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The sad house. The happy house.

Posted by Rona Fischman September 13, 2012 01:46 PM

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One Saturday, recently, I saw two houses. They had a lot in common, but my clients’ reactions were night and day. Do you react to the emotional feel of a house? Does it distract you from looking at its nuts and bolts?

The first house was a sad house. The owner had gotten old in place. The presence of the old woman was in everything in the house, from the personal items to the stuck-in-time décor. It had fairly good light, but too many curtains. It was clean, but cluttered by items that immediately say “old person.”

The house was good-quality, 1960s vintage. (It could be worse, you know!) It was big on beiges and yellows, wood floors under carpet, good quality tiled bathrooms with ceramic sinks, and wooden windows with storms. Everything was serviceable. Updates were done as they were functionally needed, like addition of central air conditioning, replaced boiler, replaced appliances in the kitchen, fans added to the bathrooms. The yard was mown, but the landscaping had gotten overgrown over the years, so it had a wild look.

My clients stepped away thinking this was a sad house, but they turned more pragmatic and considered its potential. In the end, they ruled it out.

The second house needed a lot of updating, but it was a happy house. It had an elderly couple living in it last, but had been cleaned out and staged for the showings. What made it happy was that it was spotlessly clean, it had good light, and had an exceptional garden that was in bloom with late-blooming perennials. It had an even worse, dated yellow bathroom, a dated kitchen (from another era I can’t quite name), old windows with storms, some significant deferred carpentry work needed, an older heating system, and a wet basement.

The house charmed my clients. It is hard to resist a happy house. I had to bring them back to focusing on the work that this house would need in the next ten years. In the end, I was able to get them to focus on the pros and cons of updating this house over time.

I feel happiness or sadness when I am showing property. Not all the time, but some of the time. The qualities I think feed the feeling of happy house are: cleanliness, sunny-ness, well planted gardens, uncluttered-ness. Occasionally, the happiness shines through even if it is a little dirty, a little dark, and a little overgrown. Sometimes the feeling takes hold because of something that reminds one of places from the past. But, for whatever reason it happens, buyers, beware. You are buying a house, not another person's happy life.

How much does the happiness or the sadness of a house affect you? Are you able to get around it, so that you can make an economic decision? Do you think that happiness or sadness transfers from owner-to-owner because it is really in the house?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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