Picture This, Imagine That

The KaZoos are back with pictures of our house (finally).  Hubs was supposed to take responsibility for this post while I was traveling for school/work this month, but it didn’t happen…and that’s okay.  This blog was never meant to be one of those ‘keep up with the bloggin’ Joneses’ blogs anyway.  We’ll post when we get around to it because sometimes other things, other more important things, take precedence.  You know, like jobs that pay the bills.  Actually, he started work on the landscaping challenges you’ll see later, so he was spending time outside actually doing things rather than in front of the computer blogging about doing things.  Yay! Anyway, without further ado, I give you the KaZoo’s new-to-us home tour in photos:

Front Yard and Driveway

Here’s the view as you drive up to the house.


It’s your average, builder basic brick home, complete with cracked driveway, algae on the walk, overgrown plants, and a quarter-of-a-sunburst missing from the garage door.  Not to worry. We’ve got plans for you, ugly concrete and shrubs.



Come on in, y’all.  Yes, I just cringed.  I’m a born-and-bred Southerner who doesn’t say y’all. Surprised?  I find it ironic that some of the other grad students in my program from other places like the West Coast and NYC have started to use y’all, and I don’t. It really is more inclusive than “you guys,” though, so I’m trying to get back to my roots a bit.   Ok, back to the house tour.  We’d offer you a (virtual) cup of coffee, but we don’t drink it.  Tea, perhaps?  The foyer is rather sterile looking, with white walls and white vinyl tile with a beveled edge, so what appears to be grout at first sight is actually dirt collecting between the tiles. Appearances can be deceiving, right?  Not so sterile after all!  Moving right along…


Guest Hall

Off to the left/east side of the foyer (what appears to be the right from the above pic) is the guest hall, where the two smaller bedrooms and guest bathroom coexist, along with a linen closet.  Not much to see here, except for your first taste of the brownish shag carpet.  Delicious, right?


Front Bedroom/Guest Bedroom

This bedroom is on the front/north facing side of the house, which means it will stay cooler than all the other rooms in the house–not a bad thing in Florida, though winter does get a bit chilly in here.  We have snow/ice at the beach right now.  Crazy, right?  We love the big window, as it helps the room not feel quite so small (10 x 11 plus closet), though we aren’t a huge fan of the current blinds.  We envision this room functioning as the guest room initially and a kid’s bedroom eventually.


Guest Bathroom

This is the guest bath, which is surprisingly spacious, though the space isn’t all that useful.  At least everything is in working order.


Spare Bedroom/Future Nursery

This bedroom is also 10 x 11, with a weird, angled wall making it even smaller (and harder to photograph, obviously).  This is apparently a signature ‘feature’ this particular builder includes (we are not impressed).  We envision this room serving as a spare bedroom for now and future nursery/kid’s bedroom.


Living Room

If we go back out to the foyer, it opens into the main living area, complete with dysfunctional gas fireplace that people used to burn wood (scary, right?!), awkward window smack in the middle of the small east wall, the other side of the weird angled wall, a plant ledge that is probably harboring little bug carcasses because no one can reach it to clean it (another builder “feature”), more of the shag carpet and white walls, but a nice high ceiling which makes it feel more spacious than it actually is.


The other ‘nice’ feature is this seemingly awkward nook that will be the perfect place for Black Beauty (my baby grand).


Master Hall

Off to the west side of the living room (what appears to be the left from the picture view above) is the hall leading to the laundry closet and master suite.


Laundry Closet

I’m not thrilled about only having a small laundry closet, but plans are forming for ways to maximize the space we do have by going vertical and adding a countertop over our front-loading washer and dryer.  The washer and dryer you see in these pics will be Craigslisted once we move ours down from the city.


Master Bedroom

More white walls and shag flooring, but with a nice big window.  The master is on the back/south facing side of the house, which is wonderful because I have trouble waking up without plenty of sunlight streaming into my eyes room.  I also plan to have my sewing desk in here, so the southern exposure will provide plenty of natural light all day long.


The west side window is a little awkward because it looks right into our neighbor’s kitchen (I can see her spice rack, and she can see my lingerie…what?!), so we will be brainstorming some more stylish solutions for windows ASAP.


Master Bath Vanity Area

From the master bedroom, you enter the master bath “double vanity” sink area.  Just because there are two sinks doesn’t mean it should count as a double vanity.  Seriously, there’s no counter space at all.  My husband’s stuff takes up this much space, and there’s only one puny medicine cabinet.    I suppose the builder thought he solved the storage solution by adding a linen closet, but it is awkward with three doors (linen closet + WC + master closet) coming together in the same microzone.



Master Bath Water Closet/Shower/Tub

Speaking of doors, let’s enter the master water closet/shower/tub area.  Well, maybe we’ll just peek inside.  As you can see, it is really cramped, and we are also bummed about not having a separate tub and shower.  This tub is also weirdly shaped for showering and shower rods/curtains, so we may have to think of a better longterm solution.


