Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Jan '09

Things are looking south

This morning, after reviewing some house suggestions that Shelle emailed us last night, we had a light breakfast (coffee and muffin) at the Dripolator Coffeehouse in downtown Asheville. We then headed south towards the airport to visit Nova Kitchen and Bath and see their showroom. We hadn’t heard of this place but the builder who did a rough quote for us said that he sent them the plans to get an estimate for the kitchen. They have lots of nice diplays and Valerie will no doubt talk with them as we get closer to needing a detailed estimate for the kitchen.

Asheville got an REI a few months ago so we stopped there (it’s about the size of the Redmond store) then went to Marco’s Pizza for lunch. They have decent pizza. Valerie says their Greek salad is better than the one at Apollo Flame (a Greek restaurant).

We met Shelle at Home Depot and made our first visit to two houses in the Oakley area. The neighborhood was a little rough and the 1929 house would have made a great frat house so we moved south towards Arden and Fairview.

We found a #1 in Ballantree. It’s a 3 bedroom 2 bath split level with 1800sf finished with 900sf unfinished in the basement. The split level is a negative since you have to go up steps to get to the main level but the garage and lower level is huge and we can easily store all the stuff we won’t need for a year there. The neighborhood is quiet and friendly. The houses are all well kept. No blue tarps! And, lots of people were out walking their dogs. It’s 1.2 miles to an Earthfare and lots of other businesses and shops. The price is a bit high but we’ll make a lower offer and see if they bite. The plus for us is that it is currently leased month-to-month and since we don’t need the house until summer or later we can have an income until we’re ready to move in. !!!!!!!!

On the way back we stopped at the “funky house.” This is a house near our lot on Vance Gap Road. It’s being repossessed by the bank and is to be auctioned on Feb 16. As a realtor, Shelle could get us in. No words could describe the interior. It’s like a group of hippies high on drugs shopped at a salvage yard and pieced it together. Every room’s floor is different. The kitchen countertop is pieced together scrap granite pieces. Walls are red, purple, blue, yellow. Every window is different. Some are mounted sideways. It’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds! Oh my gosh! On Feb 16, it could be yours for a minimum bid of $50,000. The property is worth that much but what to do with the house???

Dinner was appetizers and avocado margaritas (Mmmmm!) at Curras Dom.

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Jan '09

I’m gonna lose my Mela…

First up today was a stop at the Charlotte street City Bakery.  It’s at the bottom of “our” hill and just a short 2 minutes to our lot. They have great bread and they supply lots of the restaurants around town.

After that we met Shelle at Beverly-Hanks’ south offices and started looking at the first batch of houses in the Kenilworth, Haw Creek, and Riceville areas on the east side. I think there were eight, total, and they ranged from pretty basic and old (if built in the ’50s is old) to not bad. One, we call the “rock house” because of its exterior, made the cut. There definately is a premium for living closer to, or in, the city so I think we’re tending to move further out. After all it’s just a temporary house.

Lunch was at Mela’s for Indian buffet. This is a winner! Everything was excellent and their simple desserts – rice pudding (kheer), a hot peach and pepper soup, and fried dough balls (golab) were a great finish.

After lunch we hit the Weaverville area. First stop was the Well-Bread Bakeryfor co ffee (for Shelle) and some take home cookies for us.

The winner of the day was a 2300sf cape-code on .75ac. It is about 15 minutes out but is in impeccable shape and has a double car garage and lots of downstairs storage. It is in a small subdivision that use to be a field (you know the type) and next door was a farm with some cows. Serena would love that. We aren’t sure about the smell, though, come summer.   But, the price is very right.

The loser house is a brick ranch in downtown Weaverville. Let’s put it this way. We were inside for less than a minute and Shelle had to leave because of the smell. On the way out she said, “I’m gonna lose my Mela!” We managed 2 minutes to do a look around but WOW, it was bad. We might guess the story of the house but we don’t want to think about it.

We were so exhausted from looking at houses that we skipped dinner and ate our cookies and drank Red Stripe, instead.  Better luck tomorrow.

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Jan '09

Are your eyes red or is it just me?

We survived the red-eye and the 3 1/2 hour layover in Charlotte. The funny thing about the 1 hour flight from Charlotte to Asheville…it’s about 20 minutes in the air but 30 minutes on the tarmac/runway in Charlotte and 5 minutes taxi time in Asheville. Love the AVL airport. No fuss, no lines, no waiting, just grab your bags, get your car, and go.

We landed around 11:00am and got to the Holiday Inn by 11:30. Luckily they allowed us to check-in early.  We napped enough on the plane that we were ready for lunch. We hadn’t tried Mexican yet in Asheville (Curras doesn’t count – it’s high-end Mexican :-) ) so we went to Mamacitas. It has great reviews and we were hoping it was another Oobas…but, alas, no luck. Valerie had an asparagus quesadilla and I had a BBQ pork burrito. They were okay but rather bland and the available sauces weren’t spicy at all. Too bad.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving by several potential houses that Shelle had selected. All were on the east and northeast side of Asheville. A couple looked okay, a couple were a little “rough”. We narrowed the list down and called Shelle so she could schedule appointments for tomorrow.

