I was consulting an online dictionary earlier today, looking to describe our current living situation here in Los Angeles, and found the following definitions:

1) “re·mod·el,” To make over in structure or style; reconstruct; 2) To model or fashion anew; to change the form of; 3a) To do over, as of (part of) a house; “We are remodeling these rooms” (syn: reconstruct, redo); 3b) cast or model anew; “She had to recast her image to please the electorate in her home state” (syn: recast, reforge).

Well, last night “pleasing the electorate in my home state” was about as far from the truth as the situation gets so I’m figuring that we’ve just crossed the halfway mark of our most recent journey into remodel-dom. Now there’s a word that I think needs to be added to the dictionary. Until now, no one has been able to put a finger on it, call it what it is: “Remodel-dom,” n. A state of mind caused by the physical disrepair of one’s home.

Or maybe it should be “remodel-dumb.”

Now, I want to be perfectly clear so that you don’t think I’m whining. The discomfort brought on by things like washing one’s dinner dishes in the bathroom sink are not what is causing the distress. Nor is the constant banging above our heads while my husband is trying to convince a prospective first-time home buyer that “little upgrades” are to be expected when one purchases an older home in Los Angeles. No, it isn’t even the inflation of the budget or the constant disappointment when something isn’t completed on time or to your satisfaction. It’s the sum of it. Self-inflicted misery.

Let’s face it. You are not fulfilling a social responsibility to improve or beautify the neighborhood. Or to employ people. Lots of people. Some days I can’t even keep track of all of them. You have made your bed (literally).

So what drives totally, perfectly “normal” people to get into the remodeling mode? A recent visit to the local Home Depot, where the shelves have been stripped clean, shows that we are not alone in this madness. Fellow “Angelenos” have quit their full-time jobs to do this full time. Is there too much sunshine here? Do we need an activity to make us miserable?

My husband forbids me to talk about it in “mixed” company, i.e., when dining with non-remodelers. “Who wants to hear your remodeling war stories?” he asks. He’s right of course. Only those with recently completed projects share any sympathy with me.

Today I noticed a sudden change in the air and it’s not the coming of fall or the disappearing daylight. The dumpsters that have been clogging the neighborhood for the past two years seem to have disappeared. Gone. It’s a sign.

Was the real estate market so overheated that there are no more profits to be found from fixing and flipping in the Hollywood Hills? Or, will home prices skyrocket even further once the two-year waiting period has elapsed and these flipper owners put their latest projects on the market?

My guess is the latter. Lookout real estate market in May 2005! With interest rates still relatively low, and prices of “fixers” going through the roof, those who jumped into remodel-dom in the first two quarters of 2003 stand to make a hefty profit for all the agony.

Something tells me this story’s not over yet.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. After she spent 15 years in the title insurance industry, the Internet “spoke” to her and she has never looked back. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.


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