Do you guys watch House Hunters on HGTV? I love to watch it. Well, that’s not exactly true. I love the IDEA of watching it. I love going to open houses even when I am not, strictly speaking, in the market for a house.
House Hunters lets you do that without, y’know, having to interact. With the people.
The DOWNSIDE to the show on HGTV, is you get a sneak peek into the thought processes of the people touring the homes. This is generally where I become enraged. I have long, ardent ‘conversations’ with the prospective buyers about how asinine it is to reject a house over PAINT COLOR, or a fireplace facade. I’ll chime in on the wisdom of purchasing a home right next to a freeway when they’ve said ‘outdoor space’ is important to them. I suggest that given the fact they’re twenty-five and this is their first house, perhaps it doesn’t need to be PERFECT.
Starter homes, my darlings. They’re a thing.
Typically, one house into the three house tour ‘story arc’ my friend will gently ask for a reminder of why it is, precisely, we are watching this when it makes me feel crazy in my head.
It’s a valid question.
I think home buying is quite a lot like falling in love. You start by making lists of your non-negotiables.
Smart (good school system)
Great sex (luxurious master-bedroom)
Responsible (within budget)
These are the thoughtful, reasonable assertions of someone who has not yet stepped foot into an open house. They are the rational criteria of someone who’s not falling in love.
After my divorce, I was looking for a new place to live. I had the idea I wanted a major change. I began looking for homes in a rural area. I wanted charm and quirkiness- something that was not on the priority list back when I was househunting with my ex who preferred vanilla, move-in-ready homes. I also knew, though, that I needed something in good shape, that I couldn’t afford a money pit.
I found a house near the center of an adorable tiny town. It was over a hundred years old. Charm for DAYS. Built-ins galore, gorgeous woodwork, big sunny yard, walk to shops.
I began falling in love.
As I am sure you know, there is no one less rational on earth than someone falling in love. My eyes were trained on crown molding. I was besotted with the leaded glass windows. I was enchanted with the claw tub and antique sconces.
I was, in a word, ensorcelled.
This is what happens with people, too. We step through the threshold into a relationship, and all our careful reasoning, all our priority lists, and research and rational thinking are tossed aside in the excitement of new and shiny things or fixer uppers. You hear people talk about their ‘soul mate’ in the same loopy tones they use when talking about their dream home.
The truth is, whether in our home buying or life partner choice we always have to compromise on something. No one house or one person has all of the things. It’s not reasonable to expect it. It’s not even fair.
Naturally, I made an offer on that house. NATURALLY, the people selling it accepted- because, SUCKER. Then I had the inspection.
I had this amazing inspector that my best friend Angela recommended. She said he’s the guy you want when you are a buyer, but want nowhere near your house when you are a seller. He sees all of the things. He taps, he lifts, he looks into, under, and behind. He willingly goes into spidery crawl spaces.
He’s basically a superhero.
When he was done, he sat me down at the kitchen table. He said, “I can see why you like this house- it’s a charmer.” Then he started down the list. By page two, I held my hand up. I indicated he could stop talking. It had become clear to me it was not my house. Having someone lead me through the reality of what I was signing up for was sobering.
I rescinded the offer. I found a great house. Much less charm, but a functioning chimney. No crown molding, but no cracks in the foundation, either. I was not in love, but it was a good house that fit my needs at the time. It was a transition house- not my forever home.
I think some relationships are like that. They’re houses, not homes. But we get confused. Ensorcelled.
Favorite and I talk about buying a dilapidated farm some day and renovating it together. That makes more sense. I have a great eye, he is less inclined to curl up in the fetal position and whimper when confronted with logistical problems. We balance each other out. If and when we do that it will be the right season for a fixer upper.
That process would not have been possible in my marriage. Our expectations of one another were completely unrealistic- not for another human being, but for the specific human beings in THAT relationship. I was married to a downtown condo and I wanted a quirky farmhouse, essentially. That relationship wasn’t a forever relationship, but I learned a lot and it made sense for those seasons of my life.
I don’t know how the whole inspector thing could work for relationships- and maybe it shouldn’t. If someone had sat me down on my wedding day almost two decades ago and gone through their observations on a clipboard, I might not have gotten married and even given all the pain and disappointment I wouldn’t change that. In retrospect it was a pretty jacked up house, but it felt like home for a long time.