Moving to Midtown

In July of 2014, Dan’s employer, Bayer, moved their offices from Davis to West Sacramento. He was going from a 3 mile commute – which he often used his bike for – to 14 miles over the causeway, a much less bike friendly path. We were both traveling a lot – in 2014 one of us was on the road 27 weeks of the year – and keeping up with the Davis house was becoming a real chore.

One weekend late that month I had introduced Dan to Sal’s, a favorite Mexican food joint of mine in West Sac. Across the street were these condos. I’m looking out the window and say out loud “maybe we should consider downsizing.” We have this interesting discussion about it. Something that would shorten his commute, and be easier to maintain. I had gotten a call from a recruiter a few days before about exploring a job change. If I changed jobs, I would likely end up towards Rancho Cordova or towards Roseville, so anything central would be fine since a reverse commute. And if I didn’t change jobs, then I’m still working from home and it wouldn’t matter. The seed was planted.

We didn’t talk about it again until the Friday evening of Labor Day weekend. We were heading out to Santa Cruz for a couple of nights the next morning. That Friday evening, Dan starts sending me properties to look at from Redfin. “What about this one?” I did the driving to Santa Cruz the next morning. By the time we got there, Dan had set up an appointment with our real estate agent for us to look at 3 or 4 properties when we got back on Monday afternoon. The search was on.

Originally we had a fairly wide but still central area: Downtown, Midtown, East Sac, Land Park. Over time, we narrowed that to Midtown. We had considered condos – had even put an offer on one in a high rise downtown – and eventually nixed that as well. While the right single family would be OK, Dan preferred a duplex or tri-plex for investment reasons.

By November we were in escrow on a property on I street between 17th/18th. It had a commercial space downstairs and 2 units upstairs – a one bedroom and a two bedroom. And like 9 parking spaces in the back that were rented full time to the law firm next door. We planned to tear down a large deck and use that space plus some of the parking to build another structure that would have more units in it. Long story short, we pulled out of that deal just before Thanksgiving.

In the mean time however, I had applied for a job a Disability Rights California, which would have been just 2 blocks away at 19th/K. By the time I had my first interview, we were in escrow on something else. Never in a million years did I ever think I could actually work in Midtown. But in about 6 weeks I will be 4 blocks away.

This duplex at 1417-1419 20th Street had been on the market for a while. It’s a strange property – a duplex well over a 100 years old in need of some work, sitting on the corner of an 80×80 lot that is zoned commercial. So this huge area of vacant land right next to it. If you’re a residential buyer, you don’t really know what to do with that. If you’re a commercial buyer, you don’t really want the house there and, because it’s in a historical district, the city will give you grief for wanting to tear it down. If you’re Dan, you know exactly what to do with something like that: fix up the units in the house to be decent rentals, and build a small apartment building in the open space. And because it had been on the market for so long, it was pretty reasonably priced.

On December 7, 2014, we spent the afternoon in Midtown to check out that property and the surrounding neighborhood, including where my interview that Tuesday would be, and another house over on 18th around F. We spent probably 4 hours walking around Midtown, with stops at a noodle place in the Safeway shopping center for lunch, and Rick’s for dessert. Having never lived in Sacramento before, Dan hadn’t spent that much time in Midtown and he really liked it. We heard a couple of trains go by while we were close to our property and it wasn’t that bad, something that had been a concern of mine especially. We talked to the downstairs tenants and they confirmed – not too bad and you get pretty used to it. We would be on the east side of the street; the train runs behind the west side and the buildings on that side buffer the noise quite a bit. And, being between N and O streets, we were close to the heart of Midtown which is J through Capitol, and also the stuff being developed over by Q and R. We put an offer in and were in escrow by the time of my first interview on 12/9.

I got the job and started 1/26/15. We were supposed to close on 1/29. We didn’t close until 7/22. The title company discovered the City of Sacramento had a lien on the property because of these outside stairs the owner – a real estate development company – had build without permits and without checking on the historical district requirements. It took them that long to get all of that cleared up.

We retained the property manager who immediately served notice on the upstairs tenants. Both units are just under 800 square feet. The downstairs is 2 bedroom, but they got the 2nd one by cutting the living room in half. The upstairs is just one bedroom, but there’s a small nook we will turn into an office and the living space is much more reasonable. So that’s where we’re headed.

The tenant moved out yesterday and we went today to take “before” pictures and some final measurements. We’d been in it a couple of times already so we (Dan!) could draw plans for our contractor, who will start work on Tuesday. So away we go. We need to be in by 10/31, because the Davis house is in escrow and that’s when we need to be out by.

So here are the “before” shots.

The infamous stairs. These are the “up to code” version. The ones before were just plain lumber, nothing fancy. We’re not doing anything to the outside (except maybe a power washing) so it will continue to look just like this. 

We’ll have a small front porch upstairs. This faces west, but the trees do a nice job of blocking the sun.
 The entry way. That’s the bedroom to the right.

 The bed we have in our master will just barely fit in here. We will have an armoire from our current guestroom in the corner to your left. There’s room for a sitting chair in the corner on your right. This room is like 10×13. 
 Looking back at the entrance from the living space. We will take out that door in between. 
 View of the living space from the entry. I’m standing several feet in so it’s a little longer than it appears here. The kitchen is through the door on the left, the bathroom around the corner on the right. That hutch will come out, and maybe the 16 inches of wall in the middle that’s jutting out. Our contractor has already told us the wall where the heater is has to stay, which was really disappointing.
Looking back to the north from the corner of the living room. All of the carpeting will come up as well. The floors in the living space and kitchn will be laminate, and tile in the bathroom.
 The west wall of the living room looking back towards the entrance. 
 The rest of that wall. The blue sectional we have in our den now will go in this corner. The bathroom is directly behind where I’m standing in this shot.
This will be gutted and redone completely. 
 The kitchen as you enter from the living space. This will be gutted as well. 

From the back of the kitchen looking towards the front. The wall on the right next to the stove will come down so we can have a more open feel. 
 This is to the left of the kitchen as you’re walking through. We are going to turn it into and office nook. 
 Laundry area to the right of the kitchen. 
 Each unit has a little yard behind that fence. That will all come down once we start construction on the apartment building. That’s a good 6-9 months out. 
The site of the big project: a parking garage with two levels of units above it, 7 units total.

1 thought on “Moving to Midtown”

  1. Unknown says:

    Wow…like I said on FB. Exciting. What a project you guys have going on here. I am so glad you are doing a blog on this too. I loved seeing the "before" pictures. I know it is a lot of work and change but exciting stuff.

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