Newmans Own

Is the Perfect the Enemy of the Good?

We may have finally found a replacement for the yellow house . When I saw this house come on the market Friday, I wanted to make sure we got to see it before the open house. But this time, in an effort to elevate Michael’s enthusiasm and tamp down mine, we decided that Michael would see the place first without me (since one of us had to be home with the napping Joe) before we went to see it as a family.

Michael: I was honored: I felt like the scout sent ahead of the rest of the traveling party. Growing up, I always wanted to be an Indian scout , and when told that would be impossible, I wanted to be a plain old scout . Sad to say, seeing this house a day ahead of time may be as close as I’ll ever get. When I got there, I met the seller’s agent , and we wandered around like we didn’t own the place.

Nora: We’ve looked at quite a few houses in this neighborhood—at least five by my count, including one right around the corner that looks like its twin. I liked that house, too, though I was concerned about the lack of central A/C, the small kitchen and backyard, and the absence of a bathroom on the lower level. But that house (which was taken off the market), like this one, had very spacious bedrooms with nice views and a great main-floor layout. For one thing, the stairs don’t hit you in the face when you walk in the door.

Michael: I liked this place as soon as I reached for the handle of the screen door. I am a sucker for a wooden screen door, especially if it slams .

Nora: Funny, screen doors make me think of sleepover camp and mosquitoes. Still, when Michael got back from his scouting mission, I was even more worried: He liked the house as much as I did. So, in a role reversal, I took it upon myself to curb our enthusiasm . My objections boiled down to one: This house was too nice. OK, maybe two: It was too expensive.

Michael: That’s what the Internet says, too . And when it comes to “comps,” I trust the Internet as much as any real estate agent. Maybe more. (What is so frustrating about “comps” is that, like Iraqi WMD intelligence reports , people use them to reinforce what they already thought in the first place.)

Nora: When we all went to see the house on Sunday, I was swooning. Even the small kitchen, probably smaller than the one we have now, didn’t bother me so much—it opens into the dining room. Still, there wasn’t a whole lot of counter space, and while the expanded pantry is useful, we’d have to do some serious paring down. I may even have to throw away that box of spaghetti that’s traveled with me from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Los Angeles to D.C.

Michael: Not your ancestral spaghetti! I will part with my World Series Champions Red Sox Wheaties box (the 2007 version, not  the 2004) before I allow that to happen.

Nora: A bigger concern about the kitchen was that, in this small space, the owners have managed to cram in some serious, high-end equipment: an Asko dishwasher, a  Bertazzoni chef stove, and a Fisher & Paykel refrigerator. These additions have no doubt added to the price of the house, but I’d be perfectly happy—in fact happier—with good old GE. I don’t need such a fancy kitchen.

Michael: It’s sort of a U.N. kitchen: stove from Italy, refrigerator from New Zealand, dishwasher from Sweden. (What’s that joke about the difference between heaven and hell? Oh, here it is .) Like you, I never would have bought these high-end appliances—and with the money we’d save on good old GE, we’d be able to afford an extra fridge or freezer for the basement, which we’ll need because if we live here we’ll have to do all our grocery shopping at this place . But I would request that we still get a refrigerator with an ice-cube maker. I’ve never had one of those.

Nora: I don’t know. Do you think we could tell the owners they can keep their appliances if they lower their price?

Michael: Sure. Or we could just offer a lower price. It’s not as if this is a perfect house. Besides the kitchen, for instance, there is the matter of puny upstairs closets: The current owners have basically given over most of a wall in their bedroom to shelves and hangers. Then again, as Sarah Susanka says, there is no such thing as the perfect house. There’s just a house that we like that we can afford. I don’t think there’s any doubt we like this house. The question is whether we can afford it.