British statesman, Winston Churchill, was an eloquent speaker who produced many sayings that are as true today as when he spoke them some seventy-five years ago.
One of his most famous quotes is appropriate for the relationship between you and your wife and for your marriage. In essence, Winston Churchill said, “Never give up, never give up; never, never, never, never quit.”
Sure, you and Abby may face some difficult times through the years, but that’s normal. That’s life. If you follow Winston Churchill’s adage, you and your wife will always find a way to work your way through it.
Since you and Abby are in it for the long haul, you may as well make some long-range plans. How about buying a home! How about becoming rich! How about surviving those inevitable spats that occur in marriages! How about fostering a supportive and loving marriage!
THE FABULOUS DREAM – OWNING YOUR FIRST HOME
At some point, Abby and you will probably get the idea that you should buy your own home. This idea could evolve naturally on its own, but the thought often intensifies shortly after your wife’s sister and her husband or some good friends buy their first home. You and Abby look at each other and say, “Why not us?” And the idea is born.
There are several types of homes available for you to buy including a house, condominium, cooperative, town home, or duplex. The process of searching for a home and of buying it are basically the same for each of these.
Real Estate Speak
Let’s assume close friends of yours recommend the real estate agent that they worked with, Claude, and you give him a call. He is eager to help you find the home of your dreams. Abby and you meet with Claude in his office, describe your needs and interests, and Claude selects some homes to show you that seem to be a good fit.
You and Abby pile into Claude’s plush new Cadillac and you’re off to find your dream home.
Claude really seems to know his stuff as he explains each home’s many features and amenities: “This house is in a well-established neighborhood.” “This is a prestigious new development.” “My, what a cozy kitchen.” “Isn’t this winding staircase beautiful!” “What a comfortable den for watching TV or reading the newspaper.” “This house has one magnificent full bathroom and one handy half bathroom.” “You’ll have a lot of fun in this fully-paneled basement.” “You can put a lot of lawn and garden equipment in the spacious 6’ by 10’ storage shed in the back yard.”
Interpreting Real Estate Speak
Be aware that the real estate profession has a language all its own. The real estate agent, Claude in your case, describes the homes’ features in accurate terms, but the customer, you, has the responsibility to interpret what each of those descriptions mean.
Here are a few examples of what Claude’s glowing descriptions actually mean:
A house in an “established neighborhood” may mean the neighborhood is old, may be run down, and that therefore property values could easily decline in the future.
A house in a “new development” means that there are probably no trees and there will be more homes built in the neighborhood in the future and you will have no control over how large or small or goofy-looking they might be.
“A ‘cozy kitchen’ means that it might be large enough for Abby and you to eat in, but if you ever have guests it’s too small for everyone, so someone will have to eat off of TV trays in the living room.
The “winding staircase” probably means you won’t be able to haul furniture up it because of the twists and turns and you’ll need to bring the furniture in through an upstairs bedroom window.
A “comfortable den” means this was once a bedroom that was too small to be a bedroom so they use it as a den.
A “full bathroom and a half bathroom” means that only one bathroom has a shower, so if you have guests or later on have a family, everyone will have to use the full bathroom to shower.
“A fully-paneled basement” might mean that the block walls were caving in and they hid them behind the paneling.
Well, you probably get the idea. Just to check and see, though, what do you think it means when your real estate agent, Claude, said, “There is a spacious 6’ by 10’ storage shed in the back yard!” (Interpretation shown below – don’t peek).
Notice, by the way, that it isn’t just a 6’ by 10’ storage shed; it’s a spacious 6’ by 10’ storage shed. When you studied English in school, you may not have understood the power of adjectives, but you’re probably seeing it more clearly now. Did you notice that as Claude described each home’s features and amenities, he sprinkled adjectives all over the place.
Well, here’s the interpretation: Having a “storage shed” in the back yard probably means that the garage is too dinky to hold anything but a car or two and you need a shed to hold the rest of your stuff. Did you get it right?
Selecting a Home to Buy
There are numerous books on the market that contain valuable information on what to do and not do when selecting a home to buy. I suggest that you read them. I have only two suggestions for you, one of which is not contained in any of the books that I previously suggested.
Suggestion Number One: Sure, you’d like a house on the lake with a pool, hot tub, five bedrooms, six bathrooms, gourmet kitchen, formal dining room that will seat thirty, movie theater, bowling alley, eight stall garage, and guest house. There is only one rule here: If you’ve got the money, go for it! But if you don’t have the money, don’t fool yourself.
The second most miserable feeling on earth is becoming a slave to a home that you cannot afford, where virtually all of your money goes for the mortgage payment, real estate taxes, and insurance payments, leaving little money for anything else. The single most miserable feeling on earth is when the bank repossesses your home because you cannot make the payments and you face the humiliation of your ass being kicked out on the street.
Start small. Buy something you can easily afford and work your way up to that dream home on the lake or ocean over time. You’ll be very happy that you did. Every book giving advice on buying a home will tell you this, but it is so important that I wanted to restate it since, by now, you have no doubt come to trust my advice.
