Truth be told, my pragmatic hard-working father was never a hopeless romantic. He was the kind of husband who gave my mother a dishwasher, a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine come the holidays and she - equally sensible - was thrilled to have them.
My mother had grown up in San Marino (the Piedmont of Pasadena) while my father hailed from the pastures of Davis. In her family's eyes, Dad was a bit of a "diamond in the rough" compared to Mom's more gentile upbringing. My mother said she married Dad because "he made her laugh." In spite of her family's strong objections to the pairing, their union stuck. They've weathered 56 years together - sometimes laughing, sometimes crying - but all of it together.
That's about as romantic as it gets.
So when it came time for me to choose a mate, I followed my mother's example and married a man who made me laugh, who engaged my mind and who always believed in me - even when I faltered. Even without romantic gestures on Valentine's Day -that's true love!
With respect to homes, "the diamond in the rough" is the home that's badly in need of TLC (tender loving care). The trick in this or any market, is getting the lump of coal for a discounted price in order to offset the costs of renovations and repairs that are necessary to bring out the "sparkle." That seems basic but it's a tougher challenge than statistics bear out.
Too often, I see hopeful buyers excitedly jump into a bidding war on these "fixer" properties with the expectation that they are achieving a "below market value" when all too often, the opposite result plays out. Unfortunately, the large number of "fixer buyers" often drives the selling price well beyond the asking price, erasing any potential appreciation the home may have had.
Ironically, these homes often math out at much higher prices per square foot than their "fixed" counterparts down the street! Go figure! (Seriously, go figure!)
When buying a "diamond in the rough," carefully do the math and understand your end game. If the goal is to "flip" the house in a short amount of time, be certain you are not overpaying for the project on the front end. If on the other hand, you plan on renovating and staying for many years, then the price you pay in the short term may hardly be relevant.
If that's the case - as with marriage - commit to the long term and carve out the diamond of your dreams . . .
Happy Valentines Day Mom and Dad!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.