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House Talk

No. 24 - March, 2006

"Sell the Big House ... and Then What?"
A talk with Diane and Terry Robinson

In their dynamic world of real estate, Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine often meet people who are in transition of one kind of another. One such couple is Diane and Terry Robinson who outgrew their small home in the Fruitvale district of Oakland fifteen years and purchased a large prairie-style home in Piedmont. The house had five-plus bedrooms, a family room, and a large yard – the perfect space and location for their growing family plus their children could take advantage of the highly rated Piedmont schools. When the children grew up and left home, the Robinsons realized that they were shutting off rooms rather than using them; it was clear that the house had outgrown them!

Like many potential buyers, Diane and Terry began casually glancing at real estate ads and zoomed in on a Glass Sabine listing which advertised a house as a “Finisher, not a Fixer.” The two-story house was located on Upper Fruitvale back in their former neighborhood so the Robinsons decided to come to the Sunday Open House and take a look. The reality of the Fruitvale house was unique: in 1999, the owners bought it directly from the builder who had basically stopped in the middle of building the house. The ambitious buyers moved in and had big plans to finish the house one step at a time. To say that there was still a lot of work to be done would be an understatement. The exterior was unpainted T-11 siding, the interior walls had exposed sheet rock, the floors had only the sub-flooring, the master bedroom and bath were torn apart and the front and back yard needed some serious landscaping. The one project the owners were able to complete was the kitchen, and it was new and updated. Then, a job change and other factors had forced them to abandon their remodeling project and to sell the house in its “as-is” condition.

Enter the Robinsons. They realized that it would be great to move back to their former neighborhood. So, being creative and adventurous, they bought the house, then rolled up their sleeves and began to develop the actual potential of the home. The first order of business was to re-paint the entire exterior and interior of the house. Next, they installed the bamboo flooring which had been purchased for the house by the former owners and stored in the garage. They added a cozy zero-clearance fireplace in the living room, walls of mirrored closets in the master suite, and a Jacuzzi tub, granite countertops and two sinks in the master bath. A drainage system was installed then the front yard and back yard were completely landscaped with attractive shrubs and plants. The rear yard in particular required more attention. The uphill back portion, a 750 sq. ft. plot, belonged to the neighbor. In order to creative more privacy and overall unity, the Robinsons purchased the section from their neighbor. They proceeded to terrace the earth, plant a rose garden and add a romantic koi pond. Terry Robinson, a true natural gardener, added his magic touch at every turn - especially on the four decks which are beautifully adorned with cymbidium orchids, jade plants, Japanese maples and staghorn ferns.

The Robinsons have done a fabulous job creating warmth and beauty throughout their new residence. Their friends and family, who initially did not want them to move from Piedmont, are excited with the new environment and enjoy visiting them. Reflecting upon their move, the Robinsons are definitely comfortable in their old neighborhood. The home’s uphill location offers views of the surrounding area, the neighborhood is quiet, and they especially enjoy the micro-Mediterranean climate of the Upper Fruitvale district.

They do notice that many of the older people are beginning to move away and younger people are moving in so there’s a lot of fixing up and remodeling going on. This trend is occurring throughout the entire East Bay, making “the bright side of the Bay” more and more a great place to live!

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