also a secondary revenue stream
and a creative outlet for our near
obsessional love of remodeling
and home design. It’s also allowed
us to benefit from Marin’s ever-
escalating real estate prices, rather
than bemoan them.
The first rule we adhere to: dis-
miss anything marketed as “move-in
ready” or “turnkey.” Conversely, key-
words like “contractor’s special” and
“needs TLC” get our imaginations
going. As my husband likes to say:
“The more it smells like cat pee, the
more we like it.”
To date, we’ve bought and
remodeled seven homes, five of
which have become a primary resi-
dence. Each and every time, our
parents — not to mention close
friends — think us crazy for plunk-
ing hard-earned money into what
casual observers call a “dog,” a
“dumper” or a “teardown.”
Many people find the process of
renovating, not to mention moving,
stressful, but for us it’s magical.
There’s just something cathartic
about taking a run-down structure,
plotting a redesign and seeing it to
fruition. The smell of fresh drywall
and newly milled wood is as
intoxicating to me as fresh-from-
the-oven chocolate chip cookies.
As for boxing up your worldly possessions every three to six years,
I’m not going to lie, that’s my least
favorite part. It’s emotionally and
physically exhausting. But the
process of moving also has an
upside. I relish the opportunity
to purge, donate and start anew.
We dumped our CD and DVD collections three moves ago, pared
our paper book collection down
to treasured classics. And as we
prepared for this next move, we
consolidated keepsakes from our
now-adult children’s childhood
into two extra-large storage bins.
Sentimentalists may be thinking,
“How do you let go of all those precious memories?” My response:
“How many pinch pots and
plaster-of-Paris paperweights does
Our current home, a five-bedroom,
four-bath contemporary in San
Rafael, may well be my favorite.
Alas, I knew when we bought it,
almost three years ago, our stay
would be short.
Frankly, it’s too big for two
soon-to-be empty nesters. But the
allure of the project and a chance
to live in a home with amazing bay
views were too much to pass up.
The moment I walked in I
thought, Wow, what a great home
for a young family. I imagined how
much my two kids, now 18 and
21, would have loved to explore
the acre-plus backyard or play
hide-and-seek in the many nooks
and crannies of the lower-level
recreation room. The house also
has endless storage space to corral
toys, bikes, strollers and the other
accoutrements kids accumulate.
Still, for us, that ship had sailed.
Our daughter was at college, our
son soon to follow.
But the other plus of the place
Our sensible Midwestern
was that incredible view, which
had never been optimized. The
tiny kitchen at the center of the
house was completely walled off
from everything, including the
view. The rest of the house was in
Sycamore Park neighborhood.
parents fell out of their chairs
when we told them we’d put in
an offer of $383,000 on a dated
1,600-square-foot home with no
basement and a one-car garage.
“That’s what things cost around
here,” I explained. They thought us
young and foolish and begged us
to rethink our plan.
But we forged ahead, closed on
the house, and spent the next six
years fixing it up. When we sold
it for more than double what we’d
paid, our parents were shocked
We, too, were pleased — par-
tially for proving them wrong, but
mostly because we realized a house
wasn’t just a place to hang your hat.
It could also be a source of income.
From there, we relinquished
the notion of ever settling into a
Ever since, each of the seven
residences we’ve occupied has
served as our family’s home, but