I worked for a Fortune 500 homebuilder during the boom years, and several bust months, of the previous decade. Luckily for those who bought the company's houses, I only performed construction on the syntax of our executives. As the communications department's primary writer, I spent many fruitless hours trying to convince the stock-option eligible crowd that you can have tools in a toolbox and weapons in an arsenal but saying you have "tools in our arsenal" is bringing a socket wrench to a gunfight.
However, the most heinous crime the industry ever perpetrated on the public, strictly from the standpoint of abusing an English idiom, had to be selling home ownership as "the American Dream."
I'm still amazed at the countless times I inserted some variation of that phrase into presentations, news releases and marketing materials without being served a subpoena in a false-advertising lawsuit. At the very least, I'm shocked our hyper-vigilant legal team never required disclaimers such as "American Dream only achievable after your dwelling placed under the care of HGTV's Mike Holmes and bankrolled with a generous grant from Home Depot and the Ford Foundation." Of course, I'm sure they would have also required a disclaimer about Holmes being Canadian.
Owning a house means maintaining a house and that means no rest for you or your bank account. If you're not mowing the lawn or cleaning gutters, you're paying someone to do it. Then there's the constant retouching of paint, re-grouting of tile and re-caulking of windows. Not to mention the regular re-financing of your mortgage in hope you may finally be out of debt before your kids need to put you into another type of home.
My company did eventually try harder to educate buyers about the heartaches, backaches and empty wallets ahead but only after their down payment checks cleared. My contribution included expanding the company's home maintenance and warranty guide along with producing a 60+ minute video that explicitly showed just how quickly the American Dream could deteriorate and depreciate.
Did you know you should drain and flush hot water heaters annually? Oil the moving parts and tighten the nuts and bolts on garage doors quarterly? Of course not! No one peruses manuals UNTIL something fails! If you did, you'd be me: waking in a sweat at 3 a.m. after realizing how far behind you are on the recommended monthly popping off and on of all the electrical outlets in your house with ground fault circuit interrupter buttons.
I never worried about that stuff in the years I rented a second-floor apartment in town. I should have worried about leaving a faucet running during frigid winter nights given the number of times the pipes froze but help was a phone call to an overworked landlord away. Boy, I miss him.
I miss him even more since the new property revaluation came out. Seems the house that we've sunk many a penny into for a grander master bathroom, a more tricked out modern kitchen and an expanded back porch now has a fair market value about 15 percent below what we paid for it in 2004.
On the bright side, this perfectly positions us to live out another American Dream: Going from rags to riches.