Warning: Children can endanger home values

Friday, January 11, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 2

As the New Year rolls in, the residential real estate inventory will increase in volume from its current surprisingly low levels. Many of these homes have served as rental properties as the homes were worth less than the loan balances, yet the owners, with the assistance of rental income, were able to avoid foreclosure and opted not to fight the short sale dragon.

As these homes hit the market, most will not have been maintained as well they would have been in an owner-occupant situation. One of the most often-occurring conditions encountered is that of “child erosion,” as any home occupied by humans under the age of 12 is subject to abuse that is incomprehensible to those that have never shared a home with toddlers or adolescents.

Admittedly, in the first 53 years of my life, I found it inexplicable that CEOs and seemingly successful leaders in the community could live in such execrable conditions. Then, as my wife and I accumulated some 98 years between us, we had our first children. – twins no less, a boy we call Tom and his sister Adeline. Not since the Old Testament have any two parented later.

As they grew, we outgrew our home and were forced to place it on the market. I fell victim to the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” cliché. As I inspected our own home with somewhat objective eyes, I found that our house suffered from a number of maladies that I had observed over the years. Our house was childproof, as in there was proof that children roamed the floors.

There runs a consistent thread through these homes under attack by brat packs, and they can prove as damaging to a home sale as a swarm of termites, a dose of radon or a mountain of mold. Those sellers who face the parental challenge should be aware of a number of conditions to correct prior to showing their homes.

Sticker Shock: All those loveable stickers of unicorns, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Tank Engine and all of the others are equipped with greater adhesion qualities than any glue ever made. The cute arrangements on the kitchen cabinets some 20 inches over the floor suggest a $20,000 set of new cabinets to the would be buyer.

Diaper Genie/Diaper Pail: It’s a litter box without the sand. They stink and conjure fear of disease.

Pigley Field: The most meticulously maintained and landscaped yards can be reduced to a ghetto décor when littered with scores of balls, including footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, all the balls on sale for $1.99 everywhere, not to mention the vehicles with sun-faded plastic illegally parked amid rusted scooters and tricycles, bicycles and popsicle sticks.

Mini-Monet: While water colors produced by the children evoke great compassion from those of close relation to the painter, they are as misunderstood as Van Gogh was in his day by any outside the familial circle. The paintings must be removed, and Jackson Pollack-style wall treatments should be painted over.

Bobby Goldsboro Syndrome: Goldsboro, a Nashville dweller from time to time, scored an enormous hit in the late 1960s with his recording of the song “Honey” (“See the tree how big it’s grown, but friends it hasn’t been too long ...) Anyway, a follow-up No. 1 was a song called “Watching Scotty Grow.”

It includes the lyrics such as “Mickey Mouse says it’s 13 o’clock/Well that’s quite a shock, but that’s my boy.” It’s a very cleverly written song and the tag line is that the singer/father needs nothing more in life than to watch Scotty grow. And that is exactly what the parents selling houses should do, watch their children grow and chart it on a computer or legal pad, if they must.

What they should not do is chart the growth on the wall. The sight is frightening from afar as, generally, the parent takes the nearest writing utensil available to include the current day’s progress, as if the children would shrink if they sought similar ink. These markings are in black, blue, red and all the colors of the rainbow, and are applied with Sharpies, paint, Magic Markers, pens and crayons, and they suggest new paint and gallons of it.

Harry Chapin Syndrome: Sticking in the music genre, if a seller has a cat in the cradle, there are a number of problems looming.

Poster Child: As the children age, the rooms are overtaken by posters – big posters – many of them life-size and of larger-than-life people, usually athletes. Of course there are even scarier posters now; some of music stars that make Ozzy Ozbourne look tame. And the posters of some of the women recording artists feature more cleavage than an entire season of “Leave it to Beaver.” Be gone posters.

The Petri Cereal Dish: Juggling children and jobs is challenging, if not impossible. All too often, parents feed the children breakfast, bath them, dress them and drive them to school. Yet, cleaning the breakfast table is overlooked, as it is the least important of the functions. The day the dishes are at least rinsed is the day the home is showed four times. In the summer, the flies can find their way into the homes and into the cereal floating in its sour milk sea.

So, even if you teach your children well, your house may smell. And no one will buy.

Sales of the Week

The sales of the week are in the highly popular Cleveland Park area, where housing remains affordable in this established, architecturally diverse neighborhood.

Both sales are on Stockell, with the house at 1212 selling for $52,100 and the home at 1116, only a block away, going for the list price of $179,500.

1212 has 1,010 square feet, three bedrooms and one bath. It was listed by Sharon Bennett with Progressive Realty, while Michael Tinsley with Southern Realtors brought the evidently eager buyer, who closed in 10 days.

The property at 1116 has 1,520 square feet and sold equally as fast with its three bedrooms and two baths. Robert Drimmer from Village Real Estate had the buyer for this sale. The home was completely renovated with a new master and granite countertops, stainless steel and all the trimmings.

Richard Courtney is a partner with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com, preferably after the twins go to sleep.