Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Love It or List It?

My recent favorite HGTV show has been "Love It or List It," a Canadian production about couples who are split about whether to stay in their current home or to find a new one. For those not familiar with it, the show's hosts are a designer, Hillary, and a realtor, David. The two of them compete to win the couple over - Hillary by renovating their home to better meet their needs, and David by showing them houses he thinks would suit them better. I find it fun to watch (despite its sometimes over-the-top drama), because my husband and I are going through a love-it-or-list-it moment ourselves.

Our son went off to college this fall, and with our daughter at boarding school, we have a (mostly) empty nest now. We live in a pleasant suburban neighborhood about 15 minutes southwest of Austin, Texas, and our house is comfortable for us. But it was never our dream home - we both like mission-style houses and would prefer to live closer to the center of town, where we both work. When we were house-hunting 15 years ago, however, we were mostly focused on buying in a neighborhood with good public schools - and during the dot-com boom of that era, even two bedroom cottages in our target neighborhoods were selling for more than what we could afford, so our desired 3-2 was impossible for us. We wound up instead in a circa-1980 four bedroom house in one of the area's top school districts - less charming, less convenient, but larger and well-suited to our needs at the time.

Over the years, we have made a few improvements to the house, usually focused on energy and water use - we replaced the builder-grade metal windows with Pella windows, got new heat pumps using money from the 2009 federal stimulus package, replaced all the commodes with low-flush versions, and put in a new garage door when we realized the old one had no insulation value whatsoever. Early on, we also landscaped the backyard and added some hardscape features like a ramp between the lower lawn and the upper, since hoisting the mower up 3 feet gets old very quickly.

But we never did much to improve the interior of the house. Oh, once I got inspired by Trading Spaces (my first HGTV addiction) and made over the dining room, complete with laminate floors, imperfectly-installed chair rail, and bifurcated orange/yellow walls. ("Don't be afraid of color!" chirped Genevieve; but I say to you, be very afraid of orange and yellow, Genevieve). It's hard to call that an improvement - though the evidence is gone now, hidden by the sedate cream my husband kindly painted it for Mother's Day a few years ago. And all three bathrooms have gone through their own mini-transformations - still no granite countertops and spa-like amenities, but at least the floral wallpaper is gone.

Now we are considering what our next step should be for housing. We don't love-love our house but we have great neighbors and our location, while not ideal, is relatively convenient. The biggest issue for us is lawncare - the lawn is pretty big and we have many trees (both live oaks and ashes), which means we have lots of leaves to rake and two raking seasons a year. (For my friends not familiar with live oaks, they drop their leaves in March, not in December like most trees in Texas). Until this year, we've had kid labor available to help with this problem. But this past weekend, we spent a combined 16 hours blowing and bagging leaves, and it left us both exhausted. Yes, we could hire someone to do this for us but M. resists paying someone to do a task he could do himself. He's ready to list it.

As for me? I'm not sure yet where I fall. Inertia is hard to overcome, and these bodies have been at rest here for a long time. Getting the house ready for the market takes money, and we are already paying a lot for school. And the kids both grew up in this house - for them it is almost all they've ever known. But I'm willing to see what the alternatives are, in case one of them turns out to be more appealing. We both like the Mueller development in north central Austin, and it is very close to our favorite restaurant, Black Star Coop. We might find ourselves buying a house up there if the right property becomes available.

So we are making small improvements to prepare the house for the market, so we can be ready to act if that's where our hearts lead us. Will these improvements be enough to get us to love it? Or will the appeal of new construction, a small yard, and nearby nightlife make us list it? Stay tuned!


Alison said...

I have the same problem with leaves and no kids to help me rake!

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your blog, Weez! It's the next best thing to hearing your voice all the way over in Dubai.