Volume 39, Issue 9, September  2004


The Homeowner
Please Tell Me, What is it They All Want?
by Dez Farnady

The privilege of paying a mortgage, real estate taxes and utilities expenses confers upon you a title of dubious distinction. You are a homeowner. You are the keeper of the castle who feeds the crocodile in the moat or pays to flush out the septic tank. You are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep as well as for the remodeling and the room addition. I never thought that all the responsibility that goes with owning a home could ever acquire more negative implications than that. Nevertheless, I find myself using the term “homeowner” as a polite insult frequently, if it is possible to insult someone politely. 

The Things People Do
The dubious honor of homeownership carries with it a misguided feeling of power. It’s like people who think of themselves as gourmets just because they eat. Actually it’s more like the wino who fancies himself a wine connoisseur because he drinks a lot of the stuff. Owning a house does not make you an architect or a contractor or a plumber or a glazier and certainly not an expert on the ins and outs of residential construction. Nevertheless, most people are not reluctant to express their opinions about the house-related things they know little or nothing about. They are like the Monday morning quarterbacks, the art critics, the political pundits and all the infernal know-it-alls. And they all know more than their contractor and his subs and suppliers because, after all, they are the homeowners.

“Homeowneritis” seems to be especially common among people who have achieved some level of success in their chosen profession and would never consider anyone else’s opinion with regard to their own field. For example there was the computer millionaire who built his marble mansion on the San Andreas Fault. Fortunately, the ground has not moved since he finished the house—not yet. He also put in an 18-foot high wall of windows with clear, insulating glass facing south toward the marble deck and his swimming pool. In California? He still can’t figure out why he had to put in blackout curtains that are closed most of the year in order to keep his air-conditioner from overloading. He should have listened. 

A professor of animal pathology would not need to listen to me if I tried to tell him the dog on which he was doing an autopsy died because a car ran over him. But he should have listened when I tried to tell him the glazing contractor he admired so much was fleecing him with the wrong glass in the wrong application and at the wrong price. What do I know? 

The most frequent manifestation of homeowneritis in my business is with regard to condensation. You would be amazed to know how many apparently intelligent people believe that aluminum and glass actually sweat. And there is the homeowner who insists we provide glass that he can see out of but no one should be able to see in. And the people who can’t figure out why I can’t give them a firm price on a skylight they can’t even describe … or the ones who want a product in a hurry and are surprised to hear that I want to get paid in a hurry. 

Straighten Up
The unfortunate upshot of this self-appointed expertise is the inability to get the straight stuff from the guys who know. I don’t mind if the man tells me what he wants because it’s his money. But you don’t tell the expert all you know about something you know nothing about because he will be reluctant to tell you anything to disillusion you with the facts. After all, you are the customer and the customer is always right. This is the classic characteristic of the homeowner who thinks he knows what he wants and has no time or patience to listen to the guy whose expertise he is paying for. And then when it is all over the homeowner thinks “it’s all that contractor’s fault.” 


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