Not Every House Is a Home
OpinionChana's Corner

Not Every House Is a Home

Sometimes there's more to buying real estate than location, location, location.

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Even if the swimming pool isn't this posh, it can't make a big difference for the right homeowner.
Even if the swimming pool isn't this posh, it can't make a big difference for the right homeowner.

Sandra is a professor in the humanities at a university in the Northeast. She was married for many years to Josh, a science professor at a different university across town in the same city.

Because he was often in the lab on weekends and in the evening and Sandra’s classes met three times during the week, it made sense for them to live closer to Josh’s lab. The plan allowed Josh ready access to his experiments, and Sandra willingly drove an hour each way to her job.

The arrangement was satisfactory, but, alas, their marriage was not. They decided to divorce and arranged to sell their large family home (with swimming pool, exercise room, storage rooms, patio, landscaping and many bedrooms).

Splitting the income from the sale, each could buy a smaller place (the kids no longer lived at home).

But why would Sandra choose another house near Josh’s university? Thus, rationally oriented, she sought a place close to the university where she was a professor. There’d be no more long drives, and she’d have the ability to spend more time on campus helping students and working with other faculty.

Sandra engaged a Realtor, who searched high and low, but in vain, for an acceptable, affordable home in her desired neighborhood.

The big family home sold quickly, and Sandra had to find a place to live. She hunted, the Realtor explored, but Sandra couldn’t even locate a decent apartment in which to live temporarily.

At the 11th hour, a single residence was found, this one not only smaller and in need of work, but also lacking the bells and whistles that made the other house so charming and comfortable. As if that weren’t enough to give her pause, the house, because of its prime location, was more expensive than she expected.

Sandra loved the neighborhood and hated the house. She went for the neighborhood.

During the next two years, Sandra replaced windows and repaired the long flight of stairs leading down to the tiny patch of a lumpy back yard.

When any of her children stayed with her, she realized that there was room for only two slim adults in the kitchen, and when all of them were home (one married with a young son, making five extra sleepers), the bedrooms were too small, and there were too few of them.

The aged appliances emitted ominous noises, and the carpet stains turned out to be permanent.

Most of all, Sandra missed the swimming pool in which she had maintained her sanity and figure. Both were fading fast.

Sandra’s children and grandchild, who adore their mother and grandmother, refused to complain about her new abode. They listened patiently as Sandra bemoaned her decision but refused to spend hard-earned money on more improvements. Really, Sandra loved the neighborhood. She had done her best, and that was that. Live with it.

Sandra’s not a “live with it” kind of person, and she’d had enough. There were dozens of unpacked boxes in her basement because she didn’t have room for their contents.

One day she took a good look at those containers, went upstairs and called the Realtor who had found the house she now lived in. Sandra was ready to leave her overpriced neighborhood, overpriced supermarket and overpriced house. There were other good neighborhoods, somewhat farther from work but a lot closer than their big home near Josh’s university.

The time was right. The Realtor found a wonderful house in Sandra’s second-choice, less expensive neighborhood, newly on the market. It had enough bedrooms, a real kitchen and, best of all, a pool.

Sandra met the Realtor there, made a long, careful walkthrough, strolled up and down the streets, and spotted many mezuzot on doors. She Skyped her children and best friend for support and learned that the Realtor had several inquiries about homes where Sandra now lived, because of the location alone, and could sell Sandra’s place for more than she had paid.

What would you do? Sandra bought the house.

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