5 Truths Only Old House Lovers Understand

Homes keep getting bigger while our buying power gets smaller and smaller. Maybe it's time to respect the "old" in our lives -- starting with our living spaces.
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I once fell in love with a home -- which in real estate, any emotional involvement just a terrible idea that only ends in sadness -- that went to contract before I even was able to put in a bid. It was a lovely ranch home with pristine vintage details, yet modern-day upgrades (the roof was new, but appropriate to the home, for example). Mentally, I had already decorated and lived in the home for a year.

Yet, months later, when the new tenants moved in, I watched with horror as they proceeded to dismantle the home to a shell, then plop on additions all over the place. By the time they were done, the home took up the entire lot and looked as if Dr. Frankenstein was their architect. It didn't make sense.

My fiance had to remind me that this wasn't my home and none of my business and to please put away the stationery because I should not even think about writing an anonymous letter to shame them. Even if I hadn't mentally invested in this property, it still bothered me: Why buy an old home if you just want to McMansion all over it? There are plenty of buildable lots in the area. There are also plenty of luxury estates that are still priced lower than the height of the real estate frenzy.

It's one thing if the old house you're buying is unsafe, falling apart or moldy. Upgrade away. But my ire is directed at people who try to completely change a property into something it's not. You're welcome to go all "My land, my choice!" on me. Just like I can't change your mind, you can't change mine.

Here are just a few truths I've found to be true of people who can appreciate the beauty of an older home.

Worrying about "Resale Value" is a ridiculous waste of your time and energy.
vintage home
Who the hell cares what an imaginary future buyer will like? When the time comes, repaint your walls. Or swap out the appliances. Besides, your magical granite countertops won't help you when a neighbor decides that "Breaking Bad" presented a novel idea for increasing one's wealth. If the only idea motivating you to add stainless steel appliances is a vague notion that you'll someday move, stop yourself. Why not just live with what's there, as long as it is in good working condition? Which brings us to...

History is something to appreciate.
Three words: "Original Hardwood Floors." O.K., maybe avocado appliances are a bit passe, but in 30 years, our granite countertops will be too. In a culture concerned with what's of-the-minute, what's trendy and what we can conspicuously consume, we can lose our appreciation for what we already have. It's one thing to replace something that's dangerous, it's another to completely refashion a space out of a preoccupation with what's new. It's also often a recipe for debt and inability to be entirely happy with your home. Love what you have.

Smaller IS better.
vintage home exterior
I'm really glad that more people are coming around to the idea that cathedral ceilings are a waste of space. However, many homebuyers still can't seem to be happy in a "starter" or even just a smaller home. Instead, we spend money on additions, upgrades and storage units. There is no correlation between children that share bedrooms and children that grow up to be embarrassing adults who speak in LOLspeak. The fashion police don't exist and will not punish you for not having a thousand-piece wardrobe. Learn to let go of things and you won't need as much space. Earlier generations understood it best: Less is more.

Quality trumps quantity.
Generally speaking, modern furniture is more lightweight -- and affordable. However, it often doesn't last and you eventually find yourself in a situation where you have to replace a sofa that turned out to be held together by cardboard. (Yes, it happened to me.) Quality furnishings might cost more, but they'll last longer and hold up to everyday wear-and-tear easier. Often, you can find well-made pieces at smaller antique stores, estate sales and higher-quality thrift shops for the equivalent of what you'd pay at Target.

"It can be fixed."
old furniture
People who love old houses are fine with the knowledge that, eventually, something will break, wear out or need repair. They don't freak out or immediately try to replace something because they know that beauty requires upkeep and care, which requires learning a little know-how. This spirit usually extends to furniture. A scratched table doesn't have to immediately go to the curb -- it can be refinished, repainted, covered or hell, even celebrated. A little extra character never hurt anyone.

So, please: Don't rush to raze perfectly fine old houses and upgrade everything. Let's push back from the societal forces that have us comparing our lives to strangers and making decisions that lead to a more homogenous landscape. (Or crazy consumer debt.) Appreciate what you have. Respect the "Old."

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