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Posted on July 9th, 2024

The Soft Core of the Earth – Headaches of Home Ownership

One of the major aspects of the supposed “American Dream” is home ownership. I was late to the game myself, in large part because I’ve been a stumbling screw-up for most of my life (well, I still am one, I just cover it up better with age), but it was always something I aspired to. Most of my friends seemed to have gotten their acts together well before I did – or at least the appearance of having done so – but I rounded the corner in my late 30s. I might even say I made up a little ground, as I have no dependents, live in an affordable housing market, and got lucky with mortgage rates, both at purchase, and again at refinancing time during the early months of the pandemic. I’m not a lucky person by any stretch, so I must’ve just ridden the coattails of some other lucky fellow for that stretch…

Since then, my house’s value has gone up (as have the property taxes and insurance), and over the last seven years of ownership, time has taken its toll on the house (well, and me, too, but that’s a topic for another column). Some of the issues I’ve taken care of, such as minor repairs on some appliances, a new roof, and some bouts of water damage in a few places, and others I’ve let wither on the vine, like the peeling paint on the interior of the house, an issue that seems to be due more to the plaster walls and ceiling than anything else, especially as the house continues to settle. The yard is overgrown, something I refer to as “benign neglect,” but it’s not unsightly or obtrusive, so the neighbors aren’t overly offended, but other areas and aspects are ignored, leading to a well-loved and well-lived home, if not well-manicured.

Above is a shack that I call home. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but trust me, it looks worse inside. (Image retrieved from here and comes courtesy of Gül Işik)

I inherited a 3-year-old HVAC system, and now, seven years later, at ten, the AC unit has had a few minor problems that have cost me $300 here and $300 there, time and again. Before long, I’ll likely have to replace the entire HVAC, and I imagine that’ll run me close to ten grand. Other appliances, like the once-repaired washing machine and the seemingly Costco-branded fridge have probably reached their Golden Years as well, and alongside from eventually having to replace both, I’ll be faced with having to buy inferior products, as everyone makes junk these days – planned obsolescence, they call it… When I bought my house it came with a Nest thermostat, and the very first thing I did was deprogram it and disconnect it from the internet. I don’t get all of this supposed “smart” technology and why people want every aspect of their lives tracked and cataloged. It was an instant reminder of the inherent laziness and sheep-like qualities of most people, you beloved readers of mine excluded, of course… But it was what gave out most recently, causing the AC unit to sound like a car crash as it fought to get the proper voltage. All the while the Nest read higher and higher temperatures and was warm to the touch, causing me to disconnect it entirely, and forgo AC for a few days. Thankfully, my house is well-insulated, so it never got over 76 on a fairly hot holiday weekend, but I overheat easily, so it was stagnant and uncomfortable for me anyway.

With the need for repairs come the need to engage with servicemen (and women), and sometimes I’m just not sure who to trust. Being that I don’t know anything about most of these aspects of my home and appliances, all I can do is hope they’re not trying to pull one over on me. I’m sure it’s happened before, but I think I got a good guy this time… It might be to my advantage to take a class at the local community college to learn about what we used to call “home economics,” but a version for adults. This one would cover all the major appliances and internal/external components of the house so that one could have a confident and competent conversation with a serviceman, and feel both informed, but also know that you’re not being taken for a ride. An auto mechanics class would be good, too.

My parents have always been the kind of people who took care of every issue of the house whenever it needed to be taken care of. My dad knew all the lingo, had a decent mastery of the mechanics of most things, and vetted servicemen to know he was always getting a straight shooter. My mom, in her frugal and hawklike ways, led the charge for upkeep and basic maintenance, and everything was always clean. Well, until the last few years as they’ve aged, but for the most part, you don’t walk into a dirty house or one that looks like it’s slowly falling apart. Who knows what I’ll find when it comes time to clean it out… But needless to say, I didn’t pick up those traits or interests, so I might have been better off as a renter – if it weren’t for that whole wealth-building thing. When I think about all the money I pissed away on rent over the years, man, it boils my blood. And I’m not exactly a penny pincher by any stretch of the imagination. But it is what it is, as they say. I guess now I just need to be more diligent in upkeep, and apparently, setting aside some tall stacks of cash for rainy day situations, like a new HVAC system at some point…

I’m actually saving up for another house purchase, hopefully about three years out from doing so. Double the headaches, double the mortgage. This one will be for fun, a winter and summer getaway, so I won’t reside it in for long stretches of time, which could be a good thing because I won’t mess it up as often or wear it down as fast, but will also be offsite for long stretches where something could go majorly wrong and I’ll have no clue about it, possibly until it’s too late. Thus, I’ll probably have to pay someone to check on it, which is aggravating, not because of the monthly payment per se (but that, too), but because who knows what they’ll do in it while I’m away. They could, theoretically, throw parties there or let their in-laws crash, and I’d be none the wiser. But what am I to do? Seems to be a petty thing to whine about it now that I see it in writing.

Well, the pros of home ownership outweigh the cons, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t make the headaches any less painful when they come, and they often come when you don’t expect them to. But as much as I gripe about them when they arise, I’m happy to have a place to call my own, even if it’s a little rough around the edges – just like me.

Marco Esquandoles
Bachelor Padded


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