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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Never buy a house

Joan was an attractive blonde woman in her 40s, married to a school board member, and was an agent for one of the top real estate firms in town. I'll admit wondering what she looked like naked.

"A little TLC is all this house needs," she said.

At the time, I didn't ask, "A little?"

The carpet was smurf blue. The room I'd eventually call my office was sea foam green with Mickey Mouse borders. The bathrooms were carpeted.

And yet, just a few weeks later, I went into an amazing amount of debt to call the house "Mt. Willis." It would be a total of six months before I'd not only stopped wondering what Joan looked like in the buff, but would've kicked her out of bed for eating crackers.

A little TLC my tender-loving ass.

Mt. Willis is a suburban tract home built on .67 acres on the corner of a street named after a hard-to-spell local lake. The neighborhood, unlike a lot of the newer neighborhoods, still has a lot of old trees. My yard has some 70-foot sweet gums that I both love and hate. The people of the neighborhood are good middle-class folk who walk their dogs, stroll their kids, and like to have parades to celebrate holidays.

Nearly six years later, the office is a dark shade of green. The carpets have bene replaced twice. Nearly every room in the house has been painted. Most of the light fixtures and kitchen appliances have been replaced. What's more, the yard has been completely re-landscaped.

To be fair, it's not for a lack of effort. My wife and I have done more than our fair share of work to make this house our home. Still, it's a never-ending process that grows more daunting every day.

If I had a few minutes to kill, I might go over to Joan's house and pour diesel fuel on the woman's lawn.

My wife, love her as I do, can spot a fault in the dark. Tree looks sick? It's likely dead. Dark spot under the car? Something must be tragically wrong with the engine. Dishes not completely clean? Time for a new dishwasher.

That said, I'm opposite to a fault. Unless something is broken to the point that it might kill someone, I typically ignore it. I rationalize this by saying I'm tired of pouring more money into the house than we will ever get out of it should we decide to sell. In reality, I'm just lazy. I operate on an unfortunate maxim: If it ain't REALLY broke, don't fix it.

So, for the past year or so, Mt. Willis had struggle to stay in good repair. The back door had started to rot due to water damage. Mrs. Otis complained about it for a year before I finally gave up and had someone put in a new door. The old appliances struggled and struggled, Mrs. Otis complained and complained, and finally I succumbed and bought a new dishwasher and flat-top stove.

When it's all said and done, I'm usually always pleased with the result. It's nice to have good stuff around. Of course, as of last night, we reached a breaking point. It's the point at which her complaints and my laziness collided with the stark reality that our house needs about $10,000 in repairs. The window frames are rotting. The front door facade is rotten. The garage door is rotten and oddly-askew. What's more, a recent ice storm damaged some of the guttering on our house and now one corner of the house is not properly-fitted to handle downpours.

It's now been about 17 hours since the various fronts collided and turned into a rough little storm. There wasn't much yelling, but I wish Joan had been there because I could've used a punching bag a couple of times.

Now, I've had some time to reflect and I have come to an admission.

I can't fix anything.

This is a not-so secret secret among the people I know. My neighbor just re-tiled his entire kitchen. My brother re-did his entire house--by himself--knowing full-well that he was going to move in a couple of years. Uncle Brian, a good buddy from St. Louis, can build anything and fix anything.

Me? I once tried to fix a leaky toilet, broke it, tried to fix it eight times over a week, and then hired a Home Depot plumber (under the table, by the way) to install a new one. Another night, the night my penis fell off, my pipes froze and exploded. I called a plumber again.

In fact, in scanning the archives of this blog, I've found no less than six instances of me calling someone to do a job I could probably do myself if I had any skill at fixing things.

And, so here we sit again, now with $10,000 in repairs that I could do myself for $6000 if I had the skill and self-confidence.

This brings me all back to the original point of this post. When it comes time to buy a home, don't buy on the spur of the moment. Unless you are very handy, don't buy into the TLC hooey. Finally, buy a house that you'll feel good about sinking lots of money into. Because you will. And that's really the point.

See, when you buy somewhere to live, it's going to cost you a lot of money and you should be prepared to feel good about spending it. The only way to feel good about it is if you don't consider it a house.

That is, never buy a house. Buy a home.


Anonymous elise said...

I like the redesign. Looking very streamlined.

1:06 AM  

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