real real estate

14 Aug

HGTV’s House Hunters, one of my regular pit stops along the cable channel highway – the road of choice for voiding one’s skull of all conscious thought – has taught me a lot about humanity. Correction: It’s taught me a lot about Americans.  Further correction: about how lovably lame us Americans tend to be.

Like most new hobbies, House Hunters both challenged and charmed me at first.  After hurdling the main obstacle – comprehending a scenario in which people have a slate of real estate options from which they can freely and almost casually choose, a concept quite foreign to us here in San Francisco’s hyper-competitive housing market – I quickly eased into the show.  Actually I kind of got mired in it.  I rather enjoy looking at houses, so a certain voyeurism within me was satisfied, but I also got hopelessly stuck playing the comparison game. With the same morbid determination generally reserved for chewing on cold sores,  I ached to know what the utterly nonsensical $***,000 we paid for our 900 square feet of SF domesticity would buy me in Topeka, Cleveland or Nashville.  I constructed brief fantasies about trading our cramped urban quarters for a 3-story Victorian farmhouse and 4 acres of dairyland on the outskirts of Omaha, or even a cute colonial townhouse in Richmond, VA.

But these reveries always came back round to the same clear reality: moving to that other place means living in that other place.  Since so far I’ve discovered only two towns outside of SF where I do not experience the hairy eyeball (New York and New Orleans), there’s little chance of my making much of a go of it anywhere else.

About the same time I stopped glamorizing the possibility of living large outside the Bay Area, I started to notice how totally annoying most of the show’s titular hunters are.  A very glass-half-empty, hard-to-please bunch.  The greatest offenses consistently identified among these home-seekers have to do with kitchens and bathrooms.  For whatever reason, said facilities never seem to be quite satisfactory; funny how the plumbing-heavy sections of the home are those that incite the most passion.  Not enough bathrooms, we need his & hers sinks, the bathtub’s too small for my fat American ass, the tile is ugly, I couldn’t possibly take a shower in that,  the kitchen is cramped, oh god the cabinets are outdated and hideous, how am I supposed to do any cooking in here, and we really wanted granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

(OK, just a quick note on these last two:  I fucking love my vintage formica countertops, I would give my right ovary to keep from having to “upgrade” them to granite so don’t even suggest it; and “stainless” isn’t stainless, it gets spotted with rust, smudges and shows fingerprints like crazy, and btw it is like so last decade anyway.)

Second most common House Hunters complaint: size of the property.  Granted, you want to get the most viable bang for your buck, but we Americans are so sold on the “bigger is better” philosophy, not only are our asses too big for our bathtubs, we don’t even consider that there may be actual advantages to living a little bit smaller (bias alert: I am only 5 feet tall).  Lower heating & water bills, not so much furniture to buy, less square footage to clean, fewer places to search for your keys – all these are obvious pluses that many a home hunter can easily overlook when he’s got granite counter tops and 2-car garages on the brain.

Number one benefit of a small house?  It’s anti-McMansion intimate.  No isolating ourselves away in distant bedrooms, plotting the next day’s shooting at the high school.  As I pound out this drivel, my son is writing a paper on the other side of the room, and his dad is reading, splayed out right next to me here on the comfy mohair sofa.  Oh but god I wish we had those his & hers sinks in the bathroom.


One Response to “real real estate”

  1. Sandra Ortiz August 14, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    To say nothing of the fact that if you have an entire empty basement of ten empty storage rooms, you will definitely fill them up with junk, junk, junk. Loved it.

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