I have been contemplating cutting bangs once again. I do this every few years when the lines on my forehead seem more pronounced than usual (which probably coincides with me turning fifty). Bangs are cheaper than Botox, I figure, and they'll cover the imperfections almost as well. Without giving away any classified secrets, aging gracefully involves a little smoke and mirrors . . .
Still, aging (and vanity) aside, it's the constant upkeep that I am beginning to resent just a wee bit. (Of course, "growing older" beats the alternative). I'll be the first to admit that I don't like the physical aspects of aging; however, I'm not quite ready enough, motivated enough, or brave enough (depending on how you look at it) to take more permanent "corrective measures" which I'm quite certain would involve eliminating ice cream, heavy exercise and a certified plastic surgeon! That's usually when I pick up the scissors and cut away . . .
Just like the human body, houses tend to show their age - unless they are well maintained. Home ownership (like aging) ain't for sissies. No matter how many inspections we perform prior to the sale, I can guarantee you with almost 100% certainty that you are going to move into the home of your dreams and quickly discover something that isn't working properly, something that wasn't disclosed fully or something that needs immediate attention. Yikes!
For me, it was a massive 100-year old redwood that was quite literally pushing the guest house off its foundation. I guess the notched roof and the gap in the patio, should have been my first clues, but I wasn't paying close enough attention at the time (I was spellbound by the garden and the gazebo - go figure!).
"You can keep the tree or the structure," my contractor politely informed me, "but not both." Five thousand dollars and a GIGANTIC pile of redwood mulch later, the problem was solved. It's been the first of many and I am still looking at a major remodel this year. But on balance, pine needles and fresh cut wood are the kinds of problems to have. They're truly "gold- plated."
Let me put it bluntly: roofs leak, drains clog, refrigerators go on the fritz and so it goes; the list is truly endless . . .
So why own?"
Aside from the obvious financial tax advantages (Uncle Sam clearly rewards those who participate in "The American Dream") there are the more compelling emotional aspects of owning to contemplate . . .
One dynamic couple I worked with were renters by nature, but had also been forced to move four times in the last ten years. Each time they settled in, their current landlord would call to say that they were either selling the house or retaking possession. (That's more than just inconvenient; it's downright unsettling.)
Happily, they were in a position to finally buy when we met. For these fortunate buyers, home ownership is a chance to truly establish roots and provide security for their family. While they won't have the luxury of calling their landlord each time the pipes squeak or the garbage disposal backs up, they'll make decisions about the house that best suits their needs. They will choose paint colors they like, expand a bathroom as needed, and entertain to their hearts content with complete abandon (and this is a family that knows how to have a good time! ) All the while, knowing that never again will someone be demanding their home back and uprooting the kids.
And while home appreciation may have taken a hit in the last few years, I would still rather place my money in four walls and a roof than in the temperamental ups and downs of the stock market. (What exactly is a "derivative" anyway? Talk about smoke and mirrors!!!)
Sure, I may not like it when cracks show up in the driveway or my trees need trimming, but I take pride in the fact that I have earned every squeaky floor board, every peeling shutter and every chipped tile in the place. (Lest you think new homes fare any better - they don't. They too, require ongoing maintenance as well; ALL homes do!)
Old home? New home? (Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief?) It comes with the territory and ultimately, a home is a work in progress (as are we all!). Enjoy your hard-earned abode; live, in it, entertain in it, and come home to it with the clear understanding that it isn't going to be perfect. (Nothing is).
Count yourself lucky. For most of the world's population, home ownership is rarely a reality; in fact, it isn't even a dream for the majority of people. WE lucky few, get to realize ours. So get familiar with a screwdriver and an electric drill. You'll most likely need them. And if home repair isn't your thing, let me introduce you to a good, reliable handyman I know and use frequently! (He's on speed dial.)
Gotta run, I've got a sprinkler head to replace. As for bangs, I'm still on the fence.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.