Roll Call 2

columbiascJuly 22, 2008

Wow! That first thread was getting long. I'm new here so I hope I didn't step on any toes by starting a new thread.

I'm Scott from Columbia, SC (duh). My divorce shack is a non-descript 1950's brick ranch with 1024 sf of heated living space. 90% of the time it's just me so I have plenty of room. I have had a fondness for small houses since the mid 80's when I discovered Seaside, FL and the wonderful prototypes that were first built there. Other than some apartments, this is the smallest space I have lived in since my youth.

Main concern: Although I have pleanty of space, the house lacks curb appeal and does not have as efficient a layout as could be acheived if designed today. Prior home improvements leave a lot to be desired but market values prohibit putting much money into the house. As Greenspan once said "It is a cunundrum".

Other concerns: The lot is very large by modern standards, 100 by 250 but the entire neighborhood suffers from a drainage issue that the State and County refuse to help with.

Companion filter. Golddiggers flee when I bring them here! It's a great filter. :)

Conclusion: I love living in a small space and fantsize about a day when I can move into an affordable, well designed, energy efficient and attractive small space. Although, with land prices soaring and builders refusing to even talk about building a "custom" home with less that 2000sf, I don't know how to make this dream a reality. But I refuse to give up on my dream!

I found this site through Gardenweb and I look forward to making new friends here and exchanging ideas.

~ Scott ~

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Hi, and thanks for starting a new thread.. the old one was getting... old! Your place sounds terrific to me and has given me an idea of what you could do if you wanted to bother (or shell out). The good stuff - big lot, maybe offset by drainage issues, but have you thought about starting a bog garden - they can be really nice. As far as your layout goes, you say mkt. values preclude putting money into it, but what about doing a demo & redo as if it were for flipping, only do it slowly and do it for yourself - get your dream place out of it (and only sell if and when the mkt allows). Work on the curb appeal allows. Right now prices are not soaring (where did you get that?) and many people no longer want big places anymore than you do. Or do you really just have no moola at all, or enough energy/knowledge to do it (with help from friends?).

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 5:56AM
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Lucy - Moola is a bit of a problem, but I run the mortgage dept. for a small bank so I could borrow what I need IF the market would support the capital improvements. "The Market", now there's the catch. Market value as it relates to an appraisal is based on similar sized homes that have sold within the past 6 to 12 months within a one-mile radius. Historically, this area of town has on had about a 3% to 4% annual appreciation rate which basically just keeps pace with inflation. Many of the residents have lived in this area for years and make few if any improvements to their homes. Rentals are also fairly common and most landlords only maintain their properties, few make major improvements. I knew this before buying, but at the time, the payment and proximity to my sons was more imprtant than appreciation potential.

Most of the improvements on my wish list would not expand the house's footprint or square footage so there would be little if any gain in market value because the typical buyer in this market is not interested in or willing to pay for higher quality verses square footage so the price per square foot hovers in the affordable range.

As for real estate prices soaring, I'm talking about vacant land close in to the metropolitan area. Developers have snatched up just about all of the available lots in older, existing subdivisions making those few remaining parcels a hot commodity. As gas prices rise, more and more people are looking at abandoning the 'burbs and moving closer to Main Street. This increased interest drives up the price of available parcels. Many of those same people are willing if not eager to build McMansion level homes on these small parcels. The larger the house, the easier it is to incorporate pricey land into the overall package so the sellers hold out for more money and the McMansion buyers cough it up. Thus, an overall rise in price for available parcels.

The Columbia, SC area saw only a modest run-up in prices, not the multi-year, double digit increases that a lot of areas saw so our pullback has been smaller. I base that on the appraisals I see come through my department on a daily basis.

Being somewhat of a garden enthusiast, I have thought about a bog garden but our drainage problem is more one of rapid run-off sheating across our lawns because the 1950's developers provided inadequate ditches and/or swales to channel that sporadic run-off. So what we experience is more along the lines of flash flooding that disapates over a few days rather than constant standing water so a bog might dry out in between rain events.

Overall, I think that this home will turn out to be a stepping stone for me, forcing me to edit existing baggage and think differently overall about how much space I really need. Once I have a better grasp of living smaller/lighter, I can try to build from scratch and obtain that perfect little oasis.

Holy cow, I can get long winded. Talk about editing.

Honestly Lucy, I'm not trying to be argumenative. I appreciate other people's perspectives so please, keep 'em coming.

