by Nora Firestone
The Virginian-Pilot

While some lined up for the roller-coaster ride of a decade, others held onto their wallets and watched the housing market rise and fall from the comfort of their own abodes.

Three Virginia Beach couples who opted to renovate believe that staying grounded held their key to balance, despite today's economy.

Today, having rejected the trend toward high-end house-hopping, they've joined the ranks of hindsight trend setters.

Karen and Ira "Armie" Armstrong bought their 2,200-square-foot ranch for $175,000 in 1990. The lakefront lot in Thoroughgood offered them access to Virginia Beach's city life and wildlife alike, and seemed a perfect location to raise their then-10-month-old son.

"Basically, we loved the neighborhood; we loved the neighbors," Karen Armstrong said.

But the house - though affordable - lacked luster.

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