A house is not a home

Since I haven’t moved in almost two whole years, it’s time to move again. As I have mentioned earlier, looking for a place to live is very much like online dating. There are promising profiles and attractive photos but the proof is in the actual pudding, which is rarely as tasty or fresh or chock full of goodness as advertised.

Real estate agents are the masters of spin. The house isn’t putting its best foot forward? Let’s show a shot of a foot model wearing the latest Louboutin pump. The house backs on to the busiest street in town? Let’s show a shot of the ravine that is only 20 minutes away by car. And then there is the description of the features and benefits. Luckily there is a certain vocabulary employed that is universal to all real estate listings so once you get the hang of it, you can do a simultaneous translation. I am sure there is a whole course of study devoted to wording and turn-of-phrase that is a mandatory prerequisite for a real estate license (this is also where they get issued a lifetime’s supply of exclamation marks and believe me that is no small quota). Here is a sample:

Shows pride of ownership! This means you are about to see a pristine time capsule of the last time this house was renovated – say about 25 or 30 years ago. They are so proud of the renovation they couldn’t bear to ever remove the California ceiling in the kitchen or scrape off the floral wallpaper border in the dining room or banish the dusty rose bathroom fixtures to the nearest landfill site. Of course, there is nothing that a few trips to Home Depot and tens of thousands of dollars won’t fix, but the problem is those proud owners think their immaculate house is worth a premium not a discount.

Location! Location! If you pay close attention, you will notice there is something missing from this picture. I’ll give you a few seconds to figure it out. Got it? Yes, you are right. What happened to the third ‘location’? I once lived in a house that fit this definition to a tee. Single family dwelling walking distance to parks, shopping, transit, and downtown diversions. Unfortunately, it was in very close proximity to several homeless shelters, soup kitchens and methadone clinics, and also a very attractive locale for a certain type of female entrepreneur that plies her trade on street corners.

New furnace, eligible for buyout at any time! I must admit this was a new one on me and consequently it required a little more deciphering. Apparently, some people rent instead of own their furnace. No seriously – it’s a thing. This would be sort of okay if renting a furnace included all related expenses like for instance the fuel required to make it work. But no. The rented furnace covers the right to use it to generate heat and the right to call someone if it happens to stop doing what it is supposed to do. Now I did not inquire how much a month it costs to have an uncommitted relationship with your heating device, but I suspect that it would probably pay for itself within about three years after which you would keep paying for it. I also suspect that the generous offer to convert to a serious commitment to the furnace at any time would not make financial sense either (compared, that is, to just buying it to begin with).

Low maintenance back yard! Many of us would prefer not to have to cut grass or not to pay someone else to cut our grass or even not to look at grass. So a low maintenance yard seems like a good thing. Except when you realize that in real estate lingo, a low maintenance yard means a vast expanse of clay that has hardened to the consistency of asphalt, an abundance of that red-ish gravel that is guaranteed to shred human flesh, or an installation of indoor/outdoor carpet that used to be ‘grass green’ but is now more like ‘mold grey’.

So the search continues…stay tuned.

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