View from the Porch

View from the Porch

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moved Blog to WordPress

Moved blog to here.  I think it's a good move.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No answer from park

No acknowledgement from the park today.  No answer by the deadline of 5:00 pm yesterday. No courtesy call to say "we need more time".  No call to the builder.

Official complaint filed with the State of California Mobile Home Ombudsman today at 11:00 am.

Friday, October 12, 2012

To tree, or not to tree; for me, it's not a question

Thank you to all who have commented on my letter.  Especially my daughter who says I am WAY too wordy.  Ok, you've got me there.

The builders probably thought it was verbose, too, but don't know me well enough to say so. Monday, they suggested that I seek the services of an arborist to evaluate the tree, to see if, in fact, our hunch that it needed to come out, was based on any thing solid.

I asked a good friend who had been in the nursery business if she could recommend a registered arborist.  And that she did.

I sent the arborist the pictures I had taken, and her initial assessment was that the north pine was in distress.  We drove up to the site on Wednesday, and she took lots of pictures, her report is below.  I just got it tonight.  

Findings for: Pinus radiata and Platanus acerifolia

1. The Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) in question is located between the
existing Platanus (Sycamore) and the second pine along the Road sidewalk. The tree is approximately 35 feet tall with a DBH of 15 inches. The dripline of the tree extends approximately eight feet beyond the trunk.

The inspection found several defects with the pine.
Photo 1

a. There is root scarring on the southwest side of the tree along Road due to the tree planting to the close proximity of the existing sidewalk.

b. The trunk is absent of root flare and existing roots are girdling the trunk which indicates poor root structure and eventual tree failure.  (See photograph 1)

c. Existing plastic barrier around the trunk and ground, plus concrete walk prevents the tree from adequate irrigation and rain water.  (See photograph 1)

d. An early presence of Ips engraver beetle viewed from existing holes and oozing sap on the west side of the tree. (See photograph 2)

e. The trunk of the tree has a visible bow at the trees mid point. (See photograph 3)

Conclusion: The pine in question at risk for tree failure due to the girdling and damaged root system and recognizing that ips beetle is aggressive will cause certain death to the tree.

Photo 3
Recommendation: It is recommended that the reported Pinus radiata be removed prior to any new construction at the existing site. The existing pine to the south should be protected if targeted by as climb tree. No gaffs are to be used on said tree.

2. The Platanus acerifolia (Sycamore) is located closest to the south entry of the court. The tree is approximately 14 feet tall with a DBH of 6 inches.  The dripline of the tree extends approximately three feet from the trunk.  

The findings indicate that the Sycamore appears to come from sucker 

growth of an existing root system. The tree trunk is weak and shows signs 

of poor development as seen with cracking, sun scald on the west side of 
the trunk. (See photo 4).  The growing conditions and space is undersized for this type of 

tree. The tree will uplift the existing sidewalk and driveway if permitted to 
continue grow in its current condition.

Photo 4
It is recommended that the Sycamore tree be removed due to the poor  quality and existing growing conditions.

Unintended consequences:  I figured the sycamore (which I thought was a liquid amber) was fine, but apparently it is in worse shape than the pine (which is a Monterey, not Scotch).  The Arborist also said she saw signs of potential beetle infestation of the south tree, but it was at the early stages, and was concerned that if she recommended all the trees be removed that would not make a good case.  She believes that once the north tree is down, they'll see the problem with the south tree, and either treat it or remove it.  But that's a job/battle for another day.

I really and truly do not  understand the owners intransigence on this.  Their answers, through their representative, have been a flat "no removal".  No reason given, no explanation for the denial, no nothin'.  The cost of removal, while less than $700, is, in the larger scheme of things, small potatoes relative to maintenance issues in the park.  As I said previously, I have a couple of ideas as to why, but neither make practical sense.

On the one hand, I'm kinda grateful; I probably would not have spent 3 days researching Mobile Home Residency laws and housing codes relative to mobile/manufactured homes, thereby increasing my knowledge, and understanding my rights as a tenant.

Of course, on the other hand it's "cut the damn thing down, already!"

So then, rather than the overly wordy letters I've written in the past, this is what I will be hand delivering on Monday.  I've asked them to respond by 5pm Tuesday.  If their response is to the negative, then I will exercise my rights under the law as stated in the letter.  