~ Scott ~

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 7:31AM
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Scott - welcome! You mentioned chosing this location/house to be near your kids. Does that still hold? Are you happy in your current location? You mentioned the basic neighborhood not being quite up to snuff. So there is a couple ways of looking at it - either you slowly make the inside warm and welcoming to you or you could begin with making some curb appeal that just might cause others to begin to work on their own properties. This has been known to happen in down neighborhoods.

I'm a 61 yr. old single professional woman and my 2 story house is 1700 sq' total. We've had some homes on my busy street looking shabby, but as I landscaped my outside and slowly made it have better curb appeal, some other owners began to take more pride in their own homes. I don't plan on ever moving again, so I am slowly making the inside meet my aging needs :) While I bought in 1992, refinanced in 2000, I have a mortgage till I'm 80 (don't plan on living that long.....) but I will never lose money on this property as I keep it maintained. It galls me to hear how 'can I afford it' you never hear mentioned all the annual/sem-annual etc. bills that must be factored into a budget besides the mortgage! Maybe if loan officers made applicants list these type of items, some would realize they weren't $$$ ready to buy a house!

Yes, I get long winded too! Sorry. But I do love my old small house with its plaster walls, solid doors...just hate the laundry in the basement! Oh, my knees scream at times!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 6:06PM
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Bless your heart and you kness treeskate. And don't sell yourself short. My parents are 79 and 80 and still going strong. Dad works as a goundskeeper 4 hours a day then takes care of his house, yard and 2000sf vegatable garden. You would love how he waters his shrubs and hanging plants. He has his washing machine rigged to discarge into a mop sink. If it's been dry, he puts a stopper in the mop sink and uses a small bucket to transfer the used water to a 5 gallon bucket which he takes out into the yard for spot irrigation. He has been doing things like this for years to save money. We never thought of ourselves as "green", just frugal.

Yes, I am still close to my sons and will do everything I can to keep it that way until they take their own path. Then, maybe I will migrate into the NC mountains or maybe I will follow one of them.

As for setting the standard for the neighborhood, I do try. Time will tell. I am at peace with the overall feel of my home, I just see things that could be better. However, I am nearly burned out with the corporate world and will live frugally now so I can afford to take an alternate path in 96 months when my child support obligation ends.

Even though I am a mortgage lender, I agree with you whole heartedly about educating people on the true cost of owning a home. Some people are simply born to rent.

One of the reasons I am drawn to this site is my choice to abandon the conventional mindset of bigger is better and walk a different path. I am choosing to live frugally so I can eliminate all consumer debt then focus on paying off my mortgage so I can be debt free. This will enable me to walk away from the corporate world and truly live a life of freedom. And I intend to lure as many people down this path with me as I can.

Nice chatting with you "skate".

~ Scott ~

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 9:12PM
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Hi I am Chris, I have posted here a few times but basically new. We just moved into a new smaller house. About 1375 SQ FT with attached but not enclosed deck adding another 200 SQ FT. We have gone from mid sized to small to tiny to larger to huge and back again. I liked the larger houses ( About 1800 SQ FT) but a house that size takes so much more time to care for. Seems I never got all the way done in one day. I would much rather work out in the yard.

Since this is a manufactured home we were able to make the rooms sized for us with the stretch options. I am an artist so my studio room is fairly large at 10 by 13. Master is about 12 by 14 but the guest is on the smaller side at 9 by 13 with no closet. I needed the wall and room size for my furniture. A closet can be added if needed for resale someday. We are not planning on selling this place since we had it customized.

Scott since we bought this lot and started clearing ,weeds, and building three of the neighbors decided they needed to clean up their places too. Now I feel sort of bad because this place has no yard yet and I can only do so much at one time. We have only been moved in for three weeks. Our curb appeal is zilch. Worse than zilch. No front driveway yet. Need to put in a culvert first. Sigh. Hoping to get to it next week. Need to move the extra pots from the front of the house around to another area too. There are doors on the shop they are just open in the picture. Hubby was working in there.

Welcome from another newbie. And Lucy have you moved into your little dream home yet??


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 1:59AM
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Hi! I'm Erica from Warwick, Rhode Island. I live in a 1000 sq foot house, with a partially finished basement. The basement is not included in the square footage, so it gives us a little more space. Since I moved out of my parent's house 12 years ago, I've always lived in small spaces. I like it because I am forced to decide what I really need, and what I can do without. I am just trying to keep it simple :)

I have about a 1/2 acre yard, which is great. I recently traded my DH for lawn mowing. Now I mow the lawn, and he does the laundry. I am really enjoying getting more into curb appeal, and making the lawn look great. We have a huge garden in the back yard that we work on as a family. It's been really fun growing all kinds of vegetables, and experimenting with flowers and plants.