No dinner, tonight but we did stop at the grocery store to pick up some bottled water for the car, juice, bananas, and a toothbrush for me (oops).

We’re going to stay up as late as we can (maybe 9:30) and then crash.

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Jan '09

Ready to go (almost)

We started throwing things in the suitcase, today. That would be the “$15 for the first bag” suitcase. Luckily we have a monster bag so we can pack all of our stuff in it and get away with one carry-on bag and one checked bag — as long as we stay below 50lbs. Oh, we hope Southwest Airlines starts flying into AVL or GSP.

Valerie is working feverishly on the guest bath. We have a few projects to do on the house before we list it. One is to refresh the guest bath and powder room. She tore into the guest vanities a couple weeks ago—removed all the tile grout and wood moulding, removed the faucets, removed the towel bars, etc. We’re leaving on Wednesday evening and Kathy is house/cat sitting so Valerie is trying to get it finished and cleaned up for her. Worst case Kathy can use our bathroom so it’s no big deal if it’s not done. After we get back it’s my turn. I need to pull up the yellowing, peeling, vinyl floor and put down something new.

We confirmed today that we’ll be meeting with a potential builder next Tuesday to look at some of his houses, completed and in process. Our schedule is set: Drop Serena off at Annmarie’s Wednesday afternoon, fly out Wednesday night arriving Thursday morning, nap (Holiday Inn Downtown) and do some drive-bys of for-sale houses near the hotel, look at houses with Shelle on Friday and Saturday, vacation on Sunday, meet with Steve on Monday, meet with the builder on Tuesday, vacation Wednesday morning, fly back Wednesday afternoon. Whew.

In our free time we want to check out a kitchen design store and revisit Ballard’s Appliance a great appliance showroom just south of Asheville. I want to find Harbor Freight Tools. Restaurants on the list: Market Place (fresh, local),  Mela (Indian), 12-Bones (BBQ), Mamacita’s (Mexican), and we need to give StoveTrotters another try (first time was GREAT, second not so good). Stovetrotters does hold cooking classes and Valerie is excited about that since she occasionally takes classes at our Culinary Communion.

Off to walk Serena then clean the house and pack.

P.S. We just got confirmation back for a potential job. Yesterady, a  jeweler posted an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to write some software for him with the potential of packaging it and selling it to other jewelers.  We emailed him and he just replied that he wants to talk with us. Now where can we fit that in….?

Jan '09

Heading back to Asheville

We’re heading back to Asheville on Wednesday night (cheap red-eye flight and $99 companion fare) for a week. It’s an ugly flight with a 3-hour morning layover in Charlotte (you can drive from Charlotte to Asheville in two hours) but I’d rather fly directly into Asheville because the airport is small and it gives us more time on the day we leave. Asheville’s airport is very convenient. There are no lines, TSA is local and friendly, bags take mere minutes to get from the plane to baggage claim, and the rental car counter is a desk in the hallway. There’s usually a $ premium to fly there but the extra cost may be offset by the fewer hassles. If we could just get Southwest to fly into AVL we’d be all set!

We have three goals for the trip: Look at houses with Shelle (our realtor) to see if one would work for us to buy as a temp house. Meet with Steve (our architect) to discuss changes we want to make to Draft #2. And, talk with a potential builder and look at some his houses.

We haven’t yet decided where and how we’re going to live for a year (or so) from the time we move until our new house is built. Do we rent or buy and flip? Renting is the easy answer but I hate to throw away $12,000-$15,000 on rent. We need 3-bedrooms and a 2-car garage to store all our stuff and most rental homes with those features, well, ones that we would want to live in, are $1000-$1300/month. The alternative is to find and buy a house that’s a screaming good deal (motivated seller, short sale, etc) and hope that the economy picks up so that we can sell it in a year or so at a higher price to cover realtor fees and taxes – essentially try to walk away even. I guess we’ll know more after we spend a couple days looking.

We meet with Steve on Monday, Feb 2nd, to talk about our current draft. It’s getting closer to what we want but needs a few more changes – nothing major – flip this area, rotate that area, etc – but you can’t change one thing without impacting others so we’re in for a good day of discussion. But, that’s why we’re paying an architect. We don’t have to figure out how to do it, just what we want to do.

On Tuesday or Wednesday we’re going to meet with a potential builder. He’s one from Steve’s “little black book” and was given the draft plans last week to come up with a rough estimate to build the house. We want to spend some time talking with him (we won’t call it a formal interview) and look at one of his finished houses and one or more under construction. Steve says he’s a really good builder at our price-point and that he’s not gone bankrupt like so many other builders because he only builds custom homes. He doesn’t do spec houses and isn’t sitting on hundreds of thousand of $$ in unsold homes.

Those are our big-3 objectives but we have lots of other things to do. More on that in a day or so.