For the past six weeks, since I purchased the older home located at XXX I have been attempting to work cooperatively with park staff and builders of the new manufactured home I am putting on the lot space XXX.

I really am looking forward to living at the park and don’t believe that what I am asking for is in any way incongruent or inappropriate for the park in general, or site in particular.  Before I purchased the property, I asked about removing the 35’ Monterey pine trees on the lot, as I believed they had grown so big over the 40 years since planting, that they overwhelmed the site.  I was advised by the manager that, you, the owners were reluctant, if not unwilling, to cut down any trees in the park.  I can understand that, from an environmental and aesthetic perspective.

On September 12, 2012, the first time a preliminary measurement of the lot was taken with park staff and me present, I asked Dick, again, about the removal of the tree.  Your manager's representation to me of the park’s policy was that it would not remove trees, unless there was a problem with them, or posed a safety hazard.

Since that first visit, two contractors have visited the site and have commented on the tree, and yet, the owners of the park have steadfastly refused to remove the tree.

Notwithstanding your manager's representation that the north Monterey piner is healthy, during the many times I have visited the lot over the last month, and looked at the tree close up,  I have become uncomfortable about the shallowness of that tree’s root structure and the way it leaning.  I engaged the services of an arborist to inspect the tree.  The report is attached.

Please accept this letter as:

(a) a formal request to remove both the north Monterey pine and sycamore trees described in the arborist report, pursuant to Section 798.37.5, of the 2012 California Mobile Home Residency Law which states: “With respect to trees on rental spaces in a mobile home park, park management shall be solely responsible for the trimming, pruning, or removal of any tree, and the costs thereof, upon written notice by a homeowner or a determination by park management that the tree poses a specific hazard or health and safety violation.  In the case of a dispute over that assertion, the park management or a homeowner may request an inspection by the Department of Housing and Community Development or a local agency responsible for the enforcement of the Mobile home Parks Act (Part 2.1 (commencing with Section 18200) of Division 3 of the Health and Safety Code) in order to determine whether a violation of that act exists”

(b) notification to you, as owners, that there exists a known hazard, relative to insurance liability issues.

The park staff has been very helpful and the park is well run. Those are two of the many reasons I wish to move there, and have been looking forward to building a small home of my own for the first time.  That will be my home for many years, and I want to feel safe there.

I believe it would be in both our best interest to have the arborist's recommendations followed.  For me, my safety concerns would be alleviated, and for you, it would be easier to remove the damaged trees now, while there is no home on the site, and it would eliminate a potential insurance liability concern.

Please respond to this request in writing (an email will suffice), to me, by 5:00pm, Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Their way or the highway.

Some good friends reviewed my edited letter;  I included cites from California Title 25 - Housing and Community Development, Mobile Home Park Installation Regulations and the 2012 California Mobile Home Residency Law, both of which had excellent information relative to my issues.  I forwarded it to the builder. They spoke with the park, who advised that there was absolutely no compromise to be had from them.

1.  The tree must stay
2.  The only size home they will permit on the lot is 24 x 50

The builder was at a bit of a loss to explain why the owners are so reluctant to cut down the tree (as no reason was given for that decision), suggested I not send the letter and see about asking an arborist to evaluate the north tree.

No letter sent, and after some networking, I found someone to evaluate the tree this morning.  There will be a written report tonight, which I will take up to the park tomorrow.

The preliminary findings are:

1.  The South tree is healthy and should remain in place.

2.  The North tree is in decline.  It appears that the root structure, at some point in time, was trimmed to keep it from damaging the sidewalk. That has weakened the tree.  The thin and scraggly limb growth and the way the tree leans is a direct result of the trimming of the root ball in the  past.  The trimming has also made the tree vulnerable to rot.

Then what? 

What if the park owners don't give a damn (which I don't think they do) and say, so what?

1.  Do I go forward and build something that while, for the most part would be ok, but isn't what I really want? Then move somewhere else later?