Not sure if we'll stay in this house until our kids are grown (they are 2 and 5 right now), or if we'll move at some point. We've been in this house for almost 6 years, and we've made lots of improvements to it. Our next project is re-doing our deck, and making it much bigger, and adding french doors to the kitchen. All our small remodels have been DIY, with help from my BIL who works in construction.

Nice to hear everyone's stories!!!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 12:13PM
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Good looking start there Shades. Give it a couple of seasons to get some landscaping in place and you will have a fine looking home. I like the porch. Do you think you picked up some energy efficiency by going manufatured? They are usually pretty tight.

Have you been over to the Garden Forums? There are very nice people ther too that can help with landscape ideas, seeds, cuttings, divisions, etc. That's how I am expanding my garden, trading, salvagin, etc. The old way.

Keep us updated on your progress.

~ Scott ~

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 7:48PM
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Hi Scott,

Thanks for the encouragement. I get discouraged because it is not going fast enough. So much to do. Not to mention I also have a part time job. We brought two 16 by 6 foot trailer loads and several loads on the flat bed and in car of yard plants with us from the house we sold. Did not even make a dent in that yard of flowers. It was so pretty and abundant. I will check out the gardening forums. I like the cottage look.

The soil here is ok in places and awful in others. Improving it as best I can. LOL Also brought about 8 loads of compost chips mulch from the other house. The new buyer did not want it????? I am going OK FINE !!! :^)))

Well I guess three weeks is not all that long to get started. I did plant 15 trees so far and the honeysuckle vines to shade the porch. I have a vision it all just seems to take so much time.

Speaking of neighbors yards. We have a lady next door that is older and does not have a mower and frets about her lawn. Had to pay to get it mowed. I went down and mowed it for her this morning. Took all of about 15 minutes. My payment will be I can use her clothes line , when needed, until we get one up for me. :^)))

This is our third manufactured home. The last two we had were very energy efficient. The last one was almost too tight. I used to have to open it up even in, especially in, winter. With the freeze on the windows then thaw it seemed to want to grow mold on the window tracks. ICK A good airing on a warmer winter day helped a lot. They have ventilation built into them. This house just did not seem to have enough. Since we have not been here through the seasons I really do not know how this one will be. We did choose a white metal roof. Good for cooling in summer. House stays really nice inside and we have had some really hot days since we have been here.Guess time will tell.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 10:56PM
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Hi. I'm Michelle from Illinois. My husband and I are having our house (started out at 1750 sq/ ft and is now around 1900 or so) built by our High School Building Trades class. This program has been in our school district for many years and produces very quality, rather simple homes. We have two small children and want a house that will stand the test of time and grow with our family.

The teacher of the class oversees and directs his junior and senior high school students as they build the house. It is an awesome experience for these kids that could never be taught in a classroom. We pay for materials, not labor, but it takes the entire school year to complete the house. It will be worth the wait!!

We do have to contract out the HVAC, electrical, plumbing and foundation, so we are learning how to be our own general contractors. At least it is a slow process so we have time to learn.

Our lot is just under one acre in a new subdivision just outside of our small town. The house will have trees to the back and on one side, so it will be heavenly to have some space for the kids to play and not have neighbors right next door.

Currently, we are living in a very small townhouse because our home sold within 2 months of putting it on the market. With all the hoopla of the housing market, my husband thought we should put the house up so we could have a year before we really had to sell. Wouldn't you know it....SOLD! LOL That is a good problem to have, but finding a rental in our small town that can house a family of 4 isn't so easy. After almost having to live with family for a year.....we are thankful to have our very tiny townhouse! So for the next year we just have to keep reminding our girls, ages 4 and 8, that they have to be quiet because we have neighbors on the other side of the wall! It is going to be an exciting year!

Any advice about building or choices we should make are welcomed. I am obsessed with this site and just can't get enough opinions!

If it will stop raining long enough, we should break ground within a week or so.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 8:14AM
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Hi Michelle,

Your adventure sounds wonderful. Such a deal for your family and the students.

Your plan looks good to me. My only thing is the garden tub. If you are sure you will use it then great but be sure. In my experience they are a real pain to have. We had one in one of our homs and it was hard to clean,have to get all the way into it to clean, uses huge amounts of water and for us was wasted space. Where we lived water was expensive so I never filled it more them 6 inches and only used it a couple of times. Also be sure you have a hot water heater large enough to fill the tub.

