California natives and lovers of the great outdoors, we are the Gustos! When my husband, Josh, and I met sixteen years ago, we would never have guessed we would buy our first home together as a family on two acres in the middle of a pandemic. Or that we would be tearing down nearly every wall. Our new home is off the beaten path; it’s an hour’s drive from Trader Joe’s and further than we have ever lived from the ocean.
But, time together has shown us that what we value as a couple may not be the traditional home in a comfortable suburban neighborhood that we once thought. Land for our girls to play and lives debt-free enough to follow our dreams without fear; those are the goals that have become the cornerstone of our desires. And so we begin our renovation! Not just of this house but of our future in these uncertain times. I hope you enjoy following along as we learn.
Where would you put down roots if the safety of your comforts did not burden you? It’s a question worth asking. With the rise of COVID and perhaps an undefined view of the future, it became safer to jump. Every check written to our landlords, every month spent waiting for things to “get better” in the economy, was becoming a drain of our nest egg and a risk to where we knew we could be if we took this leap. They say: “The best time to plant a tree is five years ago. And the second-best time to plant a tree is today.” This truth became the guiding principle when COVID affected both of our jobs.
As an 8 months pregnant wedding and travel photographer, I watched every single one of my jobs evaporate into thin air within weeks. Every email would come in: Canceled. Canceled. Canceled. My husband was put on temporary leave, given health benefits, but asked to consult until things eased up for his company. When a home across the road from my mother-in-law family ranch came on the market, our ears perked up. This was not just a risk that was interesting. It was necessary for our long term well being. Sitting in our cozy beachside house wasn’t going to move us forward. It was time to act.
Changing your life on the drop of a hat is not for the weak of heart. It takes a lot of Gusto to disregard convention and take a shot at a plan like this. We made an all-cash offer after two face time calls instead of an in-person walkthrough. A rickety foundation sat on rotting plywood or directly to the earth, making this home considered a teardown. This place was in desperate need of some love from the ground up! And so it goes. We packed all that we could fit into one bedroom at my mother-in-law’s house for our little family of 4 (including a two-week-old baby +three newly hatched chickens) and headed north to get this place into shape!