Are you exasperated with the chores your house requires, yet unwilling to move to a condo where you can't take the cocker spaniel or grow tomatoes without approval from a committee?
Then you have a lot of company.
People still want the prestige and freedom that accompanies the traditional single-family home and landscaped yard, housing experts say. Yet career and family schedules are making them increasingly unhappy with the upkeep imposed by such homes.
"When it comes to housing, this is the generation of ambivalence," says Dorcas Helfant, president-elect of the National Association of Realtors, based in Washington.
You may be among the minority of Americans who prefers a condo or town house where much of the exterior maintenance, not to mention yard work, is done for you. You're willing to sacrifice some of the individuality that come with the traditional, detached home to be free of chores.
But unless you've reached your 50s or 60s, you're probably not ready to give up the lifestyle associated with a traditional detached home. Indeed, you may consider the idea of moving to a town house or condo a form of surrender you're not Prepared to make
"Most of us in the baby boom generation aren't willing to go down without a fight," says Ms. Helfant, 44.
Is it possible to live in the classic suburban home while eliminating many of the loathsome chores that steal time from your friends or family? Real estate professionals say it is. They offer these pointers for cutting the time involved in upkeep without moving away from your traditional home:
* Put screens on your gutters.
A relatively inexpensive rolled screen product is now available to cover your gutters. You can find it at home center stores and install it yourself or have a contractor do it for you.
Screened gutters still collect leaves but far fewer, says Wayne G. Norris, a home inspector with Dallmus Norris Associates in Baltimore. Instead of having to mount a ladder and clean your gutters two or three times a year, once annually should be enough, he says.
SG * Install quality aluminum or vinyl siding to replace wood exterior
People who think all aluminum or vinyl siding products look tacky and cheap haven't investigated the siding market lately, Mr. Norris says.
"The industry is coming out with more sophisticated looks," according to Mr. Norris. "For example, you can now get aluminum siding that is almost indistinguishable from wood shake shingles."
Although it requires periodic pressure cleaning, the use of aluminum or vinyl siding spares a homeowner the gritty job of scraping and repainting wood, one of the least pleasant elements of homeownership.
* Paint the interior of your home with semi-gloss rather than flat latex paint.
It's customary to use semi-gloss paint in bathroom and kitchen areas. But those who want the advantages of easy wall cleaning have discovered that semi-gloss can be a plus throughout the house. This is especially true if you have children or pets who are inclined to leave their marks on walls.
Semi-gloss has more of a sheen than flat paint and may be some-runover line here please what less appealing from an interior design standpoint. Still, the trade-off could be worth it, if your objective is easy cleaning and freedom from frequent repainting.
* Use well-protected hardwood floors in high traffic areas rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
Granted, some new carpeting products make it easier to clean spots. Still, most carpeting requires more care than good hardwood floors, which can be mopped with relatively little bother.
But remember, to preserve the quality of your hardwood floors andmake them look their best, a polyurethane sealant often is required. Well-finished hardwood floors with one or two coats of this clear plastic should give you freedom from refinishing jobs for at least five years, Mr. Norris says.
* Buy service contracts on the mechanical equipment in your home.
Some equipment to consider: air conditioning, home heating and hot water heating equipment, Mr. Norris says. Such contracts should provide relatively hassle-free cleanings for these units. They'll call or write you to schedule a cleaning.
And, you're likely to get priority service if one of your units breaks down. This can be especially important if your furnace or air conditioner is more than 5 years old.
* Arrange for routine yard and cleaning service through a reputable cleaning agency or landscaping company.
You may dislike the idea of paying for services that you can do yourself. After all, didn't your dad always mow the lawn? And didn't your mom always do the dusting?
But think about it. If you have young children, wouldn't you rather spend your Saturday afternoon with them splashing around in the pool rather than pruning shrubbery?