“Upgrades to your kitchen and bathroom always give you a big return,” the real estate agent said. We looked at our new downsizing house, knowing that the kitchen and bathroom would need to be redone. It was a big expense. But there it was, falling out of the real estate agent’s mouth. Hope in the form of a ROI–return on investment.
Now it is three years later. The agent says, “Upgrades, improvements, it doesn’t make any difference. The only thing that matters is what you can sell it for.” She makes it sound like our house, upgraded and redone, refinished floors and installed crown moulding, is a commodity instead of a lovingly improved home. We sunk so much time, so much work to make it beautiful. And now it doesn’t matter? The time isn’t important? The work makes no difference? I simply don’t understand.
The person who buys our house moves in and sits down. Maybe adjusts the top-down, bottom-up custom shades. Maybe turns on the super-quiet new dishwasher with no concerns about blowing a fuse, as our house has 200 amps, twice the amount of any of our neighbors. And yet, astonishingly, we keep being told that none of that is important. Only the price is.
It’s as if the greed of bankers and mortgage companies wadded up the American dream of owning a house and chucked it into a paper sack. We are no longer young, we worked all our lives to have a nice home, and we sunk our savings into it.
And now, our choice: sell it far below what it is appraised at, what we paid for it, or live apart, for however long it takes for the economy to come to its senses– me in the Southwest, where my business is starting up, and him in the East, where his business is going so well.
The new reality: If you avoid bankruptcy, you still have to choose a loss of one sort or another. Which reminds me, again, what I remember from the overblown 80s. Greed will suck the light out of a life. Greed never strikes in solitude. It spreads like ink on wet paper. It stains the innocent and guilty alike.
(c) Image and story. Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. 2008.