We in the interactive /mobile / social economy are several years into an economic boom. That means a bunch of young folks are making big chunks of change, then (consciously or not) throwing their winnings at their inadequacies. I was lucky enough to do well at Facebook, and though I’m generally pretty conservative with my dough, I did make one purchase I’d love to scale back: our big house.
I grew up one of six kids in a medium-sized home that was always crowded. As such, I really wanted a bigger house and fewer siblings (they know this and feel the same way about me).
Call it the need to correct some inequalities of financial genetics, but I got hugely excited a couple of years ago when I realized I could afford a big ol’ home on a street to which I had always aspired…the street and house where we now live.
Let me state now that I am not complaining here (not really). I am beyond fortunate and our home is really beautiful – splendid architecture, big front porch, and a pool/hot tub, etc. It’s just that it’s way too big. And I couldn’t have known this until I experienced it for myself.
I had always heard it was smart to live small and to avoid buying too much stuff. I thought that this was a strictly financial axiom, but I have discovered the very meaningful “costs” to big home ownership that don’t show up on Zillow’s mortgage calculators.
Even if you can pay cash upfront or have a meaningless monthly payment, here are 5 Reasons Buying a Big House is Dumb:
1. Lightbulbs: If you double your square-footage, you’re going to at least double the number of lightbulbs your house has. Makes sense, right? But have you ever thought about that before? Didn’t think so. Then you also haven’t considered that with those dramatic 10- and 12-ft ceilings you’re going to need a freaking ladder to get to the freaking lightbulb every freaking time one blows. Which means that every Saturday morning you’re up on a ladder in your foyer trying not to fall off and squish your kids. Oh, and since you also have about ten different varieties of light fixtures, you rarely have exactly the number and kind of bulbs you need. So make friends with the lighting person at Home Depot, because you’re going to see her a lot. It seems like all I ever buy is lightbulbs, toy batteries and scotch.
2. Windows: Sure, they’re beautiful and let a lot of light in, but windows are a pain in the ass to keep clean, especially when you have two little child-monsters running their puddin’-stained fingers all over them. If you can’t see through windows, they’re pretty much pointless. What’s that – your housekeeper will do it? Okay, get used to having her around. A lot.
3. Fancy plumbing: However big your house is, buy your sink at Sears. Seriously. Because if you
choose the expensive German sink fixtures, you’re setting yourself up for misery. Say you get a hole in the hand-sprayer hose. You will first call a plumber who will look at it and then run screaming from the house like he’s just seen a Poltergeist (also German). Then your wife will tell you its your responsibility to fix the damaged hose. You will ask her “why is it my responsibility?” And she’ll go, “Because Sheryl Sandberg says you should be doing 50% of the housework. Lean in, baby!” (Damn it, Sheryl!). So you’ll go online to try to figure out what kind of sink this is to begin with, and once you figure that out, you’ll try to order replacement parts which have to be flown in from Deutschland, only to find out that the replacement parts don’t fit. At that point you’ll spend hours on the phone with customer service only to be told that they don’t make the hose that fits your components any more and you’ll need to replace ALL OF THE FAUCET AND FIXTURES for an amount roughly equal to what you paid for your first car…just because you got a tiny hole in the FUCKING hand-sprayer hose. Go to Sears. Seariously.
3. Decorators: Sitting somewhere on the moral spectrum between Hitler and Ke$ha, decorators are evil people who charge you thousands of dollars to hang your grandmother’s china on the wall while telling you “It looks just like The Viceroy!!!” CAVEAT: this only applies to pretty much all decorators. (except for Heather and Marcus*)
5. Wallspace: Acres and acres of bare wall-space that beg to be filled by interesting things at which to look. You can try to hang a bunch of posters or tapestries if you want your fancy new house to look like a dorm room or an Urban Outfitters. But if you want to have a look that is vaguely “adult,” you’re going to end up buying some art. And even decent, entry-level art from local artists is expensive as crap. You might try to come up with an innovative solution to fill these vast expanses of nothingness, like the huge wall in our basement pool room. I wanted to make it personal, so I listed out 66 of my favorite albums from the ’60s-’80s, and spent months seeking them out in used record shops around town and on ebay.
I then spent hours lining up the hangers on the wall to make sure they were all evenly spaced. As you can see, it started out great from the left, but somehow the bottom row ended up mushing with the middle row, and I sort of gave up. Also, I simply couldn’t find many of my favorite records under $100, so I ended up settling for REO Speedwagon and the B-52’s. Still good memories, but it ain’t Spinal Tap.
So take it from Paul, your zen realtor – when it comes to home-size: “Enough is a feast.”
*Stacey made me write this, but I do love you both.