A couple of weeks back, I talked about selling houses during the holidays when really serious buyers are out in force.
Since we bought our first house in the first week of January and sold it on Dec. 31, and bought our third house a week before Christmas, I thought I was standing on really firm ground in my recommendation.
That is, however, until my wife made me drive three blocks from my street to get a load of the "Christmas house."
Every gadget, gimmick and kind of light available on the market today covers this place from dusk to dawn and then some. I'm absolutely certain that planes landing at the international airport across the river use it as a directional finder in foggy weather.
Christmas is not the only holiday that finds this house awash in decoration. The giant inflatable turkey that replaces the giant inflatable pumpkin the day after Halloween is replaced by the giant inflatable Santa Claus surrounded by enough fiber-optic animals to fill Albert Lea State Park in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, no wide open spaces exist between houses on this street, which means that how neighbors live is influenced heavily by blinding brightness and the perpetual ho-ho-ho-ing of the multiple Santas.
I'm sure you are calling me a Grinch, and so be it. Although I do decorate my house for Christmas each year, we err on the side of minimalism and taste.
So, he's a snob, you are saying. Not really. I do, however, consider the sensibilities of my neighbors and the overall livability of the neighborhood, just as they do mine.
We celebrate the holidays, but the electric company's bottom line doesn't rise or fall on how we do it.
The owners of the Christmas house are exuberant about the holidays, for sure. But, as my wife suggests, how do sellers and agents trying to market a house on that street accommodate buyers who may not understand such exuberance?
There are probably as many people who would understand and who wouldn't, but in a slowing market with an increasing supply and declining demand, you don't want to play the numbers game.
Enthusiasm reflected by the decorations could be construed as "pushy" behavior in other matters. For example, if the neighbors see nothing wrong in imposing their "tastes" in decorations on others, what would stop them from running a gas mower at 7 a.m. every Sunday or repairing their cars in the driveway?
It comes down to location. People buy where they live and what they live in. It is sheer folly from a house-as-an-investment perspective to buy the nicest house around that's next door to a light show.
The few advantages -- eliminating the need to turn on your own indoor lights and saving money on electricity -- would be outweighed by the association of where you live and what is next door.
"Oh, you must live next to the Christmas house," people would say. "I'll bet it feels strange wearing sunglasses at night."
In their haste to buy, a lot of people often are willing get into potentially uncomfortable situations.
One fellow I know bought a house next door to a collector of old cars, and began to complain about "abandoned wrecks" after a few months.
When I reminded him that those "wrecks" were sitting in the neighbor's front yard before my friend bought the house, he replied that he hadn't realized how much the cars would bother him.
You can't anticipate problems, no matter how much you wish you could. If you buy a house down the street from a new-home development in its first phase, you can assume that there will be more houses, dust and noise from construction and more people using your street.
Even if you buy in a "perfect" neighborhood, there is no guarantee that such perfection will endure forever. That's if you are foolish enough to search for "perfection."
The owners of a house we once considered buying told us that we seemed to be people very much like them and exactly like everyone else in the neighborhood. We didn't run screaming from the house, but we went on to pick a neighborhood that reflected the diversity of where we had been living for six years, which was a block from a public housing project.
The housing-project neighborhood wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it wasn't as bad as everyone had led us to believe.
For some buyers, living near the Christmas house might be just the ticket.
Especially if they have a good supply of sunglasses.