Tuesday, August 6, 2013

HOUSE HUNTERS: A Generation of Brats

Like many of my generation, I love watching House Hunters on HG-TV. I'm fascinated by real estate, and love looking at a house, sizing up its potential, while exploring all possible options. But clearly the producers seem to think viewers need an extra dose of "reality".  Too often we are presented with young married couples, often on the verge of getting married, who decide that while they are in the overwhelming stage of planning their weddings, absolutely must buy their first home before the big day! I know it's old school, kids, but most of us spent more than a few years in rentals, saving for a down payment, and figuring out just what sort of house we could afford and then fantasized about the details such as what we wanted in a house. Today's entitled couples have those most limited and superficial needs. The wives must have their stainless steel and granite counter tops--forgetting the simple fact that most of them cannot cook. The husbands are not much better. To placate the out-of-control fantasies their wives have concocted from reading too many magazines, they take the "happy-wife/happy-life" approach. They are not immune to selfish wants. "I have to have a two-car garage and my very own man cave, and a big backyard with a barbecue," becomes their mantra.  

All too often I see bratty wives who display appallingly rude behavior as they reject one house after another, whining about improvements that are quick fixes. They hate a room's paint color or "oooh, this carpet is disgusting." Fix it, ladies. Do you really want to live with someone else's carpet? Not every home is move-in-ready, especially given your budget.  Today's couples are demanding three to four bedrooms, two bathrooms with a huge master bath with double-sinks, (and if there's a half-bath, so much the better), walk-in closets, open plans, big fenced-in back yards, and finished basements. They don't want the neighbors too close by. The features about houses they hate are gold fixtures in the bathroom, appliances that do not match, popcorn ceilings, and anything that resembles "old." Many of them don't have families yet. By the time they move in, they have completely swallowed the whole real estate enchilada. Oh--they also got a dog!

All too often, couples don't agree on what they are looking for in a house. She wants move-in-ready, while he has fantasies of a fixer-upper. In these cases, I'm not sure she's wrong. Love It Or List It, another HG-TV show, features squabbling couples brought to the verge of divorce because their current house is unlivable. In many cases, the husband promised to make updates. Years later, with nothing done, not even to the point of admitting defeat and hiring a contractor, the couples barely managing detente in their relationships over this issue. Love It Or List It, is a really fake reality show. No matter how much the co-host is given as a budget to make improvements in the old house, the show's producers always throw a curve into the proceedings, which doesn't allow her to make all of the improvements demanded by the home owners. I'm shocked at how many couples actually decide to live in their old homes. 

Last night I watched a blonde princess with a good paying job, as she stomped through three homes, dismissing something in every house as unacceptable. Her husband had no say in the matter whatsoever, and she made no bones about it. She would make the final decision, and he was just along for the ride. He liked all three of the houses, including the final house, which was the largest, most expensive and had most of the things she was looking for, including a room for her pet turtles. It was clear she would most likely never have children--those turtles were her kids (she travels with them while she is working). She didn't care what her husband thought or wanted. Their weary real estate agent finally said, "it's time to make a decision." After all, they had seen more than 80s houses! They discussed the merits of each house and then she announced "I think we have a decision here." No, she made the decision. They would take the most expensive house with the most bedrooms. End of story. I didn't see any family in the post-purchase phase of the show coming to look at the house. We just saw them alone with her turtles. I kept thinking about warning that guy: "Hey buddy--flee out of that house and as far away from that woman as you can." 

This is one of the more extreme examples, and there are mature couples who seriously go through the three homes assigned to them while talking maturely about the things they like and dislike about a house that are grounded in reality. But they are the exception rather than the rule. 

I don't think I need to remind all that as kids, many of us grew up sharing bedrooms, and certainly sharing bathrooms. The real-estate scene in Portland is full of three-bedroom, one-bathroom houses that was the norm before the real estate industry corrupted the minds of today's young consumers. In bed with the decorating magazines and full of wedding fantasies that cripple young couples financially, real estate is a massive, multi-$billion business. On the upswing after a near crippling financial crisis over the past four years, real estate prices are on the upswing again. I thought the rebound would take a few more years but would certainly not surge back the way it has in some areas of the country. Young couples are paying big bucks to get into homes right now. Many of them lack a real down-payment. Banks reward couples with jobs. Forget about buying a house if they perceive you are not making enough money, or are taking on too much credit card debt (one bank that refused to refinance my house told me my American Express Bills were too high!!!). But today's young are being wooed for their youth as well as their ability to pay for expensive mortgages.  They have become demanding even as they lose their sense of individuality.  

It has taken me four years to make the many changes I have to my own home. Yet most couples want to move in, unpack and start living without the messiness of renovations or other home improvements. And one of their biggest kicks is to start shopping for furniture, making sure every room is filled as soon as possible. Rare are the couples who move in, and say, "we plan to upgrade the kitchen, but not now." 

And who says television doesn't corrupt young minds?

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