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  • The house is a Victorian, two stories tall with a full attic. With the twenty-foot extension ladder at full reach, stretching from one foot with a hand against the barge board, I can just scrape, prime, and paint the peaks.

    We bought our house in 2003, not exactly at the top of the market but nowhere near the bottom, and like everyone else we envisioned steady growth, an investment, literal and figurative, in our future.

    We sold nearly at the bottom of the market in 2011. I moved back to Milwaukee, hired the company I used to be a partner in, and over three months we painted the trim from green to red. We removed rotting cedar shingles and tar paper and replaced it with housewrap new shingle panels. We replaced one window entirely and repaired four others. We repainted four rooms. When the basement sprung a water fountain on the night of the storm, the evening after the first real offer on the house, I brought in a mason to tuckpoint sixty square feet. The buyer fled after viewing, of all things, the attic that didn't leak at all.

    If I wasn't a carpenter, if I couldn't have charged the job and lined up the vendors and organized materials and orchestrated my crew - if I'd had to hire someone else besides me and my friends - we would have lost over fifty thousand dollars. We broke even.

    "Doesn't it make you sad to do all that work for someone else?"

    It's a beautiful house.

    "I like the work."
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