I made the mistake recently of hooking up cable TV in our bedroom. My wife and I essentially have been living free of that monstrosity for almost nine years.
After being given a second TV as a gift, I figured I would put it in our bedroom so that my wife and I could occasionally watch something relaxing at night. It seemed “reasonable.” (For some reason, the cable works in that room, but not our living room.)
When I mentioned this to another parent, she said, “Oh yeah, we always keep the TV on HGTV. That way, if my kids walk into the room, I don’t have to worry about them watching a Lucky Charms commercial. Or a violent cartoon. Or …” By the way, did I mention they’re house hunting?
Sadly, there is a HUGE downside to watching this network. While Lael could care less, Seth is mesmerized by the handsome men and women tearing out walls and creating an “open, airy space.” Seth, who wants to be an architect and a truck driver and an engineer and a doctor and an astronaut and a train engineer and a musician and a construction worker when he grows up, probably knows more about curb appeal than half of Chicago’s homeowners.
Great view of Lake Michigan notwithstanding, Anne’s obsession with the show might have something to do with being crammed like sardines into our 750-square-feet apartment. That and the fact that the kids have trashed everything we own simply because there is no place to hide our stuff. Oh, and I think Anne is tired of drinking wine out of mason jars instead of our wine glasses, which are still in California storage.
Because we think housing prices are not done collapsing, we figure our best plan of action is to rent a house even though I will really, really miss the great view. It might not be enough to dispose of the post-ownership blues, but at least the family would have room to breathe.
So yesterday we yet again loaded the kids into the minivan and resumed exploring the communities in Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago. The benefits of Evanston are obvious to us. A large number of Seth’s classmates live in the diverse community. It’s not too far from work because of train access. And there’s a lot to do.
The problem has to do with the housing stock. Homes are either so big that they are rarely rented out – except by students near Northwestern University – or we’re stuck in another expensive apartment building … without the view.
But we really need more space. The kids have nowhere to play when they’re stuck indoors. Our current building lacks a pool and play area. The elevators are always having a problem. Plus, we would like to stop paying for storage in California, money we could use instead for rent.
Watching HGTV exacerbates the situation: here are all these happy Americans buying and remodeling beautiful houses. Where are they getting all this money?
HGTV is something of a false utopia, though. After all, we haven’t seen many shows – zero to be exact – talking about surviving foreclosure or folks struggling with housing payments they can’t afford.
There haven’t been any shows about how new home prices near where we USED TO LIVE have been slashed by nearly 50 percent. That’s right, new homes in Rancho Cucamonga that used to go for $1.2 million are now being offered for $695,000.
To piss us off even more, despite what is happening in Rancho, banks are stingily holding onto properties. They fear flooding the market and refuse to let prices fall naturally as they should. If you look at this chart on bank-owned properties, the first question to ask yourself: Why haven’t home prices fallen more?
And yet, HGTV’s hosts continue to chirp happily about how wonderful it is to buy a 1-½ bath, 3-bedroom house in Alexandria, Virginia, for $750,000 house. Did I mention that in one bedroom, the dad could reach both walls by holding his hands out?
So I curse HGTV every time Anne watches it. Then I sit down and watch it too.