It is a truth universally acknowledged that a family in possession of a good amount of stuff must be in want of a house.
Since this is a universal truth, my family has decided to start house-hunting. We're lucky because we aren't in a hurry and don't have to make any rash decisions yet. But as we've toured home after home (after home after home), I've come to the conclusion that dating and house hunting are pretty much the same thing.
So in the spirit of Jane Austen's love stories, here's an inside look at the home-buying process:
1. "[The home] is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." Especially when there are stains on the wall like those seen during the last CSI episode. Or toxic mold crawling out of the bathroom. Or the body-sized hole cut out of the concrete in the unfinished basement. Not tempting. And the ones that are handsome enough to tempt us are snatched up before we could say "snatch it up!"
2. “An unhappy alternative is before you.... From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not [buy a home in the tree streets], and I will never see you again if you do.” There are too many choices to consider, and everyone has a surprisingly strong opinion about them. Never buy near the lake. Never buy near a mountain. Never buy in a desert. Never buy next to the ocean. Never buy an old house. Never buy a new house. Never buy if you'll have a long commute. Never buy if you'll have a short commute. Never buy if you want to be happy. Ultimately, we'll buy when and where it feels right. Until then, we get to be conflicted. It's fun.
3. “Do anything rather than [buy a house] without affection.” You see a cute house and think, "This could be the one (insert several heart emoji's here)!" Then that wonderful, beautiful house goes and gets a contract with another buyer. A buyer that isn't you. A buyer with more money and a nicer car. The attractive homes in the areas where we really want to live are sold before the sellers have a chance to dust off their hands after hammering the signs into their lawns. Did the buyers even try to meet the house in person? It's like marrying someone you saw in a picture online. We've walked through enough homes that were gorgeously photogenic but left us all sweaty with nightmares in real life, so it's risky business.
4. “Happiness in [home buying] is entirely a matter of chance." There is so much pressure when you go on a date with a house. You only get a few minutes -- one single good or bad first impression -- to decide if you could get along forever. Moving too fast could make you regret your decision down the line, but playing hard-to-get could leave you in the cold without a home.
5."It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the [house] with whom you are to pass your life.” This is a conundrum. You need to know the house will pass a safety inspection and won't crumble in an earthquake or start on fire while you sleep. But if you see every little flaw in every single house, you'll never buy one. There's no such thing as a perfect house. And one important difference in home-buying vs. dating is that you can always buy a fixer-upper, rip it apart, then turn it into the almost-perfect house for you. You can't do that with a date. Or, at least you really, really shouldn't.
6. “The most incomprehensible thing in the world to a [buyer], is a [seller] who rejects his offer of [purchasing the home]!” We haven't made any offers yet, but I believe Jane Austen was on to something. Your house has been sitting vacant for a year, it needs major renovations, and your asking price is too high. Take a lower offer and be done with it. It helps us all in the long run. Then I can afford to renovate those CSI walls, bring in the remediation cavalry to get rid of mold, and fill in the body-sized hole in the concrete, turning an eyesore into a contributing member of society again. And you don't have to keep paying property taxes on your over-priced home.
As Jane Austen said (more or less), “[home-buying] is indeed a maneuvering business.” It's a dating game with lots of pressure and big decisions involved. Sometimes an ugly house might be a diamond in the rough, and the hot house everyone wants is actually hiding the pits of despair behind those brightly painted walls.
When the time is right, and the place is right, and the house is right, it will all work out. We'll eventually find the one. If not, living at Mom's isn't the end of the world. Hey, multi-generational homes are coming back in style anyway, so maybe we're on to something here...