Suggestion Number Two: This advice is worth several thousand times the price you would pay for any book on how to buy a home – it’s that valuable.
DO NOT buy a home that does not have your wife’s full, complete, one hundred percent approval. If you insist on buying a house that she doesn’t like or want or if you even try to subtly influence her decision, you will pay for it every day that you live in that house, and we’re not talking about money. And, know what – you’ll deserve your punishment because you ignored my sound advice.
When you’re looking at a home and Abby says something like “This kitchen is awfully small,” “There aren’t many cupboards in the kitchen,” “There isn’t much closet space,”
“I would hate having to do laundry down in the basement,” “There’s not much storage space,” “These bedrooms are awfully tiny,” or “This is a crummy neighborhood,” cross this place off your list. Immediately.
I repeat, DO NOT buy a home that your wife isn’t absolutely crazy about.
There is one small variation to Suggestion Number Two above: If your wife, or you, are not crazy about the color of a couple of walls or the carpet in a room or two – that’s cosmetic. You can easily take care of that before you move in. But, make sure you do in fact do it before you move in or it will be left undone for the entire time you live in the house. You will eventually paint that ugly wall or replace that horrible carpet, though. Know when? When you decide to sell the house and you realize that no one in their right mind will buy the house with that ugly colored wall and that horrible carpet.
Moving In – the 80-20 Rule
First, a little quiz – then we’ll talk about the 80-20 Rule. When you were a child, where did your family go for Thanksgiving dinner? Grandma’s House. Where did you go for Christmas dinner? Grandma’s House. Where did your mother grow up? Grandma’s House. Where did your father grow up? Your other Grandma’s House. Do you detect a pattern here? It’s Grandma’s House – not Grandpa’s House and not Grandma’s and Grandpa’s House – its Grandma’s House. So it shall be with the home that you and Abby buy. Your name may be on the deed along with your wife’s, but for all practical purposes, it is Your Wife’s House. It is important that you comprehend this, since it will help you to also understand and accept the 80-20 Rule.
Simply put, your wife is in charge of 80% of the house and you’re in charge of 20%. Let’s start with the bedroom closet. Since your wife owns several times more clothing and pairs of shoes than you, it makes perfect sense that an 80/20 split of the closet space is fair, with her getting 80% and you getting 20%.
Your wife is also in charge of the dressers in the bedroom. The same 80/20 split that applies to the closet also applies to the dressers, except for one small modification.
Say there are two dressers in the bedroom with a total of ten dresser drawers. According to the 80/20 rule, your wife should get eight of the dresser drawers and you should get two of them. Here’s where the modification to the 80/20 rule comes in – you will need to give up one of your dresser drawers since your wife has too much stuff to fit into her 80%. This will leave you with one dresser drawer, which is all that you need anyway for your socks and underwear. Do not complain about this seeming inequality of dresser drawer space or you might end up losing half of the one drawer that has been allotted to you. Know when you’re well off.
Fine Tuning the 80-20 Rule
Since this is Your Wife’s House, she is in charge of the kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, all bedrooms, all closets, and all hallways. Here is where the 80/20 rule gets a little tricky. The rooms that your wife is in charge of amount to roughly 80% of the space in the house, but she is in charge of 100% of that 80%. You may need to read that a couple of times to fully comprehend the concept. In simpler language, when it comes to decorating those rooms or arranging furniture in them, just stay the hell out of it and do as you’re told.
Cheer Up – 20 is Better Than 0
At this point you may be feeling sorry for yourself, having just purchased and moved into a home where you are beginning to feel more like a guest than a permanent resident. Cheer up. We have not yet gotten to the part of the house that is your domain, your 20% – the garage.
Yes, you are in charge of the garage and you can do damn near anything that you want in it. In the garage, you are the king. You can finish off the walls and paint them if you want to. You can even put in bigger light bulbs and can put up shelves or build a storage cabinet or two. You can put up a dart board and get yourself a radio to listen to while you throw darts. You might even buy an old refrigerator and fill it with beer and get a table and a few folding chairs so you and your buddies can sit out there in the garage and have a ball.
One word of caution, with all of this control and freedom to do what you want in the garage, don’t forget to leave room for the car.
If your new home has a basement, you also may be able to stake a claim to part of that as well, particularly if there is an unfinished area that you can use as a workroom.
If the basement has been finished off into a recreation room, with paneled walls, a finished ceiling, carpeting, and furniture, it is considered part of the house and is therefore under your wife’s control. If, however, there is an area with a pool table, that rightfully should be considered part of your domain, even if it exceeds your 20%. Some of these territorial issues about who controls what are very complicated and may require negotiation and compromise. Do not get greedy with this or you may find yourself spending more time in the garage than you ever imagined.
Enjoy your new home, and may you joyfully co-exist there with your wife. Just remember who is in control of what and don’t push your luck.