THE ISSUE: It’s November and the house is feeling small, what with the backyard covered by a layer of frozen leaves and the first snowfall of the year. That’s okay, because interest rates are low and house values are high. Time to tap that mortgage and renovate!
So you get a storage locker and begin packing stuff away, throwing out non-essential items like those university textbooks you stored away, and the high school tape collection you were saving for the day cassettes become vintage.
You also prepare to live in only half of your house while the rest of it is under the knife.
It’s a squeeze, but you find yourself getting used to the smaller space, and you notice the stuff going into storage is a lot less than you thought, thanks to your forced culling. And suddenly, you wonder why you’ve sunk all this money into more space, when all you really needed was a major clean-out and a smaller coffee table?
THE VICTIMS: Every homeowner knows that if they won the lottery on Thursday, they’d buy a bigger house on Friday. First thing. For the rest of us, who don’t like the look of 50 grand in real estate fees and land transfer taxes, the home renovation is an attractive cheaper cousin.
The thing is, you have to shrink to grow, and the byproduct of purging your basement and getting rid of last year’s shoes is that you realize you maybe don’t need more space after all, just smarter space.
But by the time you figure this out, a can opener has already been used on the back of your house and concrete is being poured by burly men earning big bucks. You’ll love the new space, but the new debt you’ve taken on will be around longer than the stainless steel appliances it paid for.
THE FIX: If renovation is a drug of the real estate era, it’s time for an intervention.
Family members or concerned friends who think you might be about to go all Mike Holmes would set this up unbeknownst to you (because you can’t be trusted in your current state). They would guide you to the ‘contractor’, who would have impeccable ‘credentials’ and a very reasonable estimate.
A start date would be set, and you go about cleaning up your house, moving into the guest room, and generally reducing your expectations for household space. Just when the work is about to begin, when you’re realizing that less is enough and that maybe that 50 grand could be better spent on a mutual fund, your friends show up and ‘Surprise!’, there’s no reno, but your house is clean and you’re feeling better about your existing space than ever.
In addition, the ‘contractor’ whips off his mask to reveal a much cheaper interior designer, who helps you rearrange your space, suggests some cool art and gives you some much-needed tips on furniture (like finally get rid of that that sectional you inherited from your sister-in-law). Maybe in the end you do make some physical changes, but it’s a far cry from the gut job you were considering earlier.
And with the money you save, it’ll feel like you won the lottery… or at least you can buy a bunch of tickets.