2.  Put a cheap home on there and sell it quick?

I have a couple of thoughts as to why I think the park owners are doing this, which I won't list here, but I don't think any of them have to do with me, personally. However, I  want  to thank them for turning something that I felt to be a joyful experience, into a nightmare, that is costing me double rent.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Retail therapy

At my favorite knitting group this morning a couple of my dear friends and fellow enablers knitters mentioned that Macy's was having a 50% furniture sale in Novato, and as I really need a sofa, might be good to check it out.

Boy howdy, were they having a sale.  Look at what I found, Ma, and it followed me home (or will when I have one).

Nice wide seats (I think the problem with my current sofa, that was mom's, is that the base seat width is too narrow ... you kinda slide off), and comfy but not soft, and it's tall enough so that (unlike the first sofa we had that was a 70s, low-to-the-ground sectional we call "the grabber") it's easy to get out of.  Covered in easy-to-clean microfiber, and I'm special ordering the sage color.  It was 60% off original.

It will be about 6-8 weeks before it's delivered, but the way things are going that may be about right :(  As the very nice salesman assisting me and I were getting down to the  part about delivery, I mentioned I was moving to a senior community, he asked where, I said Sonoma, he said he and his wife had moved to one there as well, I asked "Oh, where?" and he said "7 Flags".  At which point I said "howdy neighbor".   Had a most interesting conversation, and while they've only been there a little over a year, he concurs with my impressions of the place, and he and his wife love it there.  He did understand the issue about the tree, and while he has no say, agrees that it should probably come out.  So, yet another nod from the universe that this is a good move.

So then I wandered over to the rug department.  I'm looking for something striking that can go with the furniture, but not too expensive.

So, if the floor looks like this:

And walls and ceilings look like this (stark white ceiling and baseboard, a light ecru wall):

And the sofa and my "comfy chair" basically the same dark sage green:

Wouldn't this be a Fabulous area rug?  I didn't buy it, but am having serious thoughts about going back to get it.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

I can't see the forrest for the trees.

Met with Shawn Thursday.  He is Sterling's "house whisperer" for want of a better term.  He's the guy that looks at a lot, figures out what size house can fit there, measures it, squares the corners and then determines where the ordered house should be sited.  He's been doing this work for 42 years, and this site plan will be one of his last, as he is retiring after the first of the year.  Usually, he's involved much later in the process, but because of the odd shape of this lot he came up to size up the lot and then advise Dave what size home can be placed there.  It's usual that they work off the footprint of the home being replaced, but because mine was so old and little, that wasn't working.

It was a very frustrating morning, as the park staff was there to say what I couldn't do.  If you look at the park from Google Earth, all the homes on lots similar to where mine is located (right side, entrance to cul-de-sac) face a certain way; the way the park wants it sited.  But, because of the odd shape of the lot, the corner-to-corner distance for the park's preferred placement, is a lot shorter than the front to back (street to cul-de-sac) distance. The front to back placement would give me plenty of room for the size floor plan I want. But they won't approve it.  Oh, sure, I can ask, but all the comments made by park staff when I said I would ask, gave me to believe it ain't gonna happen.

Then, another surprise; I'm told that the set-back from the street isn't the 3' I was advised earlier, but 6'.   Now I went up and down the street, and there were many homes that were only set back 3', and in traveling through the park, the same set back has not been consistently, or rigorously, applied.  The reason I was given was that there has been a change in park management (from what I've observed all for the better), and those inconsistencies all happened before the new management and the tightening up of application of park regulations.  Although any mention of a 6' set back is not in the copy of the park regulations that I was given.  For me, the really aggravating part is that those many homes in the park, inconsistently done, have had those inconsistencies grandfathered in. And that puts me between a rock and a pine tree.

Park staff kept telling me that wanted to work with me, to make it "happen" the way I wanted.  Yeahsureright, as long as I do it their way.

Shawn and Dave are working on two floor plans that I should get later this afternoon.  One smaller and one bigger.  We'll see.

The good news is that Shawn agrees with me that the pine tree I want out, should come out.  The park guys are still adamant that it shouldn't.

I am writing a letter to the park, to be hand delivered Monday, formally requesting removal of the tree. Letter is at the end, and if any of you have suggestions send 'em on.

Plan A For Siting of house (what I'd really like to do, but know that I will be doomed to failure).