Jan '09

Designing our home

Bier Garden Napkin Sketch

First Draft - on a Napkin

Once we did due diligence (survey, geotech, utility availability, clear title, etc) on our lot and completed the purchase, our next step was to select an architect. We won’t get into all the nitty gritty details of the interview process but in short we: looked at the websites of all the Asheville architects to determine their styles, based on that had several of them answer a bunch of questions via email, talked to a couple on the phone, met with a couple in person, checked reference, and finally…drumroll…selected Steve Farrell of Stephens Smith Farrell Architecture as our architect. The thing that differentiated Steve from the others was that he really genuinely cared, he was interested, he really wanted to design our house.  The others would surely have been capable but just didn’t seem to have the desire. (Maybe that would be different now that the economy has tanked and housing starts are at historic lows…?)

In mid-October we met with Steve to sign our contract. We spent about 5 hours with him one afternoon discussing our likes and dislikes, needs and wants, and how he would approach our design. Some of that was over lunch and some was at our lot with a builder and a civil engineer to give us a sanity check on whether we could build what we were thinking.

After the meeting, Valerie and I went to the Bier Garden in downtown Asheville to have a couple beers and decompress. The above drawing is Valerie’s first draft of our home drawn on a Bier Garden napkin. We actually scanned and emailed this to Steve. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Since then we’ve exchanged tons of email and had a couple conference calls. Valerie has checked out probably 100+ design books and magazines from the library and we’ve tabbed and scanned numerous pages showing examples of what we want. Steve has sent us two drafts for comments and he’s in the process of putting together a package to submit to builders for a sanity check on cost. That should happen by January 15. Our home is really taking shape and it’s fun being able to make it our own, having it be just what we want. The picture in the upper left of this page is one view of draft 2.

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Jan '09

Garden d’Lights 2008

bbglights21  GARDEN d'LIGHTS 2008

On Saturday (before my little diversion down bacteria lane) we went to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens to check out their Christmas lights display.  If you’re in town over the holidays you have to see it. Each year volunteers “plant” over 500,000 lights into three dimensional flowers, shrubs, vines, and critters. They are truly works of art and look just like the real things – only made out of lights. It was a great way to say farewell to Christmas 2008. I wonder if they do something similar at the Biltmore???

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Jan '09

Oh, what a night…take two

So the germs had one last hoorah yesterday. After I spent the day in Burien doing some Red Cross work for our next storage building I returned home with terrible cramps, then chills, then a 102.7 fever. Today I’m better, though running in first gear. Maybe I over did it too soon.

Jan '09

Oh, what a night…

We went to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens last night to see the Christmas Lights (separate post on that coming soon…). After running a few errands we got back home around 7pm. About 8pm I started to feel a little weird and had those tell-tale rumblin’s going in my stomach. By 9pm I was alternating between being in a fetal position under multiple blankets on the couch and sitting on the toilet with the big D. Somewhere around 3am I added driving the porcelain bus to my experience.  How’s the old Four Season’s song go…”Oh, what a night…”? Too bad my experience was so very different from the topic of the song.

By morning things had calmed down (there wasn’t anything left in me) and I was able to eat a bite of banana and have some milk. I slept from 10 to 2 and awoke with a headache from hell. My stomach has been on-the-edge all day but I did manage to hold down the rest of the banana. Valerie went to the drug store to get me some Pepto and some Dramamine (recommended by the pharmacist for nausea). I changed the channel when a pizza ad came on TV.

Not sure what caused it, whether it’s food poisoning or some sort of contagious Norwalk virus. Valerie’s fine. Man oh man I’m hoping tonight is a quiet night.  I have to be in Burien tomorrow to meet the contractor and inspector for our new Red Cross storage building.

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Jan '09

380 Vance Gap Road

About a year ago we started seriously researching Asheville as our new home. When it became apparent that it could be “the one” we scheduled a trip for mid-May to check it out in person. Our friends Luis and Jolie came along with us as they’re looking to relocate, too. We arranged with a real-estate agent, Shelle Ball, to show us some properties. Originally we thought we would want to be 15-20 minutes from city center, but after two days of looking at umpteen properties we found that was just too far out. The prices were right, but (no offense to those who live there) there’s not much civilization 20 minutes from Asheville. Discouraged and running out of time, the day before we were scheduled to leave, Shelle sent us a tip about a small subdivision only minutes from town. A 2-acre wooded lot had come on the market just a few days before.

One look and we were sold. It was steep but had a “shelf” where the house would go that would make it an easier build. It was heavily wooded but had great views to the east. The subdivision was small – only 10 lots and only 5 on our street. And, it was minutes to town. We could live in the woods, in the city. Very cool. Best of all, the price was right. The sellers lived in Florida and had purchased the lot from the developer. With the Florida housing marking collapsing they wouldn’t be relocating to Asheville and needed to sell. We made, what we thought was a low offer, and they accepted. 380 Vance Gap Road was ours.

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