Most people have some sort of default white noise around the house – just something to have in the background while you go about your business. Some people put on music, while others (allegedly) enjoy talk radio. For me, it’s long been HGTV.
The only problem with this is that I live in New York City, the land of sky-high rent, tiny, run-down apartments, and shady landlords. Because of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that for my own mental health, perhaps I shouldn’t be allowed to watch HGTV anymore. Here’s why:
Square Footage Reality Check
Culprit: House Hunters
We all know that space is at a premium in the City, especially Manhattan. If your apartment can accommodate both a table for four and a loveseat, as far as I’m concerned, you’re ahead of the game.
But nothing throws this into such sharp relief as a few episodes of House Hunters (and House Hunters International), watching people all over the world shopping around for their new digs. “We’re moving from the States to Italy so I can teach English and sell my crappy jewelry, so I’ll need a room to use as my work space. And another room just for flamenco dancing.” Really? I’d just like to have enough space to get all the way around my bed when I’m trying to put on a fitted sheet.
Cost of Living Sticker Shock
Culprit: Fixer Upper
As I mentioned, the cost of living is another reality of life in NYC. And while the pros certainly outweigh the cons, the truth of it is, when it comes to housing, so much never got you so little.
If, like me, you want to pour a little salt on the wound, watch a couple episodes of Fixer Upper, and witness nauseatingly adorable husband and wife duo Chip and Joanna Gaines. Sure, the people on this show are primarily buying property in the rural areas surrounding Waco, Texas. But there’s still something gut-wrenching about seeing someone purchase a top-to-bottom remodeled home for about what it costs for an Audi R8.
Culprit: Flip or Flop
Growing up, my grandmother’s massive kitchen was always the epicenter of our family gatherings. By contrast, the kitchen in the first place I lived in the City featured an electric burner, a small sink, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The second, while boasting a full-size refrigerator, had a permanently broken oven, and using the microwave for more than 2 minutes at a time resulted in a tripped circuit breaker (looking at you, Stouffer’s Single Serving Lasagna With Meat & Sauce).
Frustrating, to say the least.
Enter Flip or Flop, where foreclosed Southern California homes and their “disgusting” kitchens (read: average “affordable” NYC rentals’ kitchens) receive a gut job renovation, complete with a shiny, new granite-clad kitchen – that dingy walk up has never looked so…brown.
Buying a Renovation Property
Culprit: Property Brothers
Nothing fires up my desire to buy a decrepit “diamond in the rough” property and pour my blood, sweat, tears, and Pinterest inspiration boards into it like Drew and Jonathan Scott. Upon completion, some chic magazine will undoubtedly want to do a feature on it, starring yours truly, my charming spouse, and our adorable bulldog, Walter (spoiler alert: I don’t have a spouse, and we don’t have a pet).
Let’s face the facts: Only about a quarter of the people living in New York City own their home. The majority of us rent, and will probably continue to rent for as long as we live in the City. And with that comes the inevitable acceptance that I will probably never get to live out my delusional renovation fantasy. C’est la vie.
Unrealistic Homeowner Expectations
Culprit: Love It or List It
It doesn’t take long after moving to New York City to receive a very real and bracing reality check when it comes to housing expectations (I blame the movies).
Dreams of a spacious, impeccably furnished loft apartment with an amiable doorman and an in-unit washer & dryer are replaced by more realistic expectations. For example, now I simply expect hot water, friendly mice, and a door intercom system that works more often than not.
But all it takes is one episode of Love It or List It to set my blood boiling. You’ve been living in a disastrous multi-level, semi-detached home for 10+ years and haven’t done a thing about it? Strike one. You want a gourmet kitchen, an in-law suite/rec space in the basement, and an open-concept main floor on a six-week timeline with your “generous” budget of only $50,000? Strike two. You don’t understand why Hilary can’t “find it in the budget” to renovate all three of your ugly bathrooms after discovering your home is full of knob-and-tube wiring and has a foundation problem, a busted radiator, and a roof on the verge of collapse? Strike three. I’m pumped that my building has a trash chute.
At the end of the day, I’d rather struggle in New York than have it easy anywhere else. That being said, I should probably cancel my subscription to HGTV Magazine while I’m at it.