Write a letter, pointing out all the inconsistencies of home placement in the park (and I've seen most of them), suggesting that where I wish to place the home is, while not in the configuration of those homes situated on lots in the same location at the entrance to a cul-de-sac as mine would be,  it is neither unsightly, nor out of character with other home placement within the park.  In fact the siting of my home would be facing in the same direction as the homes next to me on either side.  Additionally, with the front to back placement, one of my neighbors in the back, will actually have an enhanced view of the vineyards.  Therefore, the decision by Park Management to not allow me to site my home in direction of my choosing, providing that it does not take up more than 75% of the lot, seems arbitrary and capricious.

Plant B For Siting of house  (what I'll probably end up doing).

The one concession I want from the park is the north pine tree out.  Period.  End of story

If I have to agree with their siting of a smaller house than what I want, with the house placement direction they want, I'll suck it up and agree.  BUT in exchange, I want the tree out.  Only they don't see it as an exchange.  Do I start of the tree letter by stating my points in Plan A?  Or will that just piss 'em off?  How do I get them to take the tree out, by thinking that "she's being cooperative, and taking our site plan, rather than another plan we don't want"?

Here's the letter, any suggestions to help get my point made, and accepted, would be greatly appreciated, and thanks to Willard for his earlier ideas:

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Tuscan Magic

In the fall of 2006 (late September to mid October), I was lucky enough to visit Italy on a trip with other fiberistas and their spouses.  We stayed at an AgriTrouismo in Umbria, and traveled in and out of Tuscany visiting hill towns and places of renown.

From Llama farm near Umbertide to valley

I was struck by how much Umbria, Tuscany and (to a lesser extent) the Veneto seemed like Northern California.  No wonder when Italians came to California in the late 1800s they choose to settle in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as it must have reminded them of the home they left behind.

I've been going up to Sonoma almost daily, and there is a spot on Highway 116 after you pass by the Sonoma Raceway (used to be Sears Point, then became Infineon Raceway), after you drive up a gentle hill, and coming down that hill you feel like you've been beamed to Tuscany.  The vineyards, olive and cypress trees, as well as the stone Wineries just make it feel that way.

I met with the site planner from Sterling this morning, along with park personnel and it was a very frustrating day.  More later.

For now...take a deep breath, and pretend you're in Tuscany.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Lots easier to see the issue about the north tree without the house there.

South tree            North Tree
Meeting with Sterling's installation expert on the site, tomorrow.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Out with the old ...


One guy did this.  The neighbors we're blown away.  One guy split the house, put it up on the wheels, taped it up, and the only moving tool he had was a jack.  It's ready to go. With a little luck,  tomorrow.

Jesus (Park Maintenance supervisor) and his crew did an amazing job; they got all the shrubs out over the weekend.  They'll get the concrete later this week.

Those damn pine trees...

I'm still having issues with the trees, or at least one of them and I'm going to make my case to the park, hopeful for a resolution in my favor.  The tree on the right (the south tree) is well-shaped, and the root  ball is manageable; it either grew that way, or was properly pruned over the years.  The pine on the left (the north tree) I'm guessing was a volunteer.  It's rangy, and the root ball is huge.

North Tree

I measured the north tree's root ball today, and it's even bigger than I thought.  Using the park's own drawing, and the measurements I took, this is what I've come up with.  While the owners do not want to cut the tree down, I'm hoping that they'll see that, over the last 40 years, the north tree has taken up a substantial area of this lot, which is now ceded to the park to the detriment of the renter of that lot and agree it should come down, or reduce the rent of that lot by about one fifth.

North tree root ball

North tree root ball close up

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Plug and play home design

The main reason that modular/manufactured housing is so affordable is that while you may believe there are lots and lots of different floor plan designs, they're really the same pieces parts, arranged in many different configurations.

What makes this ...

... look so pricey, is the cedar siding.  In reality the manufacturer has taken two sliding glass doors, set them at an angle, with a post in the middle and then used the upper window treatment from their standard cathedral ceiling design, and voila, a mini-Awanee view out into the vineyards.

No matter what cathedral-ceilinged floor plan I choose, I can have the "prow-ended" window treatment design, for only the extra cost of two sliding glass doors.  Pretty nifty, huh?

