Coffee heat rising

Woo-HOO! Major estate sale triumph

Un-freaking-BELIEVABLE! I just scored enough red bricks to build the coveted garden wall at the downtown house and probably pave a couple of patios: for about 15 cents apiece!

The things are selling for 65 cents apiece at Home Depot. They’re practically brand-new: the “estate sale,” as it develops, was actually a foreclosure sale. The evicted owner had planned to build a circular driveway in front of the large tract house that he was forced to vacate. He never got the things on the ground, and so…his misfortune is my good luck.

The sale organizers advertised 1,000 bricks, but when I counted them I came up with 1,448.

Gerardo sent a crew in a decrepit pick-up to load the bricks. I had my van, too: there were so many bricks it took us two trips with both vehicles. The men loaded and unloaded all those blocks, one at a time. While Gerardo was at the estate sale, he picked up another job: some used furniture dealer hired him to transport a heavy, solid brass baker’s rack. So he did OK, despite not asking anything like enough for his and his workers’ time.

For some reason, stucco often doesn’t seem to hold up well to the passage of time. The foreclosure is in a district of aging stucco tracts that once formed an upper-middle-class Scottsdale suburb, now  surrounded by development and fading fast. The houses were built in the 70s and the 80s. Mile after mile of houses, many of them spacious and once upscale, are now tired and run-down—and they’re just not that old. IMHO, a thirty-year-old house shouldn’t look like it’s ready to be torn down. Too many of these houses, which were anything but cheap at the outset, look exactly that way.

A few houses in the tract were built of slump block, and they still look very good. But the stucco affairs have weary and worn-out air about them. And since stucco is the predominant style in all new construction here, I guess that in twenty or thirty years, we’ll be seeing vast swaths of blight where developers bladed an acre an hour to cover the beautiful Sonoran desert with tens of thousands of look-alike fake-tile-roofed stucco “homes.”

So I’m feeling smug about the two sturdy, centrally located block houses M’hijito and I managed to get our hands on. Once we finish the landscaping project, we’ll be done with making the downtown house livable. Now that neither of us has any debt other than the mortgage on that little place, we should be able to ride out the depression, come what may. After the economy recovers, both these houses will be worth a lot of money, because of their location and because of the quality of their construction.

Now…all we need is to find an estate sale where someone’s trying to unload 65 tons of Madison Gold quarter-minus and a pallet of extra-thick flagstones…

4 thoughts on “Woo-HOO! Major estate sale triumph”

  1. Something you actually need! Bliss!

    BTW, have you ever thought of eventually moving into your investment house? It sounds like a great house for retirement.

  2. @ frugalscholar: Actually, that’s a real possibility. If my son takes a job in another city or if he marries and wants to move to a larger house, the proceeds from selling my house would pay off the loan on the downtown house, with $50,000 or $60,000 to spare. That house has no pool (less to take care of!) and it’s the cutest little place. It probably would need some more work done–the cabinetry we put in the kitchen wasn’t made for the ages, so I’d end up using some of the extra money to rebuild that. And the biggie…it’s full of black-iron plumbing, which sooner or later is going to have to be replaced. Expensively. Still, over the long run the costs would be no higher than my present house will rack up…and possibly less.

  3. I wonder if the stucco looking rundown has to do with the climate. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s 1970s stucco houses for miles and miles and miles around here and they’re all in good condition.

  4. @ Carrie: That sure is a possibility. We get blinding heat in the summer and it often freezes in the winter, plus in the summertime we also have violent, hard rainstorms. It wouldn’t be surprising if the wear and tear on the surface degrades it over time.

    Also, I’ve read that you shouldn’t paint stucco; that paint will cause it to degrade in time. Much preferable (we’re told) is to mix a pigment into the mud to create a desirable color that will last the lifetime of the house. Supposedly stucco holds up better if it’s left unpainted.

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