Master Closet

The other door in the bathroom leads to the master closet, which is a nicely sized walk-in closet.  In the future, we may have to borrow some space from this closet if we want a separate tub/shower, but we want to spend some time getting a feel for the space before we start tearing down walls and moving plumbing.  Time will tell.


Dining Area

If we go back out to the living room, we continue into the dining area, which also opens to the kitchen.  We think it will be fine for our dining “room” since we have a kitchen island that will function as a breakfast/snack area.  Speaking of which…



We really love the kitchen, despite more of the white walls, vinyl tile, and builder basic cabinetry and appliances.  Why?  Because we have gas.  We also like the layout, though we plan to rotate and enlarge the island.  We also have a decently sized pantry.  Best of all, the windows face east and south; plenty of natural light, because who doesn’t like to see if the eggshells accidentally landed in the mixing bowl? When your vision is like mine, light is important in the kitchen.  REALLY important.  Dark kitchens are the worst.



From the kitchen/dining area, you walk out to the backyard and patio.  Like the front concrete, the patio is cracked and stained (but nothing a little pressure washing won’t help!).  We have some shrubs and palms that will not be staying, for a number of reasons, as well as a sprinkler system that uses well water.


Behind the backyard is the wild jungle  easement for the electric company, which means no one will build behind us, and it gives us extra space from our neighbors, something that you don’t come by easily in coastal areas.  The electric company allows you to cultivate the jungle as long as you don’t plant tall trees or put permanent structures there, so a number of the neighbors are using this area for gardens.  Yay fresh produce!BackYard18

East Side Yard

If you exit the gate on the east side of the backyard, you will find yourself on the main east side yard.  Nothing much to see here…yet.EastYard2

West Side Yard

If you walk back around to the other (west) side yard, well, we‘ll just let the pics speak for themselves.  Let’s just say, the whine of a chain saw will soon be heard.  Cower in fear, all you overgrown trees and shrubs taking over the eaves of the house.  Just to clarify, we aren’t those people who get rid of all landscaping to have a lush lawn; we definitely trend towards a variety of plant life but prefer to use native (and drought-resistant!) plants in Florida.  We’ll replace what we take out with plants suited to the respective sites that are easier to maintain and easier on the eye.  Sorry, magnolia threatening to fall on our roof in a hurricane.


So there you have it.  We know it doesn’t look like much right now, but it’s a fairly clean slate.  In the meanwhile, we are generating ideas for how to fix this place up, so we’ll be sharing our plans for greatness in the near future.  For real this time.  Note I didn’t commit us to a particular date….


Best Christmas Present Ever: New Year, New Home

In case you haven’t noticed, the KaZoos have been relatively silent for a couple of months now.  Yes, the holiday season is always busy, and yes, life gets in the way of writing about life. #firstworldproblems  In this case, the reason we’ve been keeping quiet on the blog front is because we wanted to wait until we were “absolutely, positively, undeniably, and reliably” sure we could share our good news with you, and now we can say (drumroll, please): WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!  (Feel free to imagine lots of munchkins dancing and singing in the streets for those of you who recognized the quote from The Wizard of Oz).Driveway_View_of_House

When we first started this blog, we hoped it would be a space where we could dream and plan a bit about life, including the possibility of buying a home in the near future.  Over four years ago, we lost a considerable chunk of change on selling our first home right after the bubble burst in our area, and we have slowly been saving back up to buy again once I was near the end of grad school.  For the past couple of years, Chris had been keeping a close eye on the real estate market in our desired location, while I kept a close eye on my schoolwork.  Recently, Chris noticed that the supply of homes in our desired area (and desired price range!) had dwindled considerably (literally to just 2 homes in our  #1 preferred area), as investors and retiring baby boomers have been snatching up coastal properties left and right (and paying cash, compared to those of us having to rebuild savings just to make a cash down payment).  Given this turn of events in the real estate market, in August, we decided that we would plan to look at homes over the winter holidays with the plan to buy in spring.  In October, I was able to make a trip down to the coast, and we decided to look at a few places (just for fun, of course) that met our criteria (or thereabouts).  We ended up looking at three houses in varying stages of shock and awe, vaguely reminiscent of fill-in-your-favorite-home-buying-show on HGTV.

Chris named Place #1 “Rich Man No Yard.”  On the plus side, the house was in our preferred neighborhood, had plenty of interior space, and had all the upgrades we would have wanted to do ourselves.  On the minus side, the house was at the top of our budget (hence rich) and had the smallest strip of a back yard I’ve ever seen (hence no yard). When we found out that the owner was unlikely to negotiate any below asking price because he was trying to use the money to pay off his mortgage on a nicer home he had just built, we said farewell.  We knew the home would be great for someone, just not for us, as we wanted some outdoor play space for future littles and knew we would really be stretching to afford it. We would rather live comfortably financially, even if it means less comfortably in terms of features and upgrades (for now).  It has since sold–congrats to the seller and the new owners!