So, I'm not stuck with this floor plan:

With a little luck, and hoping that the prow-endedness will permit a wider home, I can plug in this floor plan:

(The prow-ended plan is backwards and upside down, if you place the street at the top of the floor plan, like the edited version).

Got a call from the park today, and Sterling has already begun preparing the old mobile home to be removed, which will happen Monday, the lift has been sold and relocated to the new owner, and the Sterling site planner has been booked to stake out the house on Tuesday.

All really good news, and things are moving forward.

However, even if everything runs like clockwork and there are no hitches, final completion and move in won't happen until mid November.   On the positive side, I'll have more time to de-clutter, cull and organize, as well as attend a fiber retreat up in Tahoe (booked and paid for in February).  On the  negative side that's a couple of extra weeks of double rent. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The business, and pleasures, of moving to Sonoma

First to business ....

Took the latest two floor plans up to the park today to see if they were acceptable.  Dick actually liked them both.  He's concerned about the length, but again, we won't know until the lot is cleared and we can stake out the measurements.  That's also when the state inspector comes in to see if the size of the home complies with state regulations for mobile home parks and Dick determines if the living space covers no more than 75% of the lot. Living space is not only the dwelling, but the awnings, eaves, any shed and the car port.

When I'm talking about both floor plans, I'm talking about the 24 x 50 that we know will fit and the mini-Awahnee that I don't know if I can afford.    Dick actually said that he thought the 24 x 50 plan might even be repositioned facing to the SW,  the way I want it.  Things not so dire.

Letters sent to the home builder to authorize removal of the old house (builder is going to give me $1,500 credit towards home purchase) to remove the old place.  He'll turn around and sell it to a refurbisher, who will sell it to someone for about $9,000, once he's fixed it up nicely.  I don't mind.  As long as I don't have to pay to remove it, I'm good.

The individual I bought the home from was disabled and had a lift that would get her into the home from outside.


The park manager had asked me, a couple of weeks ago if I was interested in selling it; there is a park resident that needs one and the park's maintenance staff would take care of removing it to the new location.  New, the lifts run about $2,500, and this one is only about a year old.  I suggested selling it to the park resident for $2,000, and they countered with $1,500.  I said I would sell it on Craigslist because I had intended to use these funds to pay the park maintenance guys to clear the lot of all the shrubbery, and to remove the front concrete car port.

The resident offered an additional $250, which I accepted, and the quote to do all the above mentioned work came in at (I know you'll be shocked and surprised) $1,750.  Easy come, easy go.  But when two contractors are telling me that it will cost $30K to prep the lot, and remove the old home,  anything I can do to lower/mitigate that number, I'll do.  So far, I've got the old home off the lot,  the overgrown shrubbery, and unwanted carport gone, and I'm still in the black.  I'm sure there's some foundation work the builder needs to do that will cost, but at least the messy parts are taken care of and I haven't spent a dime.  It's all good.
SW view side

So, the guys are going to start clearing the shrubs next week, at least from the front of the property so it will be easy for the contractor to remove the dwelling.

 Hopefully all that will be done next week, and if I'm really lucky, by Friday we can get a preliminary, and much more accurate, idea of what can fit on the site.

Now to the pleasures of Sonoma ...

Two books that I thoroughly enjoyed  in recent years were Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan's, The Omnivore's Dilemma; wherein the delights of being a locovore and the joys of seasonal eating were told in an entertaining and educational way.  In Kingsolver's book, she has us panting with anticipation for spring's first strawberries and asparagus.  It's September 27 today, and across the main thoroughfares of Watmaugh Road and Arnold Drive from the park is a wonderful farm stand that sells daily fresh-picked the fall.  And they are sweet and ripe, and grown organically.  Besides the one basket of berries (pet peeve:  most large grocery stores have stopped selling the small baskets of strawberries, in preference for the larger "family-sized containers) I also got 2 lbs of small sized sweet potatoes.  Bill:  $4.50

About 3-4 miles away is Green String Farm, where their farm store is such an amazing testament to the joys of being a locovore/seasonal eater.  Here's what I picked up today, for $17.  A quarter pound of local cheese, and a quarter pound of local butter, 2 pounds of stone-ground (I ground it myself) wheat flour (the bread dough is rising as we speak), a couple of fuji apples, an heirloom tomato, a couple of bulbs of garlic, four pickling cucumbers to make some bread and butter refrigerator pickles and two gianormous carrots.

