The American Dream

During the summer of 2011, my then fiance (now husband) and I began the process of looking for our first home. For first time home buyers, we were in an exceptionally good financial position. Both gainfully employed, we had little debt, and my husband's inheritance from his late mother gave us plenty with which to make a down payment. Were it not the early loss of a parent that enabled our house hunt, one could have said we were quite lucky. Indeed, we were in the enviable position of dismissing any house that had the air of "fixer-upper."  How naive we were.

What no one tells you when you first buy a house -- whether its out of a misguided sense of not wanting to quash a dream, or simply because people look at these things with rose-colored glasses after a while -- is that there is no such thing as a non-fixer upper. ALL houses come with plenty of maintenance problems.  The only difference between the "diamond in the rough" house and the "polished gem" house is that in the former, the problems are obvious. In the latter, you're walking in blind.

If you own a home, you almost certainly know what I'm talking about. You've experienced the jaw-dropping moment when you realize that plumbers charge $200 an hour. You've stood beneath a light fixture whose inner workings are so complex that you really, truly need a manual to change the bulb, wondering what the  heck the former owners were thinking when they installed this illuminated rubix cube, praying to whoever will listen that you don't electrocute yourself.

If you have not yet ventured into home ownership, but are considering diving in headlong as we did 18 months ago, let me be the person who strips away the sugar-coating and speaks truth to The American Dream. This is not to discourage you from buying a home, but to encourage you to dip your toes carefully in the water and test the temperature first, lest you should jump in un-warned and experience the cold, painful shock of a gardening bill that is 2/3 the size of your monthly mortgage.

No, I'm not kidding.


Popular Posts