What is a home? The meaning of “home” is not the same for all of us, but for most, it’s not just where you shelter from storms and sleep, it’s also where you retreat to feel safe, gain strength, care for family and friends and hopefully find happiness too.
One person’s shack is another’s palace
I’m always respectful when I go into homes – with what I say and what I do. As a property manager, I’m in homes all the time meeting tenants and clients for inspections, repairs, and marketing plans. Some homes are far cleaner than mine, some not so much. Some homes expensive artwork with fancy lighting pointed at it and some have posters. I’ve seen my share of nudes, some tasteful and some incredibly risqué that made me blush and say “Oh my”.
They say one person’s shack is another’s palace, so when I struggle to find positives about a home that I’m writing a description for, I think back to my younger years. What would childhood Mary have loved about this home? What would my 20-year old self have found cool?
Homeowners always know what drew them to even the most unusual homes
Every home has something special when I look from that perspective. It may be the location, proximity to a military base, vaulted ceilings, split bedroom floorpan (away from the kids), a good climbing tree, a garden or just the possibility of a garden. In modern real estate times, they say agents should paint a picture for shoppers, so they can imagine how great life would be living there.
I try to ask clients what THEY love about THEIR home to get those tid-bits that aren’t always obvious to me. I’ve found that homeowners always know what drew them to even the most unusual homes. They usually smile when they recount what it was.
I didn’t come from much, and when I was in the 7th grade, a classmate discovered that my family lived in a “trailer home” and spent the day mocking me for it in front of my classmates. So when I got to high school and my friends could drive, I’d have them drop me off down the street from my house, so they wouldn’t see where I lived. Until now, I have not shared that and I never told my parents about it. I didn’t want them to be hurt as well. Back then I was mortified and embarrassed, but now, I just wish I could hug my 12-year old self. At that age, words leave wounds that never heal.
Looking back, I remember when we moved into that “trailer home.” We were excited, because we felt it was much nicer than the block home that we were moving from. The manufacturer of the mobile home cleverly put a model tag “Dream Home” on one end and at that time, it was. It had central air conditioning and a built-in microwave, and we had never had either. Microwaves had been out for many years by then, and I was so excited to nuke food and pop popcorn like my friends.
The main draw for my parents was that water didn’t seep through the floor when it rained like it did at our block home. It was safe, dry and within their budget.
Sadly the “Dream Home” was miles away from the childhood friends that I was accustomed to joining daily for bike-riding or to collect bottles to turn in for candy and an RC Cola at the Go-Shack or even Cheryl’s Produce to grab a bag of boiled peanuts to share.
The best part about living in the block home was that my best friend and “adopted” 2nd parents were right next door! When I couldn’t BE at Bobbie Jo’s house, we were meeting at the chainlink fence to plot our next sleepover. I always remember my happy childhood memories growing up on Flora Avenue, but to have the “Dream Home” we all had to make sacrifices.
People live where they can afford to for the most part. A misspoken word about someone’s chosen decor or an unusual update can feel like an insult or judgment. There is a very definite art to be able to help someone prepare their home for the real estate market so that it appeals to others without making them feel self conscious about themselves, the look of their home, or what they can afford. I think coming from where I did, I’m uniquely equipped for my profession.
In a tiny home there is little privacy
The “Dream Home” was only 2 bedrooms, so my brother and I shared a room until high school. My parents finally decided we needed to close in our only living room space, so that we could have separate rooms. But, the new walls added didn’t go up to the ceiling, so there still wasn’t much privacy to be had, and now with no living area, there wasn’t much space to have friends over either. Remember that “unusual update” I mentioned earlier?
I spent a lot of time in my “new” private space on the phone, listening to music, writing poetry, passing time until I was old enough to get a job, save money, and buy a car.
Looking back now, I just see my little room with the blue floral wallpaper that I got for my birthday and my mom put up for me – just one wall. I see the closets that I ducked into to talk to my future husband, because in a tiny home, there is little privacy. He was a smooth talker, and I’d sit in the dark of the closet grinning ear-to-ear for hours. Here was where my dad taught me to drive on the back roads and where I washed and waxed my first car – a mint condition 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza that I paid for all by myself.
That tiny home is also where I had to confess to my parents that I was pregnant at 17, and where they accepted it and moved on to embrace the birth of their first grandchild. I shared my bedroom with my daughter for a time and even moved back home to live once in a while (rent-free) so I could put my young life back together and start again stronger. I’ve got pictures of my daughter and a lacy white bassinet against the blue floral birthday wallpaper.
I never dreamed I’d live somewhere like Princess Anne Crossing
Years later, when I was in my mid-thirties, we bought our once-in-a-lifetime home. As soon as we walked in the door for our showing, I was sure we’d made a mistake! No way could we afford this home and they were going to know because I felt it was written all over my face. Who are you to aim so high? A former teenage pregnancy case from the tiny “trailer home”.
The owners gave us the full tour, then wined and dined us at the “Brazilian barbecue.” We didn’t know what to think by the end of the evening, but I got home and immediately emailed them our offer. I made sure to mention that it was the only offer I’d be sending, because it was the top of our financial ability. The next day (to our utter shock and dismay) they accepted!
I never dreamed I’d live somewhere like Princess Anne Crossing. Half of my childhood was spent in the leaky block home and the other in a 2-bedroom single-wide trailer. My parents couldn’t even afford to get the tires underneath covered with the decorative trim. My mom talked about it often, but I was in my mid-twenties before my parents moved out, and they never did get that trim; other expenses came first, things like a private school education.
I immediately imagined the life we would have there. My kids could have as many friends over as they wanted, we’d have birthday parties and they’d be so proud of our home. One thing I think all parents have in common is they all want to give their kids more than they had. It isn’t always a home, it can be anything – educational opportunities, love, patience, time, siblings, health, you name it.
My kids got to grow up in Princess Anne Crossing. Even the name sounds majestic! When we moved in they were little and these days it’s just us two. We’ve never been married without kids in the house after all. It’s a little sad, but happy at the same time, because here is where my husband and I have re-connected and found our place in life together again – empty nesters now but still happy. We’re starting a new chapter and still enjoying the wonderful features of this home, but in new ways.
One day this house will belong to another family, and I’ll be sad to let go. It’s my “Dream Home,” even though it may not be that to everyone. It isn’t hard for me to convey happiness to the shopping public in a real estate description or to tell people what drew me to the home. The reasons are immeasurable.
I may live in many homes in my lifetime, but this will always be where where I watched my daughters grow, waited out deployments, hosted 21st birthdays, command functions, poker nights, bridal showers, provided a safe harbor to friends and family, taken prom pictures in the butterfly garden, thrown graduation bashes, served Thanksgiving dinners to family, friends and an occasional sailor who couldn’t go home for the holidays.
I’ll shed a tear for the changing seasons of my life, but I know wherever we move will be home as long as Joe and I are together and we have those we love nearby to make good times and memories.
At the end of the day, home is not the structure at all, but those that we let in them and the moments that we share inside.