Christmas Eve Old House Musings

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News

I am sitting here in my old house on Christmas Eve, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to carols, and I can’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere else. We got about 20 inches of snow last Saturday, so we are having a white Christmas, which is somewhat unusual around here. We normally don’t get our first significant snowfall until January. It has been a lot of fun walking the dogs in the evening, down the snow covered streets, looking at all of the old houses and their holiday decorations. This is what brought me back to an old house, in a small town, 20 years ago this month. After living in a newer home, in a large metro area, for several years, I realized it just wasn’t the same, especially around the holidays.

Perhaps I am biased, but as I pass the old houses while I am walking, they seem to project a cozy sense of holiday togetherness that newer homes can’t duplicate. I imagine families inside, gathered in front of a decorated tree, with a fireplace glowing, protected from the cold and snow outside, making their holiday memories. The small town where I live has an annual Christmas tradition of Santa Claus riding in the back of a fire truck, as it drives slowly down each street on Christmas Eve. The lights are flashing, and the siren goes off from time to time, and the truck stops in front of the old houses where children are waiting. Santa climbs down, and goes up to talk to the children, and then continues on his journey. I have been watching him go by for 20 years, and even though my children are grown, I still enjoy waving as he goes by. I like the small town Christmas traditions, they bring back memories of growing up in a time that seemed less complicated, or perhaps they just seemed that way because we were young. But I still couldn’t imagine spending Christmas Eve anywhere other than in my old house, in my small town.

A bit of housing news to add to my Tuesday post, the latest figures show that interest rates are starting to inch upward. They just went above 5 percent, which is still very low. If memory serves me, the first house I purchased had an interest rate over 14 percent, and I knew some people who had higher rates. The latest figures also show that new home sales dropped 11 percent in November. New home builders are having a tough time competing with the great deals available in the resell market, and also with the many foreclosed homes being sold. The backlog of new homes built, and waiting to be sold, is the lowest it has been since 1971. Considering how many homes were being built every year as recently as 2005, it is amazing how much it has slowed down. Realtors are estimating that 2 million homes have been purchased using the first time home buyers tax credit, and that another 2.4 million will be purchased using the credit by the time it ends in April. So once again, if you are in the market for an old house, there may never be a better time.

I hope everyone has a great holiday, and please make it a safe one!