Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nesting Instinct Turned Nasty

Periodically, Hubs and I talk about putting our house on the market and downsizing to a two-bedroom place near downtown. The thought of shoveling out the garage stops us, but what's scarier is the prospect of house shoppers bad-mouthing the home in which we raised our kids.

If you've watched House Hunters or My First Place on HGTV, you've seen two types of prospective buyers: the first sees something good in every dwelling visited, but the second expects Veuve Cliquot on a Budweiser budget and heaps scorn on houses that lack granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and double sinks in the master bath.

Conflict makes for good television, and the shows' producers may handpick persnickety shoppers and encourage them to insult shag carpet, flocked wallpaper, and shell pink bathroom tile.

But my sympathy's with the sellers.

"The eighties called, and they want their kitchen back," mocks one shopper. "I'm stuck in the nineties and can't get out," says another.

Those remarks sting. My bathrooms are of this decade, but the kitchen gives off a nineties vibe, and the family room boasts seventies paneling painted white.

Then again, a lot of these home shoppers claim they're looking for fixer-uppers. "I need a project I can sink my teeth into," says one lookie-loo. "I want to put my mark on a house," declares another. Yet, when faced with a kitchen painted yellow, these buyers act disbelieving and helpless. "Who can live with this color?"

"You wanted a project," says the Realtor.

"But the whole room has to be repainted."

A recent jab at a wall oven made me freeze in recognition. "Oh my God!," shrieked a house shopper. "This thing's from the Soviet era."

The oven in question was located in a U.S. suburb and appeared younger than my twenty-year-old black-glass Maytag. Mine (pictured above) was born in 1991, the year the Soviet Union dissolved. Most importantly, it works.

Given that house shopper's shock, Hubs and I are reconciled to replacing the oven before we put our house on the market. In the meantime, I've got my fingers crossed that the National Association of Realtors, HGTV, or NATO will declare a period of rapprochement (That's сближение in Russian ) between buyers and sellers. The house hunt should be a mockery-free zone.

My advice for home buyers? Look for good bones. Everything else can be changed.


Coleen Patrick said...

Great post Pat. It's funny, my husband and I always imagine we will one day downsize, but I think we might be a little too possessive about our abode. I could just see us running out prospective buyers for even the tiniest criticism!

Julie Hedlund said...

That's too funny. I always feel for the sellers on those shows too. We had our house on the market this summer. We've since decided to stay, but it was hard not to get offended when any critical comments came back.

Lark Howard said...

Pat, HGTV House Hunters is about as real as Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank. Trust me on this one. We bought a house then put our beautifully designed (by my amazing designer husband),award-winning, fully renovated house on the market. It was way beyond anything any of the prospective buyers had ever seen and yet some of them picked at things hoping a nasty critique would get us to lower the price. We didn't and the people who bought it love it.

The truth is, even if your house is perfect, people will critcize that it isn't their taste or complain they prefer a different floorplan/more bedrooms/a 3-car garage/a larger pool. Don't take it personally. Get yourself a GOOD real estate agent and trust him/her to help you get it sold. And never, ever meet with the prospective buyers yourself!!!

Most people are basically nice, I believe, but too many want way more than they can afford and think the terrible way the HGTV shows present the negotiating process is acceptable behavior. It isn't. Hello, it's TV!!!!

Lark Howard said...

PS, Don't bother changing out the stove unless it doesn't work. Let the buyers decide what they want.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I, too, would want to run out the critical ones, Coleen, and that would cause all sorts of problems.
Maybe if I found another house I loved, I'd be able to let this one go.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm thin-skinned when it comes to comments about my kids and my house, Julie. Clearly, I'll have to get over my protectiveness toward the house. Hope you've already forgotten the critical comments directed at your home.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Lark, thanks for your from-the-trenches perspective. I'm used to my oven and thrilled to know I don't have to swap it out. BTW, I'm glad you found buyers who appreciated the house you sold. (House-selling is a lot like publishing, isn't it?)

Hey! Real Housewives of New Jersey isn't real?

Sheila Seabrook said...

I agree, Pat. Keep the stove, don't meet with the buyers, and remember that everyone's likes and dislikes will never be the same as yours. That said, it is difficult to leave behind the place where you've spent so many happy years. I think this compounds the critique factor. :)

Anonymous said...

It is so true. Those shows are scripted. My friends were on one of the home and garden re-do shows and they scripted it to make it look like they weren't agreeing on things when they were. So fake.

I am with you though. Scary if you are going to put your house on the market. When we bought this house we are currently in we thought we would re-do the kitchen in five years’ time. Well guess what! Time’s up. The market sucks and we lost half of everything we had a few years back. So it isn't happening. I am stuck with the dated 90's kitchen. Oh well. Maybe by the time we fix it the kids will stop marking everything up with sharpie. There is that. :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Between you and Lark, I can't go wrong, Sheila. Thanks for the advice.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

When Sharpies fall into the wrong hands, trouble follows, Debra. The silver lining to the wait for your kitchen will be the lack of squiggles on new cabinets and flooring.

Am I the only one who kinda likes nineties decor?

Asrai Devin said...

Watching those types of shows helped us sell our house. We did a lot of the reccomended things. Painted the walls neutral colours, removed 50% of our stuff. Even with a lot of stuff that wasn't perfect (our bathrom had the orginal fixtures from 1970's) we sold in 30 days. I think the biggest thing is getting your clutter out and letting buyer's imagine their stuff in their. The less stuff the better.

Karen McFarland said...

Oh Pat, do I ever feel for you.

My husband has been a G.C. for over thirty-five years and I have worked as an I.D.

With this economy, it just doesn't pay to spend too much on fixing up the house. You won't get it back out.

HGTV is not a good yard stick to measure with. It looks and sounds great, but not the reality.

Splash a fresh coat of paint, minimalize the furnishings and clutter and you should be good to go that is if you're ready to make the move.

Best wishes Pat!

LynNerdKelley said...

Hey, that old oven looks pretty good to me and would probably outlast any new oven you replace it with! They really don't make appliances like they used to!

I agree with the insults flung at homeowners on HGTV. Yep, they'd have a ball with my house. We might be downsizing soon, too, and dealing with all the "stuff" and what to keep, what to sell, what to throw away, it's all so overwhelming. And moving truly sucks! Best of luck to you and your hubby with the downsizing!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Yes, Asrai, clutter's a problem at my house. How did you know?

I'm taking your advice. Thanks.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Karen,
You and Asrai both mentioned clutter. One month of WANA 1011 and you two have my number. Thanks for your advice--and empathy.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

That oven has never let me down, Lynn. Thanks for defending it.

I'm overwhelmed at the thought of "dealing with all the stuff," but I tell myself change is good. So far, I'm not convinced.