What do I do about the old bathroom in my house?

It’s a question I get asked a lot, and it’s a dilemma I’m familiar with. The photo above is one corner of  my main floor bathroom, the one that guests will use when I’m entertaining.  It’s not my favorite room in the house, but it stays the way it is because it is in excellent condition, and I can’t really justify the cost of renovation in practical terms, but mostly because my husband loves it–and I love my husband.

yellow bathroom            very-vintage-las-vegas-midcentury-bathroom1                pink-and-black-vintage-bathroom-1940s-ceramic-tile

When other homeowners ask me if they should renovate their bathroom I have two different answers, based on the situation of that homeowner. First come the questions:

  • Why do you think you should renovate? Is it because you want to list the house for sale next Spring? Is it because it’s old and tired and nothing works for you and your family? Is it because your sister-in-law told you that not keeping your bathroom up-to-date will hurt your resale value?
  • What is your budget for renovation? Will you have to take out a second or third mortgage to pay for updates? Will you borrow money from your parents? Will you dip into savings?
  • Does the existing bathroom fit in with the rest of the house? What about after renovating, will it fit in then? Will it at least fit in with the plan for other renovations?

Then comes the practical advice: do what works for you, what you will enjoy, and what you can afford for the use of your family while you still own the house. Don’t try to anticipate what some future owner will want, don’t try to please your sister-in-law or the neighbors. Even though kitchen and bath renovations have the highest payoff of any home remodeling project, they still rarely have a 100% payoff. That means that if you’re going to sell your home in the next year or two, you should not borrow a boatload of money to make a top-of-the-line bathroom redo.

pink & green bathroom                   green bathroom

However, if you plan to stay in your home another ten years, and you’ve dreamed your whole life of a luxurious master bath, then I say go for it! Save up the money, put in some sweat equity–even if it’s demolition- and make your dreams come true. Bring on the whirlpool jets and heated towel racks! Choose the most beautiful tile you can find. Find a good plumber to put in the best fixtures you can afford.

If you’re selling this year or next, then focus on making your existing bathroom the cleanest and most functional it can be without having to invest a large amount of money. Focus on work you can do yourself, like cleaning the grout and resealing tilework and on safety issues like GFCI outlets. Try not to stress too much about the color of the tile–you may hate the pink & black tile work but that doesn’t mean potential buyers will. I’ve known sellers to rip out a vintage bath only to have buyers complain that the new bath “lacked charm” and didn’t fit the style of the home.

Tell me about your bathroom–what drives you nuts? What is the best investment you ever made in a bath–the worst? What’s the difference between old and ugly?


Habitat 4 Humanity April Training–Landscaping

The Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity chapter is offering a training that is free and open to the general public. The folks at the H4H Training Center offer a new training every month, and April’s takes place next Tuesday, April 22nd from 6:30–8:30 pm at Building 17 in Banbury Place. http://hfh-wi-chip.huterra.com/content/location-and-info

I’d be willing to bet that the well-organized people that plan these trainings have had this one scheduled for a while. So there is no way that they would have known that in the second half of April, we’d all still be combating “Spring Snow Depression,” a disorder (made up by me) that is characterized by crankiness, long periods of staring out the window in disbelief, and a strong desire to remain in bed until the lilacs bloom.

Not knowing this ahead of time, Phil Johnson from Ayres Associates and Susan Frame from CVTC Horticulture have generously agreed to share their time and expertise with anyone who is looking for information on “how to work with their existing yard to improve the quality of their landscaping through economical yet innovative design techniques.”

I for one, think that this is an excellent topic, and since we still have plenty of time to plan our attack on our lawns and planting beds for this year (thanks Mother Nature!) I think I’ll attend.

Tuesday is also my birthday. The first year my father brought us to the Chippewa Valley, it snowed on my birthday. I pretty much knew right then that the poor man had lost his mind, moving us to a place as much like his beloved Alaska as he could get my mother to agree to. And all these years later, here I am. Attending landscaping seminars because some day I’ll be able to grow things in my backyard, really! Anyone willing to join me?


Is this the last winter you’re going to spend in Wisconsin?

As I talk to friends, family, clients, and even my mammogram technician, it seems that the same thing is on everyone’s mind this so-called Spring: seeking warmth and sunshine.
If you want to explore options like a timeshare in Phoenix or a beachfront cottage on the Gulf Coast, talk to me. I can help you decide where and when, and I can connect you with the right agent on the other end.
You don’t need to be heir to a fortune, either. Check out these affordable options:
Gulf Coast Condo: http://rem.ax/1lqG3we
Phoenix rambler: http://rem.ax/1h7CThB
Oregon trailer: http://rem.ax/1lqHI5c



Things I Found on the MLS, October 2013

A cautionary tale, to be sure–keep your roof in good condition! This beautiful home at 3214 State St. in Eau Claire has long been one of my favorite houses in its neighborhood.


Mid-century moderns are always at the top of my list, and a for sale sign just went up in front of this one. So I ran to my computer to look up the listing, and was greatly saddened to see the sorry shape the interior is in.


The distinctive architecture and beautiful stonework has been marred by mold. The listing (MLS #869929) says that “some of the ceiling has fallen in from a leak in the roof.” If you want to view the home, you have to sign a hold harmless agreement due to the severe mold in the home. I sincerely hope that someone can see the diamond underneath all the mold, and is willing to gut the inside to start over. This building deserves a second chance. Tim Mahoney at Edina Realty is the listing agent, but if you already have an agent, call them for more information. And of course, you can always call me at 715/456-9017.


History for sale . . .

