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Lita Smith-Mines Headshot

Houses of Rage

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I get so tense, and then I need to lash out.

Look at me the wrong way some days and I'll take your head off.

I used to be calm, but now I'm angry all the time.

Out of context, I could be quoting therapy patients with roiling road rage or other impulse control conditions. But I'm not. I'm a real estate attorney repeating the unadulterated (but herein anonymous) confessions of clients who harbor feelings of pure hatred towards their homes.

These homeowners are seething and surprisingly they don't mind sharing their emotions with me. I just concluded a conversation with a would-be home seller who blurted out "I hate my house!" about halfway through the conversation. The home has been on the market since February, and four price reductions haven't produced a viable buyer. So the homeowner in residence sits and stews, yearning to leave New York and join her husband in another state. "When we listed the house before Valentine's Day, I never ever thought that our kids would be starting school here again in September. This is so messed up!" she practically sobbed.

Though some houses sell quickly, many can linger on the market for about one year. During those 12 months or so, all the diverse disappointments suffered by homeowners during a depressing recession can coalesce into pure fury. The objects of their ire are the abodes which cost too much monthly or aren't worth enough to free them from their debt. I wouldn't have to work so hard if I had $10 for every time a prospective seller desperately described their house as an "albatross," an "anchor," or (hands down, the most lucrative of all) a "giant pain in the ass."

Last month I taught a real estate seminar. After class, I spoke with a struggling seller who seemed like she was on the verge of either a breakdown or a breakout. This total stranger wasn't shy about wanting to "hunt down everyone who was at my open house and shake them until they tell me why they didn't make an offer."

Aren't homes supposed to be our sanctuaries? The havens we hide in when the world starts getting us down? If the places they live in make owners livid, where will they take cover from worries and woe? I don't know, but I'm positive that there are plenty of would-be home sellers who have a raging case of a malady I'm dubbing "house hate." Bona fide buyers may be the only known cure for their woes, but in the interim, I'm concerned about the scads of sellers in serious need of anger management who are lurking behind the "for sale" signs spread around our neighborhoods and cities.

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