Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tim Tebow + Michael Vick + Denard Robinson = the NFL's Moneyball

This blog is about renovating extreme houses, but I like to listen to sports radio (see Appreciation for the Radio - Jan. 26, 2012)  while I'm working so the Tim Tebow story is once again in my head.  (See Tim Tebow Is Fascinating Us Because He's Doing the Impossible - Jan. 12, 2012.)

Some think my investments have been risky and they've tried to talk me down from the ledge.  Family, friends, and co-workers have made blatant attempts to get me headed in the other direction, to take a safer, easier course.  However, to the credit of the majority of those in my circle of influence, they've been excited for me when I've succeeded in turning the 'Pig's Ears' into silk purses.  They've been proud to tell people that I bought the worst house on the street and transformed it into the most valuable.

My wife isn't a big football fan, but she loves the Tim Tebow story.  For this reason, we talk about TT and his status with the New York Jets regularly.  Earlier this year she was following his dismissal from the Denver Broncos and wanted to know what I'd do if I was a decision maker for one of the remaining 31 NFL teams.  This question and the discussion that followed helped me realize that I am a bit of a risk taker.  I think there is some risk to bringing Tim Tebow into your club as a quarterback, but like the condemned or abandoned properties I've bought to rehab, I see a large, potential upside.  So, if I was a top shelf NFL guy, I'd pull the trigger on the Tim Tebow thing.  However, I wouldn't just go for it by plugging him into a somewhat traditional system or the often mentioned wildcat formation, I'd come at the challenge from a different angle and do something others weren't thinking about.  

When I was in High School, I was recruited to play college football.  One of my coaches suggested that I consider Denison University in Central Ohio, because they had a unique, old-school offense that had the center hiking the ball directly to a runner in the back field.  He thought this might be the school and the team for me.  Now I understand why he suggested it and I agree that the Big Red would have been a cool team to play for.

So all this wordiness get's me to the Tim Tebow Dilemma.  I like the idea of matching Tim up with a stable of other scrambling quarterbacks like himself with the throwback Denison U.-type offense.  Michael Vick is struggling in Philly so there's a potential match.  How about a team putting Vick and Tebow back there together and drafting some more college QB's that have had tremendous success, but little hope for an NFL starting spot because of their size.  For example, the University of Michigan's Denard Robinson.  He just broke Antwaan Randle El rushing mark (October) from when ARE was running and passing as the QB of the Indiana Hoosiers (before he went to the pros and played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers without a shot taking snaps under center.)  Russell Wilson has gotten off to a good start as the signal caller for the Seattle Seahawks, but the jury is still out on him.  

I'd like to see an NFL team take the approach of replacing traditional running backs with proven scrambling QB's who can play differently than the traditional pocket passers.  Change it up.  I don't think a team should put all their eggs in one basket and rest the seasons hopes on one guy who's running for his life half the game.  (If he gets hurt, you have to have someone just like him to come in and try to duplicate his style.)  I am all for some NFL team thinking outside the box and doing something different with Tim Tebow in the mix.  (Like the Oakland A's did when they lost their star players to free agency and starting playing Moneyball in 2002 ...and winning.)  Who wouldn't tune in to to see Tebow, Vick, Robinson, and three or four other players who could run and pass switching in and out, down after down, as they march the ball down the field like no other team ever has?

I think it could work  because the scrambler with the ball creates exciting opportunities to hit receivers and people would love to see it... just like friends, family, and neighbors like watching me renovate an overgrown, abandoned property that no one else wants.  Teams don't want Tebow?  Folks think Mike Vick is at the end of his career?  We'd like to see some Billy Beane of the NFL emerge and show everyone how to win in a different way...with Tebow and talented quarterbacks like him.     

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fire #2 at The Fire House

We could call The Fire House 'The Fires House' because this project started and ended with two separate, unrelated fires. 

The Detached Garage
Before Fire #2 (and the Garage Door)
In the 1990's, a dryer fire in the laundry room quickly got out of control, ignited some charcoal lighter fluid stored in the attic over the den, and exploded into an intense house fire.  That disaster ultimately resulted in the four bedroom ranch being condemned by local building officials after it had been vacant for years.  I agreed to buy The Fire House in 1999 and closed on the property in 2000.   The renovation took twelve months. 

Fire #2 happened in 2002.  I was visiting family in the Midwest when I got the news.  This was just ten years ago, but times were a little different.  We didn't all have cell phones with numbers programmed into them like we do now.  A neighbor had to find someone who had a number for my family up North.  Eventually, after the message bounced between a few people, my parents heard the news, got a hold of me, and said, "One of your buildings burned down." That was all they knew, so that was the message I got.  Yikes!  At that time, I only owned three buildings; The Fire House , The Cottage, and The Detached Garage at The Fire House.  The Cottage was still being renovated, but TFH w/ it's DG were finished and this property was on the market to be sold.   

