Our Net-Zero Home in Long Beach, California

Living the Change We Want to See in the World

  • Who Knew?

    We bought the house next door to where we live. The original owners of that house Ed and Virginia Christensen, were both alive, active, and retired when we bought our current house at the end of 1993. As related to us by Virginia, she and Ed built the house before World War II and raised their family of three children there. They expanded the house to its last configuration with the help of a local oil company. Their house was also one of the first houses in our heighborhood.

    Ed preceded Virginia in death. After Virginia passed away we did not have any contact with the people that moved into the house. We found out after we purchased the house, that the parents of a single mother bought the house for their daughter and granddaughter and they were the last residents of the house that the Christensen's built. What we didn't know was the true condition of the house.

    The listing for the house read:

    LOCATION! FIXER Worth looking at! Nestled between Marine Stadium and the Colorado Lagoon in Prime Alamitos Heights! Lovely, quiet, tree-lined street. Surrounded by million dollar properties! Construction Loan Easy & Available! Sold "As Is". Private Showing with easy Appointment! Come Dream the Possibilities! California Distinguished Schools & all freeway access.

    The key phrase was, "Construction Loan Easy & Available!"

    We somewhat unwhittingly bought a complete tear-down. The roughly 75 year-old house was literally falling down. This met our needs very well but we were surprised that the house was in such poor condition.

    Also, the lot has a radically different grade than our current lot despite being next door to us. Retaining walls on the north and east boundaries of the property are in poor condition and concerned some of the deconstruction and demolition contractors who we contacted for bids to remove the existing house. Adding to the complexity of the project was the 10-foot deep in-ground swimming pool that we needed to remove.

    So began our year-long journey of removing the house.

  • Buying the House Next Door

    I came home from work in late May 2014 and Nina greeted me by saying the house next door to us was for sale. Over the previous six months, we were working with our realtor, Lorri Quiett, to find an empty lot or a tear-down house in our current neighborhood for the purpose of building our retirement house -- our green, dream home. We didn't have much luck. During those six months, we put an offer on a house that was probably better for a big remodel, rather than a tear-down, and we tried to find the owner or owners of a couple of empty lots without any success.

    Our neighbor's house wasn't officially on the market when Nina spotted the seller's agent erecting a for sale sign on the property. Nina spoke with her about the upcoming listing and got her business card. On that cool May evening, we called Lorri, who was leaving for a long girls' weekend back east, and asked her to contact the sellers' agent and place an offer.

    The sellers rejected our initial offer which was slightly under the their list price. Apparently, other potential buyers placed pre-listing offers that were higher than our offer. After some back and forth over the next few days, the sellers accepted our offer (which was a fair amount over the list price). Amazingly, all of this happened while our real estate agent was back east.

    After a fairly smooth escrow process, we took ownership in late June 2014, beginning our green, dream home journey.

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