michigan, and Molly applied for and got a job at a local dentist office.  While Zach’s commute is a reasonable 11 miles, Molly’s dentist office is just 2 miles away from the Treehouse.

I’ve told Zach and Molly that I hope they stay for a long time, and we’ve locked them in as renters.  However, we continued to pour money into the place during the last couple of weeks, even though we knew we had our renters locked in and some people might back-off putting in more money .  For example, we are also placing in a very expensive custom closet in the Master bedroom on Monday. 

Why do this although I’ve already been able to rent the place in a day? 

Because I’m fixing it up so that Zach and Molly decide to move out, I know that the next person will snap it up even faster.  The new outdoor shed/office is just a totally cool room, and it strongly adds to the appeal of the place.  My oldest son was at work when it went up last Friday.  We got up Saturday morning, and went up to tour the new building in the daylight.  After looking around the inside, he remarked on how cool it turn out to be.  If it was up to him, he said it would make the perfect place for a workout studio or DDR room.

“How much more, now that you can see the new outdoor building, do you think we could have asked for?” I asked him.  He thought maybe 12% more.  I though maybe 8% more.  Regardless, it makes the place a lot more interesting and fun.  And it will be ready for whomever moves in to the treehouse in the future.

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The last that you heard from me is when I was going to a funeral in Portland Oregon.  Its not that I haven’t been doing anything notable since that time, but that I’ve been doing way too much of note.

The above shows the boys and me screeding off the top of the concrete pad for our new fifth level in our house.  When I say fifth level of the house, I really do mean fifth level.  The room is very small, some 80 or 90 square feet, but it is a room under everything else that we have.   This pour of the concrete came after the boys spent weeks digging out the foundation and building forms.  In retrospect, I should have bought them a jackhammer, which I did after they were finished, but overall it was a hard, fun, long project.

By the time we finished pouring, we had something like three tons of concrete, which the boys had carried down several flights of stairs.  They then went on to frame in the room, run a new circuit for electrical wiring, and put in some old windows that were stashed under the house from some long ago renovation of our 100 year old house.

This is the state of the room today.  Not finished and painted, and the access ramp is just some 2 x12 boards that we had, but they are using it a lot.

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So what do the boys use it for? 

In 2010, I saw that the kids were playing video games, so I wanted to figure out how to get a video game that got their heart rates up and gave them exercise.  As I looked around, the only thing that I could find that did this was Dance Dance Revolution (DDR).  There  are multiple things that I found very interesting about this sport.  First off, it features music.  When they say dance, they don’t mean dance per se, but you need to tap out with foot moments a particular pattern to a musical theme.  So, you involve whole body movement, rhythm, and music.  Rather than using the standard DDR game, I got Stepmania, an open source equivalent, set up.

If you have tracked my blog before, you know that I am an anime fan.  One compelling part of anime is a cadre of world class composers doing original sound tracks in every genre.  Stepmania happens to have a very large set of anime music as a base of their games.

At the time, I bought a couple of very expensive (for not knowing if they’d be interested) dance pads for approximately $800.  Somehow the boys got interested, and they have been playing them ever since.

I wanted two pads so multiple kids could play at one time.

After we finished the room, the boys then decided that they wanted better pads, and the older of the two bought commercial pads from an arcade reseller locally for around $1500 or so.   During Christmas, I decided that it was time to upgrade our television upstairs to an OLED model, and the boys got my very serviceable 55” flat screen for the room.

This is a picture of them just moments ago.

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They are both very good at the game, and the younger pounds at it even more constantly than the older.  Over summer, he posted scores that would have gotten him invited for a regional contest, which we never went to, but shows his capability. 

As for aerobic exercise?  The one on the left will wear his pulse monitor from time to time.  He captures heart rates in the 190 range, which is the top of his sprint heart rate.  It is an exceptional workout.

However, this little project is such the tip of the iceberg, you have no idea of how much we have been doing.  As time or interest allows, I’ll update you other things that have happened over the last nine months:

*My neighbor who thought he had me over a barrel and could force me to give up my pool easement, which has escalated into a war of lawyers sending emails back and forth.

*Having seven people coming to five with us on the property in our extra room and the two rentals on the property.

*Doing a massive refresh of one of our rental properties

*Fixing a series of dangerous retaining walls

*Getting the spring on the property running again, and using it to water our gardens.

Two days ago, I finished my first two years at my new job.  It was a little over two years ago, when I had just walked into work to tell them that I was quitting.  Since that time, I’ve gotten my new job, sold my old house, bought a new house, married off my daughter, moved my kids into a new high school, saw my son switch from Biola to finish his engineering job at CalPoly, spend a ton of money on fixing up rentals, and wake up every morning on a 4 acre piece of land that overlooks the Silicon Valley.

A while the change has made my wife and I very tired at times, we don’t live a boring life, and our life has been good together.

I’m grateful to my Lord and Master for the adventure he’s given us.

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