M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, April 11, 2002  

Lately my wife Trash has become a huge fan of the TV show Trading Spaces. For a while she actually wanted to go on the show, until her desire was overtaken by a pathological and completely reasonable fear of what that psycho Hildi might do to our house. I've always been a little more resistant to the idea. Even if Hildy spares you, the best-case scenario is that now you have one room in your house that's so brilliant, the rest of the house looks like hell.

Which has already happened to us.

Last year, we did some remodeling in the kitchen. We got more counter space, more cabinet space, a bigger sink, and a new refrigerator. Plus we painted in there. It looked great when we were done. So great, in fact, that now we had to redecorate the whole damn house.

That's part of the reason we've been so busy with home improvement projects lately. The other part is next door. Let me 'splain:

As of this coming July, Trash and I will have lived in our house for nine years. That's a long time in human terms. In real estate market terms, however, it's apparently several generations.

We bought the house in 1993 from a woman who was in a hurry to unload it so she could marry some dude and go help him raise ducks in Fargo. I'm not kidding about this. We obliged by making an insultingly low offer which, to the surprise of ourselves and our realtor, was accepted after minimal negotiation and compromise on our part.

There was some slight initial hostility from our neighbors, given that we'd singlehandedly put a dent in their property values by getting a home so cheaply in their neighborhood. They forgot all about it, though, after a couple other houses on the block got sold at more normally inflated prices.

We didn't know it at the time, but we owned real estate in a neighborhood that was our city's Next Big Thing. For whatever reason, everybody wants to be our neighbor now. I don't know why. Maybe it's because you can't get there from downtown without driving around one of two lakes. Personally, I see that as a downside, and I won't be happy until Lake Harriet has either a bridge or a tunnel that gives me immediate access to the other shore. Nobody seems to agree with me on that, though.

Our next-door neighbors died a couple of years ago, and their kids sold the house to some real-estate speculator from the snooty western suburbs. They came in and did some "renovations." These consisted, in their entirety, of:

1. Slapping new shingles on the old roof. The eaves were nearly rotted away, so they simply whacked them off without replacing them. I just hope they don't plan on showing the house while it's raining.

2. Painting every room in the house. They picked some nice colors, but even the nicest color is going to look a little tacky when you've thrown a couple of coats of it OVER THE LIGHT SWITCHES.

3. Replacing the hardwood floor in the upstairs bedroom. Now this beautiful midcentury home has a bedroom floor that screams 2002.

4. Putting all black appliances in the teeny-tiny kitchen. See #3.

5. Sweeping the ashes out of the woodburning fireplace. They can't say if the fireplace works, as they haven't lit it.

The speculators then put the home back on the market for nearly $200,000 more than they paid for it. Considering they spent as much as five hundred dollars on the renovations, this might end up being a good investment for them.

Of course, the "for sale" sign has been in the yard for over a month, and they've whacked twenty-five grand off their original asking price. They might have to be satisfied with only a $175,000 profit.

In the meantime, we're living next door to a house that's comparable to ours, but it's on the market for nearly five times what we paid. At some point, we're going to have rich neighbors. Not only that, we're going to have rich, stupid neighbors. I have no idea who they'll be, but I'm working on elaborate plans to fleece them out of large sums of money as we speak.

Or perhaps, instead of cheating our neighbors, we might be better off cheating their neighbors. I.e., whoever ends up buying our house, should we decide to sell. More on that tomorrow.

posted by M. Giant 2:57 PM 0 comments


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