My wife and I watched "House Hunters" on HGTV the other evening. It's a simple premise: A couple or a family is looking to buy a new home, and a realtor shows them some that fit their wants and needs to varying degrees. The cameras roll while the discerning shoppers make their way from room to room while offering their views on everything they like, love, dislike and despise.
Everyone wants an "open floor plan” featuring few walls separating things like the kitchen and living room. They want granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. The women want tons of closet space, while the men want their own "man-cave."
When both of our sons are officially off and living their young adult lives, it’s possible my wife and I will realize our empty nest is a bit much for our needs. What if a realtor picked our house for a couple to tour on House Hunters?
(A note before we proceed: I contend that the brains behind House Hunters instruct couples as they tour houses to talk non-stop. I think they're also told to be more opinionated than they otherwise would be. Without the TV cameras, no one would ever talk this much about every microscopic detail, and few would be willing to come across quite as stuck-up and judgmental as they do.)
They meet the realtor in the driveway:
Husband: "Nice big yard."
Wife: "Nice curb appeal. I don't know if I like the color of the siding. But I like the brick."
Husband: "Is that a park at the bottom of the hill? That would be perfect for the kids."
Wife: "But I can see them hopping on their bikes and crashing as they ride down the hill."
Realtor: This house is within your budget, so if you wanted a different color of siding or if there were some other changes you'd like to make, you'd be able to afford to do so."
Wife: "Oh, I love how it opens into this big living room."
Husband: "Check out the fireplace. Love the huge brick mantle."
Wife: "Oh, lord...is this laminate flooring? Didn’t I have real hardwood on my wish list?"
They make their way toward the dining room.
Wife: "That chandelier is atrocious. This old tile flooring is awful."
They head toward the kitchen.
Husband: "Stainless steel appliances..."
Wife: "But they're not new. More laminate flooring...yuck. I do like the cupboards with the glass doors. Honey, I could display grandma Helen's China! But there's no island. And this space is so closed off. I wouldn't be able to watch the kids in the living room or talk to them while I'm in here. Oh my god! Is that a bathroom right off the kitchen!? And it's pink!?" She peers into the small bathroom. "Pink tile!? Oh, this is dreadful!”
They make their way toward another bathroom and three bedrooms.
Wife: "This bathroom would have to be totally redone. Only one vanity sink!? We'd be bumping into each other getting ready in the morning."
They get to the "master" bedroom.
Wife: "This is small for a master, and this carpet would have to go."
Husband: "Look, honey, his and her closets."
Wife: More like her and her closets, you mean."
(All three chuckle at the mandatory wife-loves-closet-space joke.)
Then it dawns on the wife that the master has no ensuite. (That's a fancy word for an attached bathroom) "No ensuite. Oh, this is depressing.”
The realtor knows it's time to rally. "I've saved some of this home's best features for last. Shall we check them out?"
Wife: "I’d better be stunned."
They head down to the basement.
Husband: "Ma-aaaaaaan Ca-aaaaaaaave! There's room for a bar, a pool table. It's a full home-theater. Wow, another fireplace. I love all the wood and the brick. I love this space. Saturday afternoon college football games. It's perfect."
Wife: "More laminate. And look at the small shower in the bathroom. No good, no good.”
Husband, largely in a whisper to himself: "Ma-aaaaaan ca-aaaaaaave."
The realtor leads them back upstairs and through the kitchen...
Wife: “Please tell me someone bulldozed that pink bathroom while we were downstairs!”
The realtor opens a door and they enter a big screened porch.
Husband: "Oh, wow, honey. Think of the entertaining you could do out here. Feel that fresh air, and no mosquitoes in here."
Wife: "The dog would rip right through these screens."
The realtor leads them into the backyard.
Husband: "This is big. Wow. Love the storage shed. Oh, honey, check it out. A fenced-in garden."
Wife: "Looks like they’re growing weeds. But I do love all the trees and foliage."
Realtor: The man who designed and built this house was a master horticulturist, so something in this yard is blooming from spring to fall. The peony bulbs are his grandmother's, well over a century old."
Husband: "What's a peony bulb?"
(The wife and realtor offer up a hearty chuckle as the show cuts to a commercial.)
In the end, after checking out other homes for sale in Crookston, the couple balks at all of them, including ours. Instead, they buy a lot from developer Bob Herkenhoff in the northeast corner of town and the wife builds the home of her dreams, full of hardwood floors and neutral-colored bathrooms. But there’s no amazing screened porch, and no foliage with a story to tell.