In the farm store they have, not only all the seasonal veggies, herbs and fruits that abound, but plants, seeds, grass fed beef, press your own olive oil, and other bottled olive oils.  Nary a bottle of wine in sight.

And then exactly two blocks from my house is an egg farm (I didn't see the chickens, but I wasn't looking that hard), where I picked up a dozen jumbo eggs for $4.25.  So, for a little over $25, I got real food, that I know where it came from.  Cost-wise, it's probably more than Safeway and probably a bit less than Whole Paycheck Foods.

Take that, Monsanto!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Somebody moved my cheese

I got the park's plan for siting my home Monday morning, scanned it, sent it off to Sterling, and then stewed about it all day.

This is how the park wants me to site my home, believing that is in keeping with other homes in the park.  But the really pretty view at the top of this page is facing SW. That big, black square on the right is the utility pedestal (water, gas, electrical to the house).  It will cost me an extra  $4,000 to move that puppy, which I don't want to do, if I don't have to.   I'm pretty sure the park would prefer I not move it either  (every time I bring it up, they try and dissuade me).  While this map is not to scale, it's close enough except for a fairly important item; the trees.  See those teeeny, tiny little green circles at the street end of the drawing?  That's the park's idea of showing the placement of the scotch pine trees.  Take a look at the "Before" picture on the to the right.  From tree to tree it's 20 feed wide, and 6 feet deep.  That's what they really look like.  The park is willing to pay for pruning the trees;  thinning them, and removing the lower branches.

So, with this kind of placement, the big windows will be looking out at vineyards through tree trunks, to the SE and will also partially be looking into my neighbor's yard.  Yes, there will be some taller windows on the SW side of the house, and that will probably have to suffice.  Also not crazy about having the utility pedestal look like some bizarre garden ornament in the area of whatever small patio/deck that eventually goes in the front yard.  Last but not least, my neighbors have a patio which is  right up against the the property line in the front and this placement affords neither of us the appearance of privacy.

What I would really like, and I know it's kinda hard to picture, but the end of the house that's currently facing NE would be facing SE.  Yes, I'd have to move the utilities to the back, but it would be worth it to me.

So, when I sent this drawing along to David in Manteca, I said that I would head up to the park on Tuesday, and try and talk them into letting me (a) move the utilities (b) cut down the east tree and (c) flip the house site.    I wasn't holding out much hope, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I have resigned myself to the site plan above, but one more shot at trying to get what I want, and if not successful, I'll throw in the towel.    I really need to this all nailed down so I can move.

As luck would have it the park folks weren't available Tuesday morning, and I was lunching with Rick in the afternoon, so I planned to head up there Wednesday.

Couldn't up about 4:30 and started trolling the net.  Skyline Homes has a great website, and as you can see, it's divided up by regions; basically where the factories are.  I'd only been looking a floor plans for our region; I'd looked at the other regions for interior ideas, but hadn't thought about being able use another floor plan.  At the time I first looked, nothing struck me.

Not so this morning:

It's the right length, and while it's wider than 24', I'm pretty sure it could be modified.  And to be honest, there aren't a whole lot of mods I'd be doing to this floor plan (except for a thing with the kitchen, but more on that later).  And it would fit on the site aspect the park wants, wouldn't have to cut down any trees or move the utilities and the back of my house would be facing my neighbor.  Oh, and the pointy end, the end that will be facing the view that I want of the vineyards ...

I dashed off an email to David, asking if we could price out this floor plan, and if it was possible to be built in Woodland.  I did that at 6am, and they don't open until 10, and I hoped I would hear by 10:30.  David didn't email me back, he called.  He sounded as excited as I was.    This place is perfect!

I'm trying really hard not to get my hopes up.  Maybe I can't afford it; I haven't got it priced out yet.   But this is one of Skyline's homes from the upper mid west; Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.  Can it be more expensive than a home in California?

