Redwood City resident shares his perspective on the rise of home remodels in the Bay Area and how Thomas James Homes is investing in the local community.
San Mateo Daily
October 10, 2020
By Greg Wilson
Home remodeling projects can certainly be rewarding, but they are not for the faint of heart. Whether you have the skills to do some or all of the work yourself, or you contract it out, the household disruption that arises from your average home remodeling project can be difficult with which to deal. Plus, there are the costs, the countless decisions, and, if the job is a particularly large one, the having to move out for the duration of the project. During normal times all of this is bad enough but, these days, because of the complications that COVID-19 layers on to nearly every aspect of our lives, it is even worse. And yet, here on the Peninsula, it appears that more people than ever are remodeling their homes. To me that shows real confidence in the future of our area, and gives me hope.
People remodel homes for a lot of reasons. In our case, my wife and I began by upgrading our house’s windows (which were single-pane, and not very efficient) and its heating system (originally our house had inefficient, and as it turns out, dangerous, wall heaters). Later, we redid the kitchen to make it more functional, improving the layout and upgrading the appliances. Finally, as our family grew, we added a bit more space. All of this took place over a number of years, initiating each project only when we were confident we could pay for it.
These days I spend a lot of time walking through Redwood City’s residential areas, and I always stop to look at remodeling projects. Only the largest are visible from the street, of course. While I can get some hints about smaller projects such as when I see people hauling old carpeting out of a home, it’s the big ones involving dumpsters and tearing off parts of the house that really catch my eye. And these days I’m seeing a lot of these larger projects.
This apparent increase in remodeling activity seems counterintuitive at first. Given the uncertain state of our economy, I would expect many people to hold off and husband their financial resources. But home ownership often signals a good paying job, and right now it is the good paying jobs that mostly seem to be surviving. If one feels comfortable paying for a remodel, now may be a better time than most to undertake one. Many of us have changed how we are using our homes, and a remodel can help with that. Plus, keeping an eye on a remodeling project is easier when you are home nearly all the time.
If one feels comfortable paying for a remodel, now may be a better time than most to undertake one. Many of us have changed how we are using our homes, and a remodel can help with that.
Many remodels are done by homeowners to make their place more livable, but of course many are not. There are countless developers who buy run-down homes and fix or completely replace them for eventual resale. A couple of years ago Thomas James Homes, a high-end home developer, bought a number of houses in our area with the intent of replacing them with newer, larger homes. In Redwood City alone, this company is currently in various stages of development on at least a dozen different properties.
Just recently my wife and I were enjoying lunch in our backyard when the distant sounds of a jackhammer reached our ears. Curious as to the source, after lunch I grabbed my camera and followed my ears to the corner of Whipple Avenue and Nevada Street, where for well over a year a construction fence bearing the Thomas James Homes logo has guarded a parcel. By the time I arrived, the 1,500-square-foot house that once graced the site was gone, and a tractor with an attached jackhammer was making short work of the driveway and foundation. I have yet to go back, but the now much-quieter construction noises signal that demolition is complete and that the site is being prepped for a new, presumably much larger, home.
New builds like this, and smaller but no less visible projects done simply to better suit a house to the life enjoyed by the current homeowners, are a good sign, and not simply because of the jobs that they provide. I’ve read that a lot of people seem to be leaving California, but based on the remodeling I’m seeing, it appears that a lot are staying right here. People who are willing to invest so directly in their future show a level of confidence both in their personal financial situation and in California. I may not be in the midst of a remodeling project at the moment, but I’m with them. While I expect that things will be somewhat rocky over the next year or so, the many projects I’m seeing bolster my own confidence that soon we’ll be back on a relatively even keel — and have me thinking about my own next project.
Greg Wilson is the creator of Walking Redwood City, a blog inspired by his walks throughout Redwood City and adjacent communities. He can be reached at greg@walkingRedwoodCity.com. Follow Greg on Twitter @walkingRWC.