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Diary of a Fixer Upper: Real Reality TV

There is a show on HGTV (a minor addiction of mine) called “My House is Worth What?” Experts assess a  renovation and determine whether a homeowner’s $90,000 landscape project or $10,000 leather floors added to the home’s value. The point is to figure out how much equity homeowners have, so that they can get a loan to start a new project or trade up to a nicer place.

I was watching one of these programs when it dawned on me that I could have my own version of that show. So I called my real estate agent, who agreed to come by and play “Daphne’s Condo is Worth What?”

One of the great stresses of renovating is that everything you do is supposed to be an investment. It’s like looking for a great pair of shoes: They need to be reasonably comfortable, so you can dance ‘til dawn without having your feet amputated the next day. They should be a fun color but also match more than one outfit. And you have to decide on a style—pointy or peep-toe or slingback or whatever. But even after making all of these decisions, you still have to ask yourself, “Will these shoes appeal to a broad audience? If I sell my outfit in five years, will these shoes raise the overall value?”

Generally, I reject this approach. I’m a believer that if you really love the shoes, and they aren’t over-the-top expensive or nutty—like platform shoes with goldfish in the bottoms—someone else will love them, too. If you are of the other camp, you will end up with a closet full of perfectly nice, two-inch pumps from Easy Spirit. Or, in the case of home renovations, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and tile floors.

Of course, it’s easy to rationalize buying the fire-engine-red stilettos when the real estate market is hot, and prices are going up, up, up.  But, sadly, that’s not where we are anymore. I don’t plan to sell anytime soon. In fact, I see no reason to sell until I am certain I can make a tidy profit, since I can rent the place out if I want to move. But I’m still hoping that this market can support a nice pair of pointy-toed tall boots.

So having my real estate agent over last week was more than a little nerve-wracking. I cleaned for two hours, as if that would make a difference. He gave it a thumbs up. The kitchen would more than pay for itself when I sell, he said. We talked through the plans for the bathroom, and the need for more storage and light. He said I could spend $15,000 and still get back every dime and more. My plans are substantially below that, so, although I did my best to look cool and relaxed on the outside, I was dancing the Sprinkler and the Cabbage Patch on the inside.

We go through the trouble, the frustration, and the expense of renovating our homes for plenty of reasons. In the end, though, we just want pats on the back. I’ll be honest: Validation is my drug, and dinner parties, open houses, and blog posts are all a means to that end. There, I said it.

Now I have the affirmation I was looking for, and it’s time to break out of my I’m-totally-over-this-home-improvement-phase funk and get down to business on the bathroom. Thanksgiving at my place is in T-minus three weeks, and lots remains to be done before the troops arrive.

Daphne writes about her renovation every Tuesday. To read Daphne's remodeling adventures from the beginning, click here.

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