On the other hand our cat loved it. Made for a good play pen to bring mice in,pet door came with that house, and play with them. They could not get out of the slippery sides. :^(

We sold that house but the whole time we lived there I was dreaming of a nice large shower in the space of the garden tub and turn the existing shower into a quality linen cabinet.

Also our guest bath is a pass through plan. The kids might like that better?? Maybe not? I think it would take about the same foot print as what you have but each would have their door from the room.

Love your garage into the laundry room and a nice laundry sink. We have open living room kitchen and like that very much. Makes both rooms feel bigger.

We contracted our own foundation shop electric. You will do fine.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 10:18AM
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I like the idea of using student labor. Mutually beneficial. Before I finalized anything and started driving nails I would pick up a copy of Susan Susanka's "Not so big house". If you aren't familiar with her work, she is an architect who saw the light and championed a smaller home mindset. She has lots of interesting ideas for spaces and emphasizes detail and high quality finish materials.

A few other suggestions or questions. In the master bedroom, should the french door swing out? That might mke furniture arrangement easier. In the master bathroom, do you really need two sinks? I know this is a popular arrangement but it comes at the sacrifice of counter space on top and drawer space in the vanity. How often do you and DH brush your teeth at the same time?

Now, about the guest bathroom. Picture youself "using" the potty. Where are you looking? Into a wall. I don't know, that just doesn't feel right. Could you shift things around a bit in there?

And please , please, please step up and insist on smooth ceilings. It's worth the added expense.

Good luck, keep us posted.

~ Scott ~

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 1:40PM
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Well I've been posting a bit here and there, mostly in the old house forum but I thought I should introduce myself here as I'm always reading on this forum.

I'm Connie, I live in Chicago with my husband and 3 kitties. We just bought (over the winter) a 1250 sq. ft. Chicago bungalow. Just love the older houses (original hardwood floors, cool old windows, all glass doorknobs, etc, etc)

Right now we're dealing with "deferred maintenance" issues. The best part of our place is that an older woman owned it and didn't do a lot of remuddling. The bad part of it was that an older woman owned it and wasn't able to keep it up. We've already removed tons of ugly old shag carpet, redone the floors, fixed up the electric, had all the piping replaced with new copper pipes. Now were working on the bathroom - keeping as much original as possible but the bath had no shower head, just a tub, so we had to redo a bit.

Anyway for us, after years of living in apartments and a condo, 1250 ft is huge. An in reality, we have more space than that. A full basement that is being under utilized right now. Just laundry and a woodworking area. We also have a big walk up attic. Someday we hope to turn it into a studio (I'm an artist and my hubby's a musician) but right now its just storage.

Although we have a smaller house, because it's old, we have zero insulation. Luckily, there's a Chicago Historic Bungalow association that will help us financially if we insulate so we'll definitely be doing that. There's no point in having a smaller home with bigger home utility bills!

My biggest concern is the neighborhood. We wanted to stay in the city. My husband works downtown so he can take the El to work everyday. If we had moved out to the suburbs we would have had to buy a second car. With gas prices going up so much lately, we're really glad we stayed in town. Our neighborhood is solidly working class. It used to be Polish/eastern European and now is mostly Latino. Where we are it's quiet and everybody keeps there houses up nice but we're close to a less desirable area (problems with Latino and Black gangs clashing - sigh.) So far things are good here so we're hoping it stays that way.

We just love our cute "little" house and wouldn't trade it for a huge McMansion even if we could.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 12:19PM
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I'm not new here, and I may have posted in a previous Roll Call thread, but I can't recall so I'm doing it here. ;-)

I'm Jen and I live in the D/FW area of Texas. My hubby and I and seven cats (long story -- we certainly didn't sign on to be crazy kitty-collecting individuals, but circumstances dictated, so ...) live in a cottage built in 1940 that I absoutely love, in spite of its numerous shortcomings. We've got about 1,900 square feet, so I don't think our home is really small, but it would be were it not for the fact that a significant portion of the attic was converted into a large bedroom in 1948. The downstairs portion of the house still lives very small. I've had the privilege of meeting and continue to correspond with the "children" who grew up in the house in the 40's. All delightful, wonderful people. There were 6 of them -- mom, dad, 3 kids, and grandma, and they all lived happily together with only the downstairs rooms and one tiny bathroom, until the upstairs was converted and a 1/2 bath was installed up there. My goodness, how things have changed. Today most people think that each child must have his/her own room, a separate bath for every person in the house, numerous living areas, a separate media room, etc., etc., etc. And actually, I used to think that's what I wanted. So that's what my ex and I built. Suffice it to say that I soon realized that a big house did not make my heart sing, and what I truly longed for was a cottage with character. I bought our little old cottage right before I remarried.

