Among the many, many freedoms America has to offer is the right to own your own home. This cannot be said for every country in the world. Nor can it be said that every American owns a home. Ownership comes at a price and that price is not just the price of the home.
So You Want to Buy a Home
By Micki Peluso
Finding the right home can be a traumatic experience, an exercise in futility, or a comedy of errors for all involved. This is due, in part, to the objectives of the participants. The seller, sometimes through greed, but more often through ignorance, believes his house is worth at least 30% over market value. The bank is reluctant to finance anyone whose name is not Hughes or Trump. The realtor hopes to take his cut, avoid as much aggravation as possible, and fly to the Bahamas for a well-deserved vacation. The poor buyer simply wants a reasonable roof over his head, preferably one that doesn't leak, on a quiet street where his children will not be mugged or whisked away by white slavers. Not too much to ask, one would think.
Before purchasing a home, the buyer must be aware of the actual meaning of real estate jargon. There are many terms that need clarification. For instance, a ‘hospitality suite’ is usually a studio apartment in the basement where you imprison the mother-in-law by closing off all exits except the one leading directly to her car. 'Love nest’ is an accurate description except that it doesn't always refer to human love. I don't think ‘carpenter’s special’ needs defining, and ‘needs some TLC’ is a synonym for major overhaul. ‘No reasonable offer refused’ is misleading advertising because the owner, realtor and buyer have different concepts of the term reasonable.
But that's not all...'Next to everything’ is a terrifying statement best left unexplained. ‘Family community’ implies that the entire neighborhood is related and will either play matchmaker to your firstborn child or ostracize you completely. ‘Plenty of room for Mom’ bears a subliminal message, telling your subconscious to hit the old lady up for the down payment. Definitely stay away from anything that is listed as ‘has possibilities’. Life is much too short.
And just when you thought you had heard it all...
‘View of the beach,’ is probably an honest statement. However, you must inquire about access to the roof and expect basement flooding. ‘Must be seen to appreciate’ means that no one has a long time and inspires unfounded hope. Right before we were married, my husband said the same thing about his mother. ‘Just reduced’ is a ploy stolen from department stores. The prices jacked up by 50%, and then lowered by 10%. ‘One-of-a-kind’ suggests that this house was an unpopular model and only one poor fool ever bought it.
Decisions, decisions, decisions...
Decisions, decisions, decisions...
Homeowners are people too, and you must take time to consider their feelings. Many of them are extremely honest, as well as proud of their homes. Sometimes they will offer helpful hints, should you decide to buy; such as ‘the best way to control the rats is to purchase two cats and don't feed them’. One woman, when asked if her house was hot in the summer, reply cagily, ‘‘Well, we do get the ocean breeze." This was true. Even a 110° breeze is technically a breeze. Homeowners rarely tell an outright lie.
You must also be aware of the various building styles. Today's home classification has stretched dictionary definition beyond its limits. A ‘ranch’ is anything on one floor, including the doghouse; consequently a ‘high ranch’ has steps somewhere if only two or three. A ‘colonial’ can be anything from a log cabin to a new large box with a fake pillar or two. A ‘charming Victorian’ is antiquated, almost always dilapidated and about as charming as your great-great uncle with his teeth of the class. A ‘cape’ is anything that doesn't fit the above descriptions.
Finally you must know your realtor. Realtors, rumors to the contrary, are human and come in several types. There is the sweet young thing who lives to sell. She's usually in her late 20's, with 2.5 children and recently divorced. With luminous brown eyes and an apologetic puppy dog face, she nervously makes statements like. ‘I just know my clients will come down in price.’ She is always wrong, but eternally hopeful.
Sooner or later you will come across the tough cookie. This woman has been selling since she was weaned and could unload a patch of desert to an Arab. She's easy to recognize; frosted or bleached blond hair, large faux gold circular earrings, a miniskirt sprouting varicose veins legs or a cigarette dangling from her ruby red lips. But she knows the business and if you're not careful she'll sell you that one-in-a-million duplex sitting beneath the garbage dump and convince you that the dump will be a landmark one day.
Eventually, with perseverance and extra strength Mylanta, you will find the home of your dreams. I would tell you about my own recent purchase, but it's time to activate the sump pump before the tide rolls in, turn on the house alarm system in case the prisoners break out, and spray Lysol throughout the house to kill the smell of the dump. If the next rumbling train doesn't wake the baby, the cat fight outside my window probably will. You would think there were enough rats for both of them. Then I have to run out and rotate my double parked car before the meter maid comes stalking through the complex. I'll have to take the Doberman who just failed guard dog school with me because there’s a suspicious looking bunch of boisterous beings, vaguely resembling teenagers, hanging around the lamp post making obscene noises. I have to admit home ownership is more than I ever dreamed; except that sometimes I get the feeling that I'm not in Kansas anymore.