Nine years ago, my girlfriend and I were renting a small apartment in the upper west side of Manhattan. It was a fourth floor walk up, had one bedroom, a minuscule bathroom, a laughably small kitchen, and barely enough living space for a couch and TV. It was also the best place I ever lived.
Over the years, the girlfriend and I moved into larger apartments, slowly heading further west, over the river into New Jersey and eventually purchasing a house of our own. The girlfriend is now my wife and we have a 3 year-old running around as well as a dog that tests my patience every day.
The moment I started renting, my father would remind me on a regular basis that I was wasting my money and should just buy a place of my own. It would be an investment that would help me create wealth over the years as I slowly built up equity… something like that. Most importantly, I will build a sense of pride knowing that I am part of community homeowners.
This January, I will be officially a homeowner for 5 years, and I can tell you with utmost certainty that it is shit. Sometimes, I look back to the time when I was renting and think of all the things that bugged me about being a renter, and how they seem trivial now.
When I was renting, I took for granted how much goes into maintaining a home, mainly because I wasn’t responsible for maintaining anything. If the water heater broke, I’d call the landlord. Saw a mouse in the basement? Call the landlord. Is the thermostat not working? Call the landlord. I wasn’t even responsible for shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. I paid my rent and utilities and that was it. I was happy.
So why ruin such a good thing and actually buy a house? Over the weekend, my furnace stopped working, for no apparent reason. After spending a Sunday morning and evening trying to fix the problem myself, I capitulated and called the HVAC specialist. Turns out, it was a broken valve on my oil tank, a part that only costs a few dollars. The HVAC tech charged me $125 for twenty minutes of work and now I know how to replace an oil tank safety valve. Please excuse me while I go kick myself in the head.
What I find most annoying is that I do consider myself a handy person. My father is a contractor and I worked with him for years during summer breaks and part time during college. I learned a lot, albeit not enough to be an expert in everything, but enough to become an expert in a few things, and knowledgeable enough in a great many things that fall under the umbrella of home improvement, like Bob Vila.
These skills have been indispensable as a homeowner, because I don’t have bags of money laying around the house that I can give to a contractor when a simple light bulb burns out.
Apparently, I’m in the minority when it comes to being handy. I grew up with a stocked tool chest in the garage and when I bought my first home, getting a set of basic tools and assorted hardware was a priority. Also, having a garage full of tools just looks cool and makes me feel like a REAL MAN. Over the years, I slowly added to my collection–a power tool here and hand tool there. I have now become saddled with the reputation of being handy in the eyes of my in-laws.
Here’s a case and point. A few weeks back I’m at my in-laws when a towel rod in the bathroom breaks and I get called in to fix it. I assess the situation and state that it’s a simple fix and I need an allen key set or a small flat head screw diver. I was given a butter knife, a box of toothpicks, and some paper clips, like I’m motherfucking MacGyver.
It doesn’t stop there. As I was inspecting the broken towel rod, trying to repair it with assorted crap from the kitchen junk drawer, it was pretty obvious who installed it. The brackets to which the towel rod was attached to were upside down and the rod was forcefully screwed into the underside of the flat metal bracket. This was clearly the handiwork of my illustrious father-in-law.
My father-in-law is of the belief that he can build and fix anything, because he owns many assorted tools and hammers of various sizes. He can construct just about everything with brute force, hammers, nails, and Krazy Glue.
Last time I saw him; I was visiting his home where he proudly showed off to me the new storage closets he built in his garage. These were storage closets in the most general sense of the word, in that they were large boxes, constructed out of wood, some screws, but mostly nails, rudimentary doors, and had an interior in which random stuff could be stored inside.
He then mentioned to me that he now had a project for me though, as his Internet was painfully slow and his frequent calls to the service provider indicates that there is nothing wrong. It was then that I had to tell him that he built his precious closets in front of his wireless router and circuit breaker box and he now has no easy way to access either of them. Later that night, my wife lectured me on how I could have told her father that his closet design was faulty in a more delicate way.
So as you can very well tell, owning home a sucks, as a great many things can and will go wrong, in which you will have to fix yourself, or pay someone handsomely to fix for you. Also, if you show any aptitude on being ‘handy,’ people (the in-laws in my case) will coerce you into fixing shit in their houses for them, FOR FREE!
So you may be asking yourself why would anyone want to buy a house? The only reason I can give you, and this is a damn good reason, is that you can build yourself a killer game setup in the basement, crank up the volume, and scream bloody murder when you die, because no pain in the ass neighbor is going to complain.