Homeschooling Takes On A New Meaning
December, 2002

One subject of our homeschool curriculum is investing.  The stock market is in a slump, Dah!  So Mitch and Max have pulled their money out of the market for now.   Real estate is another area of investment we focus on.  While traveling we often listen to real estate tapes by Carlton Sheets or read books like Rich Dad-Poor Dad.  Cheryl grew up at the beach in San Diego and I grew up near Seattle.  Whenever we are in either town we keep our eyes open for a good investment or remodeling project.
The Front Of Our Beach Cottage
We know the housing markets in both areas as well as some other ones in North America.  Mitch and Max can appraise the value of a house quite accurately.  One day, the boy's Grandma said "the house next door to mine is for sale -- how much do you think it's worth?"  Max replied, "I don't know the area. I would have to look at some comparables first." 

Last fall when we were in San Diego, Cheryl and I were riding our bikes along the beach looking at properties and came across this original 1920's Mission Beach cottage.  The owner was outside painting the trim and told us the price. 

The house is perfect for what we want!  The price is right -- it's the cheapest one in the neighborhood, and it needs a ton of work -- all new plumbing, wiring, fixtures, appliances, floor and interior walls, yet it has a fairly sound structure.  Mitch and Max are anxious to do more than just read books and would like to stay in San Diego for a few months.  As we talked with the owner we knew that this would be the perfect "project", but then he said it was already in escrow and he even had a backup offer on it. 
The Rear of Our Beach Cottage
In short, we had looked at all the properties on the market -- this one was as good as sold and in two weeks we'd be heading for Seattle for Christmas.  We pretty much forgot about finding a property this time.  Then, the Sunday before we were going to leave San Diego, Max was looking in the Sunday paper for the theater schedule.  Afterwards, he read through the real estate section and said, "here's one -- beach cottage on Queenstown Court."  Cheryl and I looked at each other and both wondered why anyone would pay for an ad if the house is in escrow.  After a quick phone call, we found out that neither offer had panned out, so thanks to Max, we now own the place.
Here's a picture of another cottage a few blocks for ours.  This is how the front will look after we are done fixing it up.

We plan on stripping the interior, entirely removing the roof and ceiling and then install trusses.  We will fully replumb, rewire, and modernize the interior.  The exterior will still look as it did in the 1920's when it was built.

Here we are inspecting the house before leaving for Christmas.  Max has his head in the attic.

Most of the older homes on the beach are "beach rentals."  That means basic patch together maintenance over the past 50 years. The renters are usually college students, or a group of college students.  These old homes are rapidly disappearing, being torn down and replaced with $700,000 to $3,500,000 luxury homes. 
As part of the boy's homeschool education, we identified all of the comparable properties on the market.  We identified recent sales in the area from city records, then took pictures and wrote descriptions of the comparable properties. We spent two days at Home Depot and other stores pricing lumber, nails, plumbing, doors, window, flooring, appliances, paint, and everything else.  We made a detailed list of the proposed remodeling cost and finally put together a letter outlining the findings of our feasibility study. We provided our findings to the owners and presented them with an adjusted sales price.  Then we left town for the Holidays.
Cell phones are great!  Here I am coordinating closing details from Whistler, British Columbia.
After returning to San Diego we began working on the details.  Here's the cabinets we plan on using from Ikea. 
We purchased a home design software program and a 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) program.  The CAD program proved to be very useful.  It cost $80 but was filled with many powerful features that I would expect from a professional package.
Max jumped right in and learned how to activate some of the basic features.  Then he showed me how it worked and I drafted the initial drawings.  After that, the boys took turns revising and refining our plans.  After several trips to the City of San Diego Development and Planning Department, we finally had a set of plans that were accepted for review and hopefully will be approved.

Here's Mitch using the CAD software on the proposed layout.

Max is seen here reviewing the City Spec sheets to make sure we meet requirements such as window opening size, ceiling heights, minimum habitable room square footage, energy conservation, etc.

We also picked up a stack of books from the library on plumbing, electrical wiring, home architecture and construction and had them pour through the specs and standards of home building. 

"Home" school, right?

Here's Sheet 8 - Proposed Wall and Roof Sections 

We submitted 12 pages of drawing to the City. 

We've submitted our application and plans to the City and now we wait.

On our next webpage you'll see the interior tear out.

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