So, now I wait, on pins and needles (honestly, I'm not checking my email every 5 minutes).  If this home is in the same ballpark as the other, I'm good.  So, once more I hop onto the E-ticket Emotional roller coaster.

... to be continued.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who left the cake out in the rain?

Building a house is like baking a wedding cake.  In your minds eye, you have a picture of how you want that beautiful, special cake to look,  and how it is to be displayed.  Then the practical realities creep in; how big is the table it's going to be displayed on, what else has to be displayed with the cake, how it is going to look and taste. Next you gather all your ingredients and tools, and you bake (build) the basic cake, cover it with frosting and fondant, add the flowers and flourishes, and voila, a joy to behold.

Pretty much all the previous posts have been stressing over whining about  discussing the shape of the table the cake is going to be displayed on.  That's one the constant, and not all the pans (house floor plans) will make a cake that would fit on that table.

So, now that found the right pan, it's time to gather the basic ingredients to make my cake.  And while my tastes run to pure organic Madagascar vanilla, my budget puts me in the "what's the best (and least expensive) substitute" column.

I've never had a home wherein I could add/paint/design the things I wanted.   It was either a rental, or we moved into a previously owned home in which all the core elements (paint, light fixtures, appliances, flooring, window treatments, etc.) had been decided by somebody else.  Those things, of course, can be changed but for us, buying a new house, and moving in pretty much took most of our funds, and the changes we made took time.

Not so with this one.  And that's the really fun part.  This is where I go back to, when I'm frustrated with other aspects of this process.  And I am grateful to my friends letting me talk about this, and providing honest feedback.

All my ramblings so far, have been about the table and the cake pan.  Now it's time to talk about the flour, eggs, milk and butter;  the innards of the cake.

Energy efficiency:   Todays manufactured homes are built with energy efficiency in mind.   Included in the price are dual-paned windows,  formaldehyde-free insulation, energy star appliances and energy efficient air-duct systems.  On top of those basic items, Skyline offers an upgraded energy package for an extra $2,000.  In the winter, my 1950s-built duplex, with single-paned windows, and 1950s insulation, costs me about $250 a month; in the summer, I'm paying about $70/month (which is running my old appliances, electronics and I rarely, if ever, turn on the heater).  So I figure that in slightly under three years, the extra expense will pay for itself, and cut down my monthly bills.  That's a great upgrade.  Maybe, one day, I could put solar panels on the roof, but that's another discussion that's a couple of years down the road.

Ceilings and Windows:

With the previous plan I liked, I was going to pay extra for the raised ceilings, but with the plan I'm now getting, not only are the side walls up 8 feet, there are cathedral ceilings throughout, and the living room windows will look like this:

The window(s?) in the dining room will look like this, at least one on the view side.   I haven't made up my mind yet on whether I want the other wall to be all built in cabinets, or a smaller window with built-ins on either side.

Front Entrance:

I'd really like a front porch, but not sure it can happen.  This front entrance is on Skyline's smallest model.  Eventually, I'd like the front yard to have a patio of some sort, and this type of an entrance/steps/door would fit right in.  But this may be one of the really expensive ingredients I can't afford.

My second choice is a beveled glass insert door.  Skyline makes one comparable to this (without the fancy side windows).  It's nice.

So, for the time being, these are the structural parts of the house I'm hoping for.  The front entrance is still in the works; the other two are locked in.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Third time might really be a charm ....

Just got off the phone with David.  He's really a good salesman.  When I shared the good news about the change in dimensions, he calmly said that we had looked at a floor plan in Manteca that was 24 x 52 and while I indicated I liked it, I liked the other one better.

Oh yeah, now I remember.  I wasn't crazy about the rounded breakfast bar, but...everything else was great.  This floor plan used to be their go-to plan, before the 27' wide models became acceptable in parks.

Hopefully, dear readers, this will be the 2nd to the last time I show you a floor plan.  I expect that once I get the site plan from Dick, and forward it to David, there will be some mods, but I like this.

The laundry/utility room is good-sized, plenty of storage.  Nothing needs to be done to the Master Bath, except replace the tub with a shower.  There are good sized closets in the other two bedrooms.  We'll also mirror flip the floor plan, like with the other one.

I am now, officially, cautiously optimistic.  Gotta tell ya ... this has been an e-ticket emotional roller coaster.

