Column: Real estate - a love story

Oct. 20, 2013 @ 01:02 AM

Loving where you live can cost you.

And by “where you live” I mean the specific dwelling you live in.

When house-hunting, you hope to fall in love with a place. Love at first sight. You want to walk into a house and feel a rushing sense that you could happily live the rest of your life there. You want to feel sudden inspiration for painting, or planning a new patio, or choosing new shades. You need to be able to envision where your pets will like to sleep or who will choose which room.

But falling in love is not entirely a good thing.

“All stories about love begin with a certain amount of rationalization,” the writer Nora Ephron said in her essay “Moving On,” which was about being in love with an apartment.

Falling in love with an apartment or house is not much different than falling in love with a person – every doubt you have drowns in those dreamy blue eyes.

Inconvenient floor plans, drafty windows, sticky doors.

Just as love tells you that your loved one’s burping is endearing, love tells you that creaky floorboards and undersized closets are charming.

But the biggest problem with falling in love with a house can be summed up by a line in the rock song “Simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer: “She so fine, there’s no telling where the money went.”

Love can lure you to spend more than you want to. It's the house you really want -- the one you were meant to have. How do you put a price tag on destiny?

Conversely, if you are selling a house that you loved, you expect to get a lot more for it than other people may think it’s worth. A low bid, then, doesn’t just strike you as low, it’s an insult of the one you love, a particularly cutting “Your mama” joke. If someone offers much, much less than you are asking, it makes you angry.

You may rant in private, or maybe even in public. “Is this person insane? Can’t he see there’s no other house like this in this part of the city?”

Maybe your house has a two-car garage in a historic neighborhood where there are few garages. Maybe it was lovingly restored, and you are a great lover of old houses yourself. Maybe it’s the panoramic view, the size of the back yard, or your landscaping.

The point is you are in love with it. You have to leave, but you believe that what made you fall in love is self-evident. When you learn that it is not, it stings.

Maybe you become tempted to turn the offer down and hold out for someone more worthy of your house, someone who recognizes its virtues.

Buying and selling property is a process best handled by sociopaths. No emotional attachments, just cold reasoning.