So I say “Grandma’s House,” and many already smell the cookies in the oven. But for me, “Grandma’s House” indicates one of my favorite categories of homes for sale.
Mind you “Grandma’s House” is not a category by which we actually identify a house in the MLS. We are pretty much confined to categories like Transitional or Cape Cod or Ranch. Useful designations all. And sometimes it IS thoroughly helpful for me to be able to search the database for a ranch for one of my buyers who is just done with doing stairs. But sometimes, instead, I would really love to be able to search for a “Grandma’s House, ” at least the way that I define it.
What are the characteristics of a Laurie-defined Grandma’s House? Well….
*THE HOUSE HAS BEEN LOVED AND CARED FOR AS IF IT WERE HER FIRSTBORN
Grandma was extremely grateful to own this home, and it shows on every shiny window, every waxed floor, every washed and ironed curtain that hung on the wall. I think looking at her house was like looking in the mirror for her, and the reflection was something that made her smile.
*IF IT WAS BROKEN, IT GOT FIXED
Probably by Grandpa. He rehung the gutters when they sagged, snaked the drains when they got quirky, patched the driveway when it became rutted. There aren’t a lot of big problems in this house, because these situations were all taken care of when they were little problems. (The owner is apt to be selling because it is getting hard to keep up with the demands of a house now, and there is some visible evidence of this…a bit of peeling wallpaper here, maybe a drippy faucet there. But the house still gives overall impression of “vigilant upkeep.”)
*IF IT WAS UNFIXABLE, IT WAS REPLACED
Whatever “it” was, it was surely repaired and repaired until it could be repaired no more, and then it was carefully replaced. The “new” toilet was installed in 1977. The old Williamson furnace was replaced, but with regret, because it had served the family so well for 45 years. The linoleum had gotten too chipped, and a new vinyl floor was put in the kitchen…in 1984.
*SO, YES, IT IS VERY DATED
Everything is clean and cared for, but the reality is that the “new” stuff in the house comes from the ‘70s or ‘80s. The wallpaper might make HGTV cry. There is probably (longterm) carpet covering the hardwood floors. And it is altogether possible that the buyer really never has seen a dishwasher that old. (The house may look dated, but it does NOT look neglected. Big difference. Big, big difference. Older homes that have been neglected are another category altogether, and even if the owner is a grandparent, it isn’t what I would refer to as a “Grandma’s House.” Does that make sense?) It is going to take a lot of work for a new owner to give this dated house a current look, but the buyer who is searching for a Grandma’s House doesn’t care, and will get it done over time.
I have a small subset of buyer clients who would LOVE to find a Grandma’s House. These buyers love the inherent sturdiness of the place, and appreciate the way the basic infrastructure has been maintained. They have the time, the patience and the willingness to invest in making the house their own, bit by bit. They are the buyers many sellers hope for (“I won’t redo anything before selling because the buyer will want to pick her own paint colors.”) But, Sellers, please note that I said I had a SMALL subset of clients looking for this kind of house. To be more honest, I should have said I have a very, very small subset of buyers who are looking for this.
Most buyers are still looking for the most updated place they can find. This small subset is looking for Grandma’s House because, among other things, it costs so much less than similar ones that have already been updated.
The lower pricing, because it is so dated, means one buyer can afford to get into the school district that she wants her child to attend. Or it means another purchaser, just starting work with a just-starting kind of salary, can manage to get into a house. For another one of my clients it meant her child had a backyard in which to play, while she had the financial flexibility to work AND go back to school. And remove old wallpaper on the weekends.
One of the reasons I love a Grandma’s House so much is that it feels like there is legacy passed from the original owner to the new buyer…a legacy that involves paint brushes, and patience, and many a sweaty Saturday afternoon. One step inside the front door of a Grandma’s House and you just KNOW how much this home has been loved. And the buyer who purchases it, ready to lift the olive green carpet and reglaze the pink bathtub, is preparing to love it just as much. Grandma and this young buyer are really kindred spirits, kindred spirits of the “can do” variety. It is a remarkable moment when the house of one’s past becomes the house of the other’s future, with the passing of a keyring, the wiping of a few of Grandma’s tears, and (more often than not) a hug as these former strangers say goodbye to each other at the closing table. An ending and a beginning all at once.
Give it a day or two, and you just know that house is going to smell like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies all over again. The cookie dough has been passed to a new generation….