Before my thoughts raced too far ahead, I made some calls back to South Carolina and confirmed that the DG was the one lost.  I felt some relief since (of the three) it was the least significant and the easiest to replace.  When reality set in, I had seven hundred miles to drive and think about the loss of my garage (while I tried to do an accounting in my head of the things I had in the DG versus what was in the houses).  When I turned the corner to see my property, I was surprised by the extent of the fire.  I had expected to see some evidence of the original outbuilding, but it was gone.  It was a small black pile of charred remains.  There was hardly anything left.  It made me think of that scene from the movie Independence Day when the aliens obliterate The White House.  It was like those same space guys flew over my building and fired away.  Crazy. 

My detached garage was gone.   
The Detached Garage after the fire.

This is the grand old tree I lost.  It was struck by lightening during a storm in the middle of the night.  We believe that the strike and the metal roof on the DG sparked the fire.  I had trim and left over paint from The Fire House renovation stored in the DG and this likely helped the fire grow quickly.  The firemen thought the rain on the outside allowed for the fire to build and gain strength on the inside.  I had a lawnmower and some gas and wood stored inside and all this caught fire and burned up.   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Detached Garage at The Fire House

The Carport/Storage Building at The Fire House
Having extra space under roof in the form of a garage, carport, barn, basement, or storage building is ideal and it's even more significant on a house being renovated because of the need for space for storing or using your tools, materials, &/or equipment.  

The Fire House (Before) had originally been a 1100 square foot, three bedroom, one bath ranch.  Previous owners had transformed it into 1800 sf when they added a master suite on the back and transformed the attached one car garage into extra living space. 
Before.  The first pic. of the Carport/Stor.Bldg.
Not much to look at, but something I was glad to have.
When I took ownership there was a structure in the back that was a carport with a storage area.  This detached building had room to park one vehicle and an enclosed area perfect for a mower, lawn tools, yard games/toys, stuff for the beach, etc...the sort of things people pack into a garage.  It was valuable space and I was thankful to have it. 

When I finished the renovation of The Fire House (After), I decided to make some adjustments and turned the carport/storage building into a two car garage.  I framed up the walls and the opening for a large garage door then salvaged siding from the storage area.  (I made the original siding work without buying more because vinyl fades a little over time and I wanted everything to match.  Reworking what I had was a little tricky, but it was possible and I was glad to be able to make it work.) 

Once the walls were framed up, I started to prep for the 350 square foot concrete slab.  (This is where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.)  

I like finishing concrete.  I learned to do this type of work during my summer breaks from college when I worked construction building glass and steel water tanks throughout the Mid-Atlantic States (Penn., WV, Maryland, Va., Ohio).  Finishing the concrete on the DG was fun, but on that day I decided that finishing 350 sq.ft./6 cubic yards by myself is my limit.  It turned out well, but that much solo wore me out and it almost got away from me.  If there's one thing you don't want to get away from you, it's concrete.  Once it's set that's it.  Fortunately, I kept control and things turned out just as I had planned...until Mother Nature had her say and my detached garage burned back down to my pretty slab of concrete.  
A few months later, the oak behind it got struck by lightening. 
It burned down before I got a picture with the 7' x 16' garage door.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

After Hurricane Sandy, Rebuilders Take Notice

I have thoughts regarding Hurricane Sandy and the rebuilding efforts that were seemingly underway before the storm had run its course.
I love building and rebuilding, but folks need to keep some things in mind before they head down the road of replacing what was lost and I'm talking to local leaders and taxpayers as well as home owners or potential rehabbers.
It will cost more in every way to replace what was destroyed by the storm.  I’m not merely talking about inflation and the fact that a 2x4x8 bought in 2012 will be more than one purchased decades ago, I’m speaking of building standards.  Hurricanes have taught us a great deal about the power of these storms and with the awareness that they seem to be getting more severe, those standards are only going to become more stringent.  And, stricter building codes will mean higher costs.  Someone rebuilding or extensively renovating after Hurricane Sandy will need to be mindful of this from the start.
Hurricane Clip
When we renovate a home we leave it better than when it was built 30, 50, or 70 years ago.  This is not just a professional standard that we set for ourselves; this is what’s required from the building industry, local building officials, and/or the insurance industry.  For example, we install Hurricane Clips where the roof structure meets the walls and install metal strapping at exterior wall openings and where the foundation meets the carpentry.  For us, this change happened as a result of Hurricanes Andrew and Hugo.    
This is the way things will be rebuilt on the East Coast in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  They won’t be the same, they will be better.  It will make the beach homes and cottages cost more to replace because the storms are getting stronger and we know how to design, engineer, and build them better from the start.  There’s no sense in building something that’s going to blow away next year or in the next storm. 
Hurricane Strapping to tie Foundation into Wood Framing
In addition to this, the homes that survived and the homes that will be rebuilt will cost more to insure.  We live in the Carolinas, many states away from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, but after that disaster our home insurance rates went up noticeably and the insurance companies explained that the increase was due in part to our county being considered as part of the coastal region.  We didn’t like it, but we took it on the chin and rationalized that its part of the price we pay for being less than an hour from the beach.  However, we don’t live on the beach and it some ways it rubs us the wrong way because we must have home insurance... so what are you going to do, but write the check and mail it in.   
As I've already said, I get pretty jazzed up about every part of new construction and renovations, but as the Post-Sandy rebuilding efforts commence, the unanticipated costs need to be considered now, not later.
See The Hurricane House  (Jan. 3, 2012)