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Feel a cold draft? Maybe it’s someone else’s dream home

Bob Reid
Columnist

Recently I overheard someone mention that they were about to begin building their dream home.
Had I known that person I might have asked him what exactly is a dream home.

The term itself indicates it is a home one dreams about. If one had the resources to immediately build the home rather than dream about it, it would not be a dream home — it would simply be your home.

This tells me that dream homes are dreamed about mostly by the working class who, after years of saving and planning may eventually be able to build their dream home, whatever shape or form it might be.

The thing about dreams — or, at least, making dreams come true — is there are usually many challenges and/or pitfalls along the way. For the better educated entering the workforce as young adults there is first the task of paying off the hefty student loans accumulated over four or more years.

And of course until one actually has the dream home, you need a place to live in the meantime — whether it’s the fondly described “starter home” with its leaky roof and worn carpets, or an apartment that offers no opportunity to build one’s real estate fortunes.

Then there is the need of some form of transportation, likely a used vehicle with high mileage and hopefully lower affordable payments, insurance, gas, etc.

Children. Despite the cost of raising those, most young couples still want two or three of them which all have to be fitted into the temporary living arrangements made at close quarters until the much more spacious, expansive dream home finally becomes a reality.

This most often happens about six months before the final child leaves home. The three-car garage, five bedrooms with four bathrooms, eat-in kitchen and dining room for more formal eating, fully finished basement rec room, leading out to deck/in ground pool area and a big screen TV in every room — all materialize for the mid-50ish couple to finally enjoy together.

This is assuming they are still together and are able to find each other within the 5,000-square-foot confines. Likely they spend most of the time in the main floor because stairs are starting to become a problem so that should help. And not using the second floor means it doesn’t have to be vacuumed so often.

Through various circumstances, many homeowners never do get to build a brand new dream home, so settle for transforming whatever home they have into a quasi-dream home. This can be done in many ways, such as taking off the roof and adding a second storey; attaching a large living space on to the back, front or side of the existing home; attaching several lean-to-type extensions.

But like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, these dream homes (also usually built when the last child moves out) never look quite as good as the original.

The best example of this seen in rural areas are the century-old fieldstone houses. The intricate stone work done by European craftsmen make them a thing of beauty so it is not surprising why many would consider them a dream home.

However, when they are purchased, usually by an urbanite couple hoping to making their dream home in an idyllic setting, the first thing they do is add on a huge stick frame addition that both dwarfs and diminishes the appeal of the stately stone building.

Of course the farm family who lived in the stone house for years before moving on — suffering through the cold chill of sleeping in upstairs bedrooms in winter and the heat of the warmed-up stone walls in summer — never knew they were living in someone else’s dream home.

In my own 35 years of experience as a homeowner I don’t think I have ever progressed past the starter home phase. Having moved four or five times, it was always into a home with the leaky roof and worn carpet and a myriad of other shortcomings that needed repair.

Over time, this has caused me to develop an attraction to houses on the smaller side because less square footage relates directly to less costly renovations. I don’t want three bathrooms with all those potentially leaky faucets and peeling wall tile when two will do, or possibly one. We can take turns.

If the children come home for a visit, they can sleep on a pull-out couch; that way, they won’t come too often and we can use their former bedroom to store the stuff they didn’t take with them.

I think the North American plains Indians who lived in tepees might have had my idea of a dream home.

If the tepee had become too large for an older couple to maintain, they simply had to take out a pole or two. Unlike those who wedge their humongous dream home between other humongous dream homes on a suburban lot, only too late to discover they don’t like the cavernous confinement or the nosy neighbours, the plains Indians could pack up their buffalo hide home and move on to a better surrounding.

And if they didn’t want their 20-something, unemployed children moving back home, they just wouldn’t leave a forwarding address.

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