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Frustrating home project? Sometimes forward progress is all you can ask

The offseason isn't the time to take off
  • When it comes to renovations, remodels and new construction, give yourself a lot of time.

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By Julie Gardner; reposted with permission from Gardner and the Piedmont Perspective

Julie Gardner

Julie Gardner

I’m back after nearly three weeks of blissfully vacationing in Europe. Our trip began with a gorgeous destination wedding in Barcelona and continued with six glorious nights in Prague. It wrapped up with a stunning bike trip through the Czech Republic countryside, and then into Austria, where we pedaled along the magical Danube River before completing our journey — perfection!

After saying goodbye to our new Backroads buddies, my husband, Cliff, and I spent our last romantic day in Vienna with our BFFs, Joan and Doug, before boarding the plane for home.

A girl could get used to luxurious villas and concierge services, although not those odd European showers that require you to crouch down in the bathtub while hosing yourself off. (Hello??? Just mount the shower heads higher!)

“Make sure to see the Sagrada Familia when you’re in Spain,” several of my Grubb Co. colleagues advised me before heading out. We did.

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“Wasn’t it amazing?” they asked upon our return.

Well, yes, it was – in a weird, Salvador Dali-esque, acid-induced, mushroom-eating, totally insane, Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass, melted chocolate, Copa Cabana, what the… kind of way.

For those that haven’t seen the Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) in person, it’s a strangely bizarre, mind-boggling architectural adventure through Wonderland that was commissioned by the Roman Catholics and conceived by Antoni Gaudi, who replaced the original architect in 1883, and then helped create a temple like no other. (That’s an understatement, to be sure.)

The Segrada Familia is considered to be Gaudi’s greatest masterpiece by numerous architectural admirers and critics, combining Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. (Okay, that doesn’t begin to describe it accurately.) Gaudi dedicated the last 40 years of his life to the project, but he died with less than 25 percent of the cathedral completed.

Remarkably, the site has now been under construction for more than 100 years, with a projected completion date in 2026 — the centennial of Gaudi’s death — but no one’s quite sure they’re accurately following Gaudi’s original vision after a fire set by revolutionaries during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 destroyed many of the blueprints, models, and drawings.

In other words, today’s crew may just be “winging it.”

Okay, so I get that the building is uniquely amazing (I do), but do you wonder if the bishops ever turned to one another after a few years of construction and said “What’s with this guy anyway? How long is this going to take? Who recommended him? And what’s with the big, stained-glass bunch of grapes up there on the roof? Did we actually approve that?” (Yeah, those might have been over the top in retrospect.)

In spite of Gaudi’s insistence that his “boss” wasn’t in a hurry, there had to be someone here on planet earth who just wanted to blurt out, “Enough already; finish the damn thing!” (I hope the priests got a bid for the project and weren’t paying by the hour.)

Unfortunately, that’s kind of how I’m feeling about my own current landscaping project that’s now dragged on for many months. Rested and relaxed, I arrived home, hoping to see the new outdoor kitchen and fireplace well underway, only to discover the cement slabs had yet to be poured. It appears we’re not even close to done. (Sigh. There goes my Oktoberfest party.) Suddenly, I’m not feeling so relaxed any more.

“What’s taking so long?” I plaintively asked.

“The inspectors are backed up at the City of Oakland, and we are waiting for the rebar sign-off on Monday. Then we can start up again,” the project manager calmly responded. (Groan.)

I know it’s not the project manager’s fault — his hands are tied — but it’s a bummer just the same.

Okay, so another delay. I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. In fact, I know there isn’t one other than patience, perseverance and, most importantly, perspective. After all, while it may be dusty and inconvenient, this is just a yard we’re talking about — and not something really, really important (like the Fruit-of-the-Loom emblem perched on top of the Segrada Familia).

I’m just hoping I won’t be dead before we finish the work, but you never know; Gaudi was probably hoping the same thing.

So, what I’m saying in my long-winded, real estate-relevant, hey-is-anybody-listening kind of way, is that when it comes to renovations, remodels and new construction, give yourself LOTS OF TIME.

In fact, if you’re thinking about placing your house on the market next spring, it’s not too early to contact me now to begin to set your house in order. I’m not kidding: it’s never too soon to start purging, cleaning, organizing, repairing and strategizing prior to bringing your home to market.

For many of you, there’s more than just a few items to knock off the “To Do” list. You know who you are.

While November through January tend to be real estate’s slowest quarter, that’s only on the surface. These are valuable and useful months, and we’re going to need them in order to bring you top dollar come spring. Or, put another way, the “off-season” isn’t the time to “take off.” Let’s get to work!

At least construction has begun again on my retroactively permitted garage. (I’m on record now.)

Forward progress. That’s all I ask.

Julie Gardner is a Bay Area wife, mother, Realtor, community volunteer, philanthropist, comic-at-heart, weekend athlete, flea market junkie, serial renovator and prolific chocolate chip cookie baker.