It's not California, but to West Coast transplants Joel Ballesteros and Robert Thibodeau, their home in Linwood is the next best thing. The three- bedroom, two-bath rancher has stone accents, Cedar Impression vinyl shingles and a wraparound stone tile driveway. The exquisitely landscaped front yard features specimen shrubs and an exotic yucca tree that resembles a desert palm but can withstand northern winters.
In the back, a waterfall framed by savanna grass cascades into a shimmering in-ground swimming pool. And the interior features an open floor plan with clean, modern lines and walnut floors.
"It's kind of a Palm Springs look," says Robert, who grew up near Los Angeles.
Joel, Robert and their Jack Russell terrier, Angel, moved to South Jersey about six years ago and found jobs in the casino industry. There were living in a beach block house in Ventnor in 2011 when they decided to house hunt across the bay in upscale Linwood.
"We looked at quite a few homes but when we walked in to this one we fell in love immediately," says Joel, a native of Salida, CA who is Director of LGBT Marketing at Resorts Casino Hotel.
The location, just down the street from the Margate Bridge and across Shore Road from the private Linwood Country Club, was a plus. But for Joel and Robert, the main attraction was the fact that the 1960s era ranch had recently undergone a major makeover.
"The house was basically already done when we bought it," Joel says. "It was remodeled by the previous owners, who were physicians. We basically just moved in, bought all the furniture and redecorated."
A covered front entry flanked by columns opens into a hallway that features an entire wall made of slate stone. A wide-plank walnut floor extends from the hall throughout the first floor.
The kitchen has upscale stainless steel Jenn-Air appliances, custom cabinets and drawers and granite counters. A range and oven are built into a large center island that overlooks a large dining area and living room.
Off the living room is a third bedroom that has been converted into a den. It has an extra long walk-in closet and that can be closed off for privacy with sliding glass doors.
The remodeled living room has recessed lighting and floor-to-ceiling picture windows on two walls that provide a view of an in-ground pool and patio. The exterior wall of the living room was bumped out during the remodel to make it larger.
A separate laundry room is equipped with front-loading washer and dryer and a tankless water heater. A door opens to a one-car attached garage
Two more bedrooms and two full baths are located off a hallway. Both bedrooms have closets with built-in shelves and drawers and both bathrooms have under-the-floor radiant heat. The hall bathroom has a whirlpool tub and the master bath has an oversized tiled shower chamber and tiled floors with mosaic inlays.
The backyard is enclosed by a vinyl fence and features a slightly raised wood deck. Mature trees just beyond the fence provide additional privacy for the yard and pool area.
"It's a great house for entertaining," Joel says. "We have a lot of barbecues and we really enjoy the pool."
When Joel and Robert sell the house, they plan to look for a home closer to the Philadelphia area, where Robert is considering taking a job.
"We're looking for a place that would be an equal commute for both of us," says Joel.
"We haven't decided where we'll go but wherever it is we have to have a pool," Robert says.
An open house at this property, which is listed for $349,000, will be held Sunday, Sept. 29, from noon to 2 p.m. For more information call Christine Castellani of Balsley Losco Real Estate, 609-872-6623 or direct at 609-432-5133.
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