I Hereby Empower You To Live In Your House For Real, and Stop Obsessing About Resale Value!

Over the past few years I’ve noticed that some people are so anxious about preserving their home’s resale value, that they never do anything to personalize their houses! Some people won’t even paint a wall the color they want, for fear it’ll affect the resale value.

I say why go to all the trouble of owning a home if you’re not going to allow yourself to enjoy the pleasure of making it yours? (And actually, even as a renter for most of my adult life, I always seemed to have landlords who were OK with me painting walls of my apartments, and planting fruit trees and other plants in the yard and such. Maybe I was just lucky.)

The water-heater discussion referred to in my previous post led to a tangent about home resale values; one commenter cautioned that choosing too small a water heater could harm a home’s resale value because typical buyers would want a larger one.

Of course, resale value is a key consideration for folks who plan on selling their homes someday. I’m lucky, my home is my forever paradise palace (unless climate change makes our area unlivable and the residents have to evacuate forever, in which case no new buyer would be buying my place anyway). Those of us who don’t ever plan on moving don’t have to worry about resale value, and get to enjoy much more leeway with our choices. (Just one more reason to choose a place to call home — “declare yourself native to a place” as Wendell Berry phrases it — and put down roots.)

When I expressed this idea that people who plan on living in their houses for life don’t need to worry about resale value, another person pointed out that if my family were to need to sell my home later, it helps if it’s sale-ready.

My take on this: True, but I wouldn’t want to live my whole life with an expensive appliance I don’t want, just so my family can sell my house more easily if I die before I’d planned to.

Same goes for creative things I choose to do such as painting flowers or lines of poetry on my walls. Or getting rid of the large airconditioner exhaust thingee I never use — because I don’t use a/c — to free up space in my yard for a birdbath. What do they call that giant, noise-emitting box that sits outside the house as part of a central A/C system? Air compressor? Condenser? (Note to self: google this.) I’m so glad I don’t need one; it took up a lot of space and I much prefer the birdbath; it causes no noise pollution and it attracts birds!

As it happens, my siblings are well-off enough so they would not need to worry about a few thousand dollars’ difference that my unconventional after-market touches might make in the proceeds from selling my house. But even if they were not well-off, I’d just sign up for life insurance right now, or some other thing that would help them out with some cash in the event of my death.

Much better than not being able to live the way I want to in the house I own. I figure why own a house if I can’t have the fun of modifying it to my wishes?

This is one of the USAmerican cultural norms around homeownership that I always find depressing: Some people are so focused on resale value, that they never fully LIVE in their houses while they are living there! Carpe Diem, homeowners!

Speaking of creative painting on the walls of houses one owns, an interesting story: My cousin, Jim Kay, was an artist (he died a couple years back, in his late 80s). In 2009, when I went up to visit him in his hometown (our ancestral hometown) of Fall River, Massachusetts, Jim took me to see the house where he had grown up.

We knocked on the door, and after we introduced ourselves and explained why we were there, the current owner very graciously let us in.

We were able to see, still on their livingroom wall, a tree mural Jim had painted in his teens — back in the 1940s! I was touched that the house’s subsequent owners had chosen to keep Jim’s mural.

Growing up in a military family, we moved every couple of years. Still, we always bought rather than rented. Even though they always knew we’d be moving, Mom and Dad never seemed to hesitate to paint a wall or do a bit of an unconventional renovation in a bathroom. Or put in some pretty wild wallpaper on at least one occasion I can recall! Wild, metallic, gold-and-orange pattern. (Hey, it was the 1970s.) Right smack-dab in the front hall. It was pretty darn cool actually. As was the large bold multicolored arrow that my Mom painted on the stairs that led down to the family room/”rec room.” I was so proud of that arrow, and of my parents’ taste and creativity in general.

By the way, my cousin Jim Kay didn’t just make art. He also taught the joys of art and performance to underprivileged kids, and to veterans. That was a huge part of his life, especially in his later years. Every year he guided his groups of young people in putting together a float and making masks for the local Earth Day parade. Jim was a strong believer in the power of art. To heal; to energize; to unite.

One of Jim’s favorite sayings was, “Everyone has a song to sing. And unless you sing your song, you won’t ever be truly happy in life.”

I think the little choices we make in our daily lives, including how we personalize our living spaces, are a big part of “singing our song.” I believe that if we allowed ourselves to express our natural creativity more fully, we wouldn’t feel such a need for outside-sourced “entertainment” and “escape.” (I’m talking mainly to my fellow United Statesians here.) That’d go a long way toward reducing our footprint, while also adding back into our lives a layer of richness that’s waned in recent decades.

To embolden you to get creative and enjoy altering your home to meet your needs and desires, I did a search on “homeowners obsessed with resale value.” Here you go!

Further Exploration:

Forget About Resale Value (finehomebuilding.com): Good read; practical advice from James Krengel, a kitchen and bath designer. No matter what you do, or don’t do, to your house, some buyers will like it and some will hate it. “If you listen to all the experts telling you to do this and don’t do that because it will affect resale value, you’ll essentially turn your home into the equivalent of a motel room. It’s your home; do what you want.”

Discussion thread on city-data.com: Lots of good sensible comments here, will fortify you to take up that hammer or paintbrush!