Place #2 Chris termed “Italian Disaster.” On the plus side, the Tuscan villa house (hence Italian) was spacious with luxury upgrades everywhere (pot filler, anyone?) and was still (amazingly) within our budget.  On the minus side, the house was a short sale that had been abandoned and was in a state of obvious neglect and deterioration (hence disaster).  When we learned the AC was on the fritz and saw floorboards with wood rot, heaps of (dead) winged insects in the puddling two-story drapes, and the mosquito pond out back (“waterfront property” in our area frequently translates to retention pond + mosquitoes), we realized it would take more cash than we had on hand to make the necessary repairs and replacements to return it to its former glory. Plus, Chris and I are apparently sweet meat for mosquitoes, so we didn’t want to tempt fate. Or the mosquitoes.  We aren’t sure of its current status, but we know that someone with enough $$$ to fix it up right will have an amazing home one day!

The third place on our list to see was taken off the market the day before I arrived, so that was that.  However, the next day, Chris received an automated email with the latest real estate offerings, including another home just listed in our preferred neighborhood.  At first, neither of us felt like seeing another home, especially one that was a former rental and considerably smaller than we hoped, but later that day, we both felt the tiniest inclination to see it anyway.  We set up an appointment for the next day, and saw Place #3.  Place #3 never received a nickname because we made an offer shortly after seeing it.  It was a short sale well within our budget, and apparently well within others’, too.  The entire street was lined with cars full of potential buyers queuing up behind us (we were the first appointment of at least five that day).  One guy literally barged in on us while we were looking around inside and mistook me for his realtor, whom he had obviously not met yet–haha!  During our appointment, the realtor indicated that short sales were taking 90-120 days to close, which for the average buyer might be a turn-off, but for us, this was perfect timing.  The house met all of our basic requirements, and despite being on the smaller side and lacking the upgrades of #1 and #2, it had a spacious yard, came with a new AC unit (major plus in our area!), and was a blank slate we could see ourselves transforming into our own home.  We drove down the coastline a few minutes, thinking and praying, and called the realtor back to make an offer, which was accepted by the owner and forwarded on to the bank.  

Having never gone through the short sale process before, we weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen, and having heard rumors where things fall through quite easily with short sales and foreclosures, we didn’t let ourselves get our hopes up.  For the rest of October and half of November we went around saying, “If we get the house we’ve made an offer on, it will be great, but if not, that’s okay, too.”  Then, on November 16, we got a call that the bank had accepted our offer and wanted to close within 30 days.  This meant closing mid-December instead of mid-February, which put us in an excited whirlwind of activity.  The broker at our realty firm, who is commonly referred to as the short sale expert in our area, said she had never seen a short sale go so quickly and that we must have had all our ducks in a row for it to go so smoothly.  We know SOMEBODY had our ducks in a row. 🙂  Even though closing two months earlier than expected meant that we would be a little tighter on our budget longer than expected, the affordability of the home made it feasible.  Living simply really is better! On December 16th, we officially became homeowners (again).  Best part? Our mortgage will be less than the rent we are paying in the city.

And now we get to start a new year with a new home!  We didn’t really do much over the holidays other than basic cleaning and airing out (more on that in a forthcoming post) since we were traveling around to see family, but we did get some good news: When the guy came to turn the gas on, Chris asked about the possibility of getting a gas line run to the kitchen, and the gas man observed that we have “a gas nub” behind the electric range (not sure if that’s the official term, but we’re sticking with it–he’s the expert, right?). SWEEEEEEEET!  We have dearly missed cooking on gas and are completely stoked that we won’t have to pay $$$$ to run a gas line to the kitchen.  Plus, they gave us a coupon for a free gas appliance installation.  If house = Christmas present, then existing gas in kitchen + free install = gigantic bow on top.  Back in the day, the natural gas website in our area had three main headings, two of which were “HAVE GAS?” and “WANT GAS?” (or maybe it was “NEED GAS?”).  Totally hilarious, right?  So now it’s a family joke. WE HAVE GAS!

Since I will still be living the city life this semester while trying to get my dissertation proposal submitted and my data collected so that I can write from home, we won’t be moving our things down right away.  I’ll keep most of the furniture with me up north and will send fragiles/nonessentials with Chris on monthly roadtrips between here and there (all those Christmas decorations now packed away, wedding china, etc.).  While I work on my dissertation up here, he can be working on the house down there.  Of course, I’m itching to get my hands on the new house (and yard!), so it will drive me nuts that he gets to be all DIY while I get to be all…DISsertation. Where’s that paintbrush? I mean, keyboard?

Anyway, after telling our family and close friends over the holidays, we wanted to share with you, too. Stay tuned for more pics and info forthcoming in another post.  We’ll be documenting the transformation from house to the KaZoo home, so we hope you’ll stick around (or join us) for the journey. Happy New Year!