Stankavich Saga

Stories of the Stankavich family of Hillsboro, Oregon, USA


The housing bubble hits home for the Stankavich family

Our home 2004Our story begins just before the peak of the housing boom.  I had dollar signs in my eyes just like everybody else, and I had some equity in the house I was (and still am) living in. So I refinanced, took cash out, and bought a duplex. Sure, it needed a little work, and the rents were really low, but I was confident I could quickly turn it around.

West side of the duplex East side of the duplex

The infamous oak treeThree weeks after I closed on the duplex, the giant oak tree in the yard fell right across the front of the building.  Fortunately the tenants heard the tree splitting down the middle and got out before it fell, so nobody was hurt.  And I had planned to remodel, so not having to work around tenants was a plus.  I just hadn’t planned to remodel in such dramatic fashion.Tree down on the duplexTree covers entire structure

Damage after tree removedFortunately, I had insurance on the property.  The insurance settlement was fairly hassle free.  But then when I started investigating my options on rebuilding the damaged unit to have more bedrooms, I found that the property was not actually zoned multi-family. According to the city my only option was to rebuild the structure as it was before it was damaged.

As we dealt with the tree fall, we got to know the neighbors and the neighborhood and liked what we saw.  And I studied the zoning ordinances for the duplex property and found that an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or what most people call an in-law apartment was allowed.

DemolitionRemaining structure

FramingSo we hit on the idea of keeping the undamaged duplex unit as an in-law apartment for my parents and rebuilding the damaged unit to be our primary residence.  I moved my parents in with me a couple of years ago, and our situation was less than ideal for them – their bedroom and living room are in a converted garage, and they are using Exteriorthe laundry room for their kitchen. Rebuilding with an in-law apartment for them would provide them with much nicer living quarters.

It seems like every step of the construction process has involved some sort of struggle.  Design took a while because we had to meet zoning requirements and accommodate the existing structure.  Then when we got all that New interiordone, it took nearly three months to get a construction loan.  At least we got it done before the credit crisis really hit.

Then when we were done with framing, the inspectors found several issues that required rework.  15 months of delays and challenges later, we’re almost there.

Moving will be bittersweet – we have a wonderful view and nice surroundings where we’re at now.  And selling has proved to be particularly challenging.  We started getting ready to sell in early 2007.  Everything was finally ready to go in July.   We listed for top Existing home 2007dollar figuring we weren’t in a hurry to move as the other house wasn’t done yet.  We have ended up chasing the market down from 569,000 to 459,900, and it still hasn’t sold.  The problem is that we owe 456,000, so we can’t really afford to lower the price any more.  I think that after we move into the new house I’ll just drop the price anyway and pursue a short sale. If by The viewany chance you know somebody looking for a nice rural property west of Portland, Oregon, please please send them to 🙂

This has definitely been a learning experience, and it has been a tough financial hit.  I had hoped to come out with no debt other than the first mortgage on the new property, but now A sunrisewe’ll be at least 100,000 away from that.  I’ll definitely be working hard to pay debt for the next few years.  But I know that I’m not the only one.  This economy is hurting nearly everyone.  I am confident that with some  hard work and willingness to avoid excess spending we’ll be able to recover before too long.

A fine mushroom hunting adventure

Numerous request from my wife and an article in the local paper inspired us to plan a family mushroom hunt.  I have also been wanting to check out the nearest mountain in the coast range, which is the highest point in the county

After a few missed turns and locked gates, we found ourselves at the entrance to a huge block of land owned by Stimson Lumber.  Turns out that it was only supposed to be open for deer hunting, but the site security said it was OK for us to go touring around, and even though no forest products were supposed to be removed, it would be acceptable for us to pick some mushrooms for our own use. 

IMG_3821So off we went into the timberlands.  About eight miles in, we saw a likely spot.  We pulled off the road, unloaded the family, and went wandering through the forest looking for yellow treasures.  It was a beautiful spot, but after stumbling over brush and downed tree limbs for a few minutes, Rochelle said “Mom, this adventure is very tiring!”  We finally found two small chanterelles and a few puffballs, but there wasn’t much else.  After a few more minutes, we decided to go ahead and drive up the mountain.



About 15 miles later, we found ourselves at another locked gate about 1/2 a mile below the peak.  Since the kiddos were tired and everybody wanted to go home, I decided to forgo walking up to the top.



The view was great, but the clear cut in the foreground reminded us that the timber company manages their land for lumber, not appearance.






  The tiring adventure proved to be too much for Rochelle.  Despite the rough roads, she fell asleep even before she finished eating her snack!







Chantelle was still awake and enjoying the adventure.  But as we drove back down the mountain, she soon fell asleep as well.






About half way back to the entrance to the timberlands, Marissa said “why don’t we try one more time”.  So we pulled off, leaving the kids sleeping in the car with Grandma to keep an eye on them.  After about five minutes of wandering back into the trees, she hit the jackpot. 





After we got back home, we cleaned up our bounty.  We ended up with at least ten pounds of beautiful golden chanterelles.  It was the perfect outcome for a most enjoyable family adventure, and quite a haul for first-time mushroom hunters.


In remembrance of Brian Lloyd – employer, mentor, friend

Brian Lloyd May 2008

Brian Lloyd May 2008(click photo for The Columbian obituary)

I was saddened to hear that my former employer, mentor and friend Brian Lloyd recently passed away. I’d like to share a remembrance that I wrote for him.

I first met Brian shortly after he founded T.H.I.S. Computer Solution, Inc. when I responded to an employment ad in March 1992. That was early in the boom years for PC usage in businesses. Apparently he saw something in me that he liked, and hired me on the spot. I quickly learned that Brian was completely different than any employer that I previously worked for. He was very demanding and very focused on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. And if he thought that you were not meeting either his expectations or the customer’s expectations, he would let you know about it in no uncertain terms. Although some were intimidated by his blunt, no bull style, I found it refreshing to always know exactly where I stood and if I was meeting expectations or not. Thanks to Brian’s incredible sales skills, THIS quickly grew. My skills grew along with the business, which Brian was quick to recognize with generous raises. My income more than doubled during the time that I was with THIS.

And as I got to know Brian and Roz, it became apparent to me that Brian truly cared about his employees and his customers. And he never asked his employees to do something that he would not do himself. He was always generous with both his time and his resources. When he bought a new car in 1995, he gave me his old Toyota Celica, which I drove for several years. And when I went through a divorce, Brian lent me some money to allow me to settle with my ex-wife.

In 1998, I left THIS to go into business with a friend. Although I didn’t see a lot of Brian and Roz after I left, Brian was kind enough to attend my wedding when I remarried in 1999. And I was privileged to provide him with a reference when he was looking for employment in Phoenix.

My business didn’t work out, but my experience working for Brian and a placement as a contractor at intel while at THIS led directly to my current position as a senior programmer/analyst at Intel, where I have been for the last 10 years.

One of my favorite memories of Brian was when somebody found an old advertisement from when he was running a Toyota dealership in Australia. The ad had Brian’s mug inside a heart shaped frame and the tagline called him Big Hearted Brian. I recall that he was kind of embarrassed by it, but the fact is, the label fit. Brian really did have a big heart. I will always remember him as a key influence in both personal and my professional life. I learned so much from him about meeting commitments, providing quality customer service, and generally being more effective in life.

I know that Roz and David will miss him, and so will I.