It was not long ago that a friend in the real estate business made the observation that she felt many of her clients were changing.
She said they no longer seemed to care about quality in their homes. What they now want in a home is one that will last five or six years and look nice when they sell it. They don't seem to care if it falls down after that. It seems that also means they don't really want to do any maintenance for those five or six years.
That is not how I grew up to understand one's home. The goal was to get a home and then improve it over the years. For the most part, everyone that I knew when I was growing up in North Carolina did that.
As soon as they could, they bought a home, and at the same time started planning for making improvments on their home. Sometimes the improvements were small because the budgets were small, but the idea of not improving your home was just not considered.
Homes were places that you planned to stay sometimes until they carried you out on a stretcher.
Often trees and bushes were planted, sometimes new rooms were added as children were born. Over time things were replaced, rooms painted, and eventually the purchased house became a home that reflected the tastes of the owners. In the fifties many of the appliances were so well made they almost never broke.
Mostly the work was done by owners unless the expansion got really serious and even then it was not unusual to see home owners doing finish work.
Times have changed. People often have to move multiple times with their careers, and to a certain extent our addiction to disposable technology is creeping into our tastes for homes. Appliances no longer have long lives. The popular finish for door handles changes almost as often as Apple introduces a new iPad. People expect the latest and greatest fads in homes even when a home is entering its best years.
We have been fortunate to have bought four new or nearly new homes in our lives. We know from experience that getting a new house from the point of being just a house to being a comfortable home takes a while. Sometimes it is even years.
I don't think our family home where we raised our children and lived for twenty-three years got to its best years until we had been in it for over twelve years. It was only then that we had the money to make changes to fit what we had learned about our home and matching it to our needs.
That home of ours in Roanoke, Virginia is now for sale. I think it is in the best shape that it has ever been. It is a little sad that now that we have the home just like we want it and in its best shape ever, we have decided to move on to another home.
We recently had a contract on our Roanoke home fall through. One of the things the supposed buyers worried about was that some windows on our house were still original windows and might at some time in the future need replacing. The idea that they were quality windows to have lasted this long didn't seem to cross their minds.
I thought the worry about possibly having to replace windows showed an amazing lack of understanding of home ownership. Homes are subject to weather, and those on the side of a mountain like ours and at the coast like our other home get a pretty good dose of impressive weather.
A thirty mile view doesn't come without a few challenges, but I have always thought that a well built home can handle most of what Mother Nature throws at it. That we have endured 70 MPH winds on the mountains just makes me proud that we have a strong, safe, home. Usually there are benefits that balance the challenges of weather.
During those twenty-three years, I have observed a lot of leaves falling from our big pin oak. I have never had to rake one leaf in those years, they just blow away. Often when the valley is cooking in heat, we have a breeze to make life in the South a little more comfortable.
Over the years we have made many improvements to our home. We even added one of my favorite parts of the house in 2001, a sunroom/breakfast room and a new deck. Anyone with a deck, even one made with composite materials and a wrought iron railing like ours knows that it takes work to keep them in good shape. So far, I still do all that work, and each spring when I get the deck in shape for summer, I feel proud that I have it looking so good.
Wood trim on houses also ends up needing needing repair work once in a while. Since our first home was two hundred years old with hand hewn beams, doing a little trim replacement seems easy compared to fighting with walls where nothing is square.
I sometimes wonder if the lack of appreciation of home maintenance comes from so many young people not knowing how to do it. Over the years, you learn a lot from taking care of a home. It is not unusal to find people in my generation who know how to do copper plumbing, electrical wiring, and finish carpentry. I have a radial arm saw in my shop. I'm guessing not many in the generations following ours even know what it is without Googling it.
In the end, a home is like a lot of things in life, you get out of it what you put in it. The sweat equity always ends up adding more pride in the long run.
As I walk from our kitchen to our master bedroom, the view of the Roanoke Valley is just part of my life. When I roll out of bed in the morning, I get to see the sun rise over in the mountain and create an original work of art each morning.
A home is much more than a house. It is place to draw inspiration for each day, and a place that you know you'll feel safe. I'm going to miss sitting at the kitchen table looking out over Roanoke while writing. However, maybe the next person will find as much to love about our home as we have.
That will make letting go a lot easier.