Third time's a charm?

Traveled up toe Woodland on Wednesday to see the homes on the Skyline lot.  There were three and only one that was 44' in length, 27' wide.  I so wanted to like it, but I didn't.   Here's the floor plan.    There is really no storage, and (see previous post about stuff) while I'm going to be getting rid of a lot of the aforementioned stuff,  there's just no room.  See that tiny little room, next to the guest bath ... that's REALLY tiny, and the master bedroom, at it's biggest is 9' long where the bed will go, and not much else.

Windows and light are important to me (wonder if I suffer from a mild case of SADD?).  Where I live now is under a huge oak tree,  the living room and kitchen windows face west, so that for other than very brief time in the late afternoon, the living area is dark, and I need to have the light on most of the day.  I prefer to work with natural light.  I loved the openness of living in an Eichler for 25 years.

Also, the exterior is kinda boring.

However, the visit was not a total waste.  Elizabeth, who showed me around, had some great ideas, and I found that I do like the solar tubes for extra light and high, small clearstory windows for master bath and master bed room.  Also, and a couple of others have suggest this as well;  while I may not  need this now,  I should consider adding the accessibility package (grab bars in master bath, shower and a taller commode) while the home is being built.  Cheaper to do it now, much better integrated when being built than added as an after thought, and a plus for re-sale, especially if the home is in a 55+ park.

So, I drove home, with some good smaller ideas, but pretty downhearted overall.  Honest to God, I didn't think this would really be as hard as it's becoming.  

After arguing with myself for a couple of hours driving I stopped off in Napa for a hair cut and a great visit with Carole.  I got home at 5, and got a call from Char, wondering if dinner at San Rafael Joes would work.  Would it ever!  What good friends.  Both Carole and Char, after listening to me whine explain the issues I was having, said the same thing.  "If you aren't going to be happy, don't go through with it."   Which is pretty much how I ended the argument with myself.  Char also suggested getting a laser measuring tape, that might help me more accurately measure the space.

Next morning, wrote to Sterling, saying to hold off on removing the old house, that I really needed a better way to determine what size home I could get on the site.  If I didn't like it, I would sell the place (tough choice, but heck, there were others interested, I could most likely sell it for more than I paid, at least enough to cover the extra costs, and real estate commission).  So, maybe I wouldn't be able to move right away, but no sense in trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole.

But, there's this view...

Got the laser tape, drove up to the site, and, um, laser tapes work great inside; not so much outside.  Well at least I didn't buy the really expensive one.   But did have my old fashioned tape with me, and decidced  to spend about an hour measuring the perimeter.  Found out a bunch of stuff about the site;  there's a manhole cover under one of the rhodis, and with that, the two huge scotch pines and the fire hydrant/light pole easment, a fair bit of my site is being used by the park, and yet the space rental is right up there with the rest of 'em.   If I stay, seems like grounds for a discussion with park management for a reduction in rent.

Driving home, I called Dick (outside park manager, who deals with all the issues around the grounds), and told him I hadn't heard back from the folks who were going to pick up the old house (I had wanted to donate it to our homeless center, but while they were initially excited, I think the costs/logistics of moving a mobile home were overwhelming).  Dick agreed with me that if I wasn't happy I should sell, yes it was a small site, no, he didn't know what the manhole cover was, but was looking into it, and no the owners really didn't want to cut the trees down ... they would trim them back and up, but not down. At the very end of the conversation, Dick says he had plotted out a placement for a 50-52' long house on the site but that 27' was just too much, it would have to be 24' wide.  HUH???  I said...but you told me 44' long.  He said that was only if you wanted the 27' wide.  (ok, he might have said it, but not to me, or I didn't hear it...but...honestly, I would have remembered that).

I asked him to copy and mail his plot plan.

The current house on the site is 24' wide, and feels small, but then that might be because of the low ceilings (and it was always one of the extras I wanted ... higher ceilings).

I measured the width of my duplex when I got home (with my new, handy dandy laser) which I find roomy, and it's 23' wide.  So, maybe this beaten horse isn't dead yet.

I'll know more after I get the plot plan, send it to Sterling, to see what we can come up with.