The house's primary shortcoming is its lack of insulation, and the fact that it will never be energy-efficient. I figure the trade-off for its vintage charm is high energy bills, especially in the summer. (This Texas heatwave is killin' us!) Having lived in a large, new custom home, it's always been something of an adjustment to get used to squeaks and cracks and sags and other imperfections, but I try to look at all of that from a wabi sabi standpoint, and embrace it instead of bedgrudging the old place her flaws.

I don't think I'll ever want to live in a larger home. In fact, I can easily see living in a smaller place than my current home, at some point in my future.

Here's my house:

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 3:39PM
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Hi all!

I'm Jeannine and I live in Charlottesville, VA in a 785 square foot condo with my golden retriever, Baxter.

I grew up outside of NYC, went to school in Providence, RI, then grad school in Boston and stayed in Boston for a few years before moving down here. Before I came to Virginia, owning a home seemed impossible because I lived in areas with such crazy housing markets. Looking back, I could have afforded a slightly larger unit, but I was renting here when the complex converted, so buying where I was currently was the path of least resistance.

Anyway, I've never lived in new construction (it was almost a dirty word), so I'm borderline obsessed with removing all "builder grade" details. So far, I've painted almost everything, replaced basic fixtures (cab hardware, faucets, switch plates), and gotten custom window treatments to take the place of vertical blinds. Next on the list: tile the bathroom and replace the vanity and toilet, then paint the kitchen cabinets and replace the flooring in there. Eventually, I'd love to get rid of the fake wood floors, but with a dog, I'm not sure that's practical.

Anyway, I've been on the main decorating forum for a while and only found this forum today. It'll be nice to see pictures from some smaller spaces!

Here is a link that might be useful: A few pictures of my condo's interior

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 6:23PM
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Well, I posted on the old thread, but there might be some new folks, so I'll post here, too, if it's OK. My name is Jay, and we are in the process of planning a new house for our rural acreage in upstate SC. We currently live in a 1600 sq ft typical FL ranch in dense suburbs in the Tampa-St Pete area. We have about 2 years before our son finishes college, so we have time to plan. The new house will be smaller, but hopefully more efficient, plus it will have a walk-out basement. I miss living in old houses (I'm from New England) so our new house will be an attempt at capturing some of the old rural south, with tall ceilings, a wraparound porch, and a tin roof.

My biggest concerns are selling our FL house in this dismal market, and having enough strength/energy/ambition to build the new house. I'll have to do much of the work myself due to budget constraints.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 8:41AM
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This is my first visit to this forum. I used to live in a 1480 sq ft home, built in 1942, that I absolutely loved. Due to DH's job change we moved to Texas from Missouri and into a 1980 sq ft home 2 years ago. I guess I never came here because this house seems so big to me! LOL!

I love cozy houses and when we move back home I'd like to find some land to build the "Not So Big House" to live out our days. So, I came here for some inspiration :)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 1:11PM
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DH, DS and I live in our first home: a 1978 ~1200 (maybe a little less) starter home. It has T11 siding and needs to be painted. Now that the kitchen is remodeled, I am MUCH happier to be here because it has made a huge difference! DH and I both cook, and now we both fit in a kitchen that has enough counter/cabs/space to store everything we want in the kitchen and isn't falling apart.

I've had to learn at LOT about living in a small home despite growing up in an even smaller home with more people. I like that our house is an easy-to-clean, manageable size, but I struggle with clutter and pack-rat tendencies. I grew up in a pack-rat house with clutter everywhere. My mother ingrained in me that I must save everything(she even had a big wad of dryer lint). I don't want to live that way!!!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 9:22AM
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Hi, We're in rural suburbs of Michigan. We moved here 3 years ago from SoCal and bought our first home within the first year, yeah! It's 1700-1800 sf colonial on a half acre and have no regrets! Could not resist a foreclosure fixer in need of some love!! 2 years later we're still weekend warriors, but we've made a lot progress as well as some cherrished memories working on it together. It's the perfect size for us, we don't see ourselves ever needing more space, especially when we factor in 800sf of basement space. I guess larger homes are great for some, (why I couldn't say) but this size home is really comfortable for us and kept us from being married to a mortgage!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 7:10PM
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