I’m house/dog-sitting this weekend. Some very good friends of mine, who own some Jackson NH real estate, are heading to Maine until Monday and I have the privilege of being their first choice for “sitting”. I say privilege because I simply love their home (and their dogs). The girls are 2 Airedale terriers, Boo and Echo. This breed will certainly be on the top of my list when I decide to get a dog. They are intelligent, gentle, self-sufficient and can do grocery shopping and laundry (well, almost). I always feel that they are excited to see me when I arrive. They most likely know that when the baby-sitter is here they tend to get more treats. But my main reason for enjoying the visits is the home itself.
Something I’ve learned over the past few months is the long-standing real estate mantra about location rings true with one’s sense of home and contentment. We all know that when it comes to selling your house, the location will have a direct impact on the selling price, popularity and time on the market. There are certain features that are simply more attractive to the majority of buyers, but the beautiful thing about real estate, and about Boo and Echo’s house, is that the majority’s opinion does not always have to be that which makes you happy.
Kitchens and closets are very high up on the list to most buyers. Windows, ceiling height and bathrooms also tend to score pretty well too. And those things can be universally accepted. A large, well lit, modern kitchen with lots of natural light and plenty of cabinet space would be a welcome feature for nearly all buyers today. But what about those factors that are not so universal? My last home had a drive-out basement. Some people would find that intrusive and the space would be used for something else. Outdoor pools have become a bit of an albatross with home sales simple because of the maintenance and liability involved in ownership, but there are some who wouldn’t buy a house without one. As we’ve said before, there truly is a bum for every seat.
I’m currently renting in what would be considered an urban environment by New Hampshire standards. There are neighbors on all three sides of the house and their proximity is such that it would enable a second-story egg toss to either abutter without too much trouble. Every window I look out offers a view of another house and often directly into a facing window (thankfully with the curtains drawn). One bright point is the window in my office offers a decent view of some local mountains and, with a correctly positioned curtain, I can block out that particular neighbor’s house. This, my friends, is nearly the opposite of what I want when I buy or build my next home.
My previous house had a condominium complex to the south, but there was a half-acre buffer between us and I never even knew if there was anyone home. The other two sides of my lot were nothing but trees and rivers. This was clearly more my style and aside from its proximity to a main road, was almost the perfect location.
Boo and Echo’s house is pretty close to my ideal home. This is likely why I love to house/dog-sit for them so much (aside from the outdoor hot tub and ever-present bottle of Sapphire!). The house is surrounded by trees as far as the eye can see and is bordered a babbling brook on one side. It sits at a high enough elevation that even the hottest days are cooled by the mountain breezes. At any time of day you can sit on the front deck in total silence, save for the hammering of a woodpecker or the songs of the many varieties of birds. Regardless of where my job has taken me or what stresses have weighed me down throughout the day, arriving “home” there makes it all go away.
I’m well aware that our perception of things can be skewed by the situation. It’s safe to say that one of the reasons grandparents love grandkids so much is because they can spoil them for an afternoon and give them back. The reality is, I don’t have any of the responsibilities of maintaining that house. The firewood is stacked, the hot tub is clean, there’s plenty of dog food and the fridge is always full. But if the house makes you feel that good when you visit, it would be smart to take note of the specific factors that contribute to that feeling.
Moving back to my current apartment, someone else, with a different set of priorities, might have the same experience were they to house-sit for me. Many of my friends from Mass. would laugh at my concerns about the neighbors. The fact that there is enough space to walk between the houses, let alone drive or park 2 vehicles is a luxury few people enjoy while living “downtown”. Because the house is a few lots back off of main street, it’s possible to visit the chamber of commerce, grocery store, post office and bank all during a 2 mile bike ride. There are also 15 restaurants to choose from that are all within walking distance. Three of those are less than 50 yards away! This is clearly what some people are looking for, as there are hundreds of people living all around me.
The lesson here is to know your priorities and stick with them. If you are in the market to buy a home, whether it is a primary residence or a vacation home, make sure you know what you want and don’t waver on those items at the top of the list. For those of you selling your home, be sure you know why YOU love that house and highlight those features to the prospective buyers. There is a great chance the “right” buyer will love the house for the same reasons.