If it were up to my son Milo, we would be living in our own private Idaho. Relocating and starting a search for a home just as a pandemic commenced has been as difficult as you can imagine.
I actually thought that prices would drop, and it would perhaps shift a bit from a seller’s to a buyer’s market – but prices for homes in the Spokane area have increased 7% since March, according to my real estate agent.
What’s frustrating is that I thought I had secured a deal on a for sale by an owner in West Central, but the seller had cold feet at the last minute and pulled out.
The best part if I did sign that contract was the lack of input by my children, which takes me back to Milo, who is crazy about the Gem State. It all started in March when he spent a weekend at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
My 15-year old couldn’t get enough of the mountains in Sandpoint. It was his paradise. Milo has made a couple of friends on his 14U baseball team, which is based in Coeur d’Alene. He loves life by the Lake Coeur d’Alene, but if he had his way, we would move close to Sandpoint in relative isolation.
“I could get an ATV and go skiing,” Milo said.
That desire intensified after a recent visit to his older brother Eddie’s former hockey teammate’s new home outside remote Lincoln, Montana. “I like it here,” Milo said.
You know who else liked living there? Ted Kaczynski, aka “The Unabomber,” who lived less than a half-mile from my friend’s property when he was arrested as a domestic terrorist in 1996. Not that Milo would follow in Kaczynski’s footsteps, but living out in the sticks would be a major adjustment.
After I went on a diatribe waxing about urban versus rural, Milo offered a strong case of life in the wilderness. I thought about it for a few moments and mentioned it to my savvy editor, Don Chareunsy, who believes I wouldn’t be happy away from a city – and, as usual, he’s right.
Fortunately, parenting is a fascist regime, and I choose to reside in Washington. Spokane it is, and it’s just a matter of what part of town we will reside in. After I broke the news to Milo, he shook his head in disbelief as if I announced that we were relocating to Kabul.
Jane, his 11-year-old sister, is fine with Spokane and claims to have found the perfect house on realtor.com, a five-bedroom, three-bath monstrosity that is going for $590,000.
“Daddy, it’s perfect, but how are you going to be able to maintain the pool?” Jane asked. “You’re not very handy.”
I let Jane know that the odds were that I could deal with pool maintenance more so than the astronomical monthly payments, so that’s out. “But you always told me to reach for the stars,” Jane said. I explained that I apparently was only joking, and only a star could afford such a property.
I detailed that it is a seller’s market, which is a drag. This is bringing back memories of the last time I bought a house, 20 years ago, and it was in a seller’s market. It’s just like those challenging days when my realtor from a seeming lifetime ago advised me to bid $30,000 over asking for a house I didn’t want since I would be the first to see it before many prospective buyers when the market was exploding.
Eddie, 18, says my decision should just be about what makes me happy. My daughter, Jillian, 21, who loves Spokane, says to be pragmatic. “You don’t need a huge house. Less is more.”
That’s so appealing, yet un-American. It reminds me of a hilarious old quote from guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen. When the Swedish bandleader/producer was told that less is more, he was incredulous.
“How can that be?” Malmsteen said. ” How can less be more? That’s impossible. More is more.”
I lived in the shadows of those who thought like Malmsteen in my old stomping ground in suburban Philadelphia. Two neighbors bought massive, century-old Colonials. Each built on to the eight-bedroom mansions by adding huge kitchens, which flowed into family rooms. What cracked me up was the actual homes they bought were treated like museums, untouched with the exception of nightly sleepovers before returning to their additions.
I remember when one of those neighbors sold his house a year after finishing off the expensive project to climb the corporate ladder in New York. The family that purchased the home immediately junked the state-of-the-art kitchen in the name of conspicuous consumption.
Even if I had the money, I couldn’t replicate that behavior. I relate to Paul McCartney’s philosophy. The former Beatle could purchase any home, but he always kept it modest since that’s how he grew up. McCartney once said there is no need to use an intercom in an estate to summon his children to dinner. I favor that intimate atmosphere since that’s how I came of age. I remember huddling around the television with my parents in the living room or playing board games in the dining room in a modest home.
When I find the home of my dreams in Spokane, it will be a small house close to the center of town. It’ll be filled with neighbors and crackle with life. Nothing against Idaho. It’s beautiful, but it’s also a fairly long drive away. Perhaps it’s bad news for Milo, but when the time comes, he can move within shouting distance of his beloved Schweitzer.
However, when Milo reaches adulthood, odds are he’ll change his mind. Kids do that frequently, which is why Milo ultimately has no bearing on the housing choice.