St Edward's rear door St. Edward's Chapel, built in 1896

In 1889, Christ Church, an Episcopal parish of Eau Claire, initiated construction and later that same year suspended construction on this building. The chapel was intended to be a mission church that would serve parishioners that lived north of the Chippewa River in our growing community. The building project resumed in 1896, and a scaled-down design was completed that year. The chapel closed its doors in 1918, having failed to attract enough parishioners to keep in going.

Sometime in the late 1920’s the chapel was converted into a single-family home, and in the 1980’s was remodeled into its current configuration. It has just been listed for sale by its owner, who is a local historian relocating to the West Coast. It is a really fascinating building, and has been well cared for over the years. It’s families of stewards can truly be proud of maintaining this lovely historical landmark.

St Edward's kitchen St. Edwards dining room St. Edwards loft area St. Edwards porch

As you can see, it has all the normal and necessary spaces that most families desire in a home. Three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths, wood floors, an open floor plan, and high ceilings in the central living area. The interior would certainly appeal to any urban professional who desires a clean, modern look that still preserves a definite gothic aura.

St. Edwards window St. Edwards foyer St. Edwards exterior window

The only thing I don’t care for about this house is the view from the street. The front of the house is totally obscured by tall evergreens.St. Edwards street view I remember driving by it as a teenager and thinking that those trees were in serious need of trimming. That does lend an air of privacy that some folks like–I’m sure that any links I make in my brain to fairy tales in which the overgrown castles held captive princesses are a product of my childhood obsession with the Grimm brother’s stories.

It is interesting to note, though, that this home sits in the middle of a rather “fragile” neighborhood–one that has eluded the efforts of our local creative class to gentrify such areas. Don’t get me started–I could (and probably will at another time) write an entire post comparing Eau Claire’s less-well-thought-of neighborhoods with those of other cities. Suffice it to say that we are exceedingly spoiled.

I wish I could say I had listed it, but another agent has already done that. You can see the listing here. As a licensed real estate professional, though, I can work with a buyer who is interested in this property.  So if you perked right up at the mention of it being for sale, let me know. I can arrange a showing for interested buyers. The listing agent tells me that there will probably not be any open houses, which is sort of sad. This is truly a hidden gem, and an important piece of Chippewa Valley history. I hope somebody gives me a reason to walk through it with them. 715.456.9017  judimoseley@charter.net 


Should I Stay or Should I Go?


Okay, you know you’ve outgrown this house—or your life has changed and the house hasn’t. You find yourself looking at the open house lists on the internet, taking a little more interest in the for sale signs along your path to work. But are you ready to make the leap? How do you know? Who do you go to? Where do you start?

Call two people:

  1. Your banker. Set up a time to sit down and go over your financial situation. How much equity do you have in your home? Do you have a second mortgage, tax debt, or other liens on the home? What about your consumer debt—credit cards, health care costs, regular monthly expenses? What can you reasonably afford given your current financial picture?

*The good news is that, despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to have perfect credit or three years of living expenses in a savings account. That’s part of the discussion with your banker or financial advisor. Your situation is unique to you, and they can help you analyze it.

  1. Your Realtor. If you liked the real estate agent you used to purchase your existing home, call them. If you didn’t–ask around to friends and neighbors and coworkers and find the person they are raving about. If you can find 2 or 3 names, all the better. Call me—I’ll be happy to sit down with you and go over how we can sell your home quickly and for the best possible price!

Then you sit with the people you most rely upon for support and guidance in your life—your spouse, partner, best friend, bartender . . . and you think it out for yourself. Are you ready??


Market Crunching


I’m not a numbers oriented person, but while calculus may not be in my “skill set,” I’m still fascinated by what numbers can tell me about human behavior.

Take the monthly housing statistics report. On the Wisconsin Realtors’ Association website, any data wonk can satisfy their need to crunch numbers ad infinitum. You can find charts and graphs that tell you how many homes sold, and the median price of those home sales.  You can isolate a year, a month, a quarter—and compare it to other years, months, quarters. By state, by region, by county.

So here’s a few things I teased out, some of which will come as no surprise to anyone.

  • The number of home sales is up in Chippewa, Eau Claire, and Dunn counties. The percentage of increase from July of ’12 to July of ’13 is 27.3% in Chippewa County, 27.08% in Eau Claire County, and 1.7% in Dunn County.
  • Median home prices are up in Chippewa and Eau Claire counties, by 7.5% and 4.72% and down in Dunn county by 11.7%.
  • The Dunn county figures appear to be a statistical anomaly caused by a spike last July and a dip this July in the median home price. However, if you compare the year-to-date totals from 2012 to 2013, you get a 6.9% increase in home prices.
  • June is consistently the busiest month for home sales in all three counties for the last 6 years. When you consider that it takes 30-60 days from sale to closing (the WRA counts it as a home sale when it closes) that means that most realtors are busiest during late spring.
  • Of course, it stands to reason that January and February are the least busy months, reflecting not only our hibernating tendencies but a holiday season hiatus on home buying.

When you step back and look at the charts as a whole, and look at the trends rather than the numbers, it appears that the market in the Chippewa Valley has recovered. And yet you may have a hard time finding a real estate agent (myself included) who really believes that the residential real estate market is back to normal.

Mostly because after the last ten years, who even knows what “normal” is? And no one, no matter how market savvy they may be, can truly forecast what the “new normal” is going to look like. It’s enough for me right now to breathe a sigh of relief that the tide of foreclosures and short sales has slowed, and more families are able to maintain home ownership than at any time in the last five years.

Because real life isn’t measured by charts and graphs and statistics, but by our satisfaction with our own situation, and the health of our communities.