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Gender Gap

By Dan Vukelich
For the Journal
          A man and a woman walk through the front door of a home listed for sale. She peels off to look at the kitchen, the bathroom and the master bedroom. He asks the agent, where's the family room?
        But what he's probably asking is, where's the "man cave"?
        Welcome to the planets of Venus and Mars, where men and women can see the same house, the same family room, the same garage and all the possibilities they represent from vastly different orbits.
        "Whether it's a man or woman, they're both looking for that one element of a home that will make them smile when they pull into the driveway," said Annie O'Connell, a broker with Keller Williams Realty.
        So, what do women want in a home?
        Real estate agents say a woman with children typically will patrol a home's rooms mentally arranging furniture and trying to envision whether the house can support the special logistical needs of raising her family.
        For a single woman, that first walk-through impression is usually about entertainment space. Her eye goes to counters, the kitchen and pass-throughs as she scouts likely cocktail-party gathering places.
        Deb Jensen-Murphy of Albuquerque, owner of Exactly Beautiful, who stages homes for sale, said that regardless of marital status, a woman touring a home listed for sale for the first time wants "a place that feels cozy the minute she walks in."
        Comfy nooks and niches throughout a home are a plus. "She'll look for nice, bright corners, places to read, where she can envision herself curling up with a book," she said.
        "In the bedroom she'll want luxe, some clean lines, warm colors, and in the bathroom, she'll envision herself taking a glass of wine into the tub, surrounded by scented candles and things that sparkle — crystal fixtures are good."
        And men?
        "It's pool tables," said Steven Radolinski of Coldwell Banker Legacy. "It's a question I get asked at least once in every four clients — does the house have a pool table or room for one?"
        For men, it's not just about space but about "the space," that special refuge where he can stake a claim to excess, demonstrate fanatical loyalty to his team, make a personal statement or, within the confines of a single room, attempt to define his identity.
        Which gets us to the phenomenon of the "man cave."
        The term, believed to have been coined in 1992, is defined by one online dictionary as "an area within a house frequented by a man, as (in) a workshop, garage, basement, or den. Example: 'He went off to his man cave to carve and stain wooden boxes.'"
        Maybe men carved wooden boxes with crude tools in their man caves back in the Pleistocene era of 1992 – but that was four years before Dish Network, five years before Guns & Ammo TV and 11 years before the NFL Network.
        Man caves today are big business. They're about manias, usually sports manias. They can contain tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and furnishings — 50-inch flat-screen TVs, 7.1 surround sound, leather theater seating, walk-in humidors for cigar aficionados, hunting trophies, refrigerators, icemakers, margarita blenders and granite-topped showcases for mixologists.
        The DIY (Do It Yourself) cable TV network series, "Man Caves," pairs a licensed contractor with a former NFL defensive lineman (Picture Bob Villa co-hosting with Albert Haynesworth). One 2010 episode featured a super fan's homage to NHL hockey, his TV room transformed into a hockey rink with a glossy, ice-white epoxy floor. Another featured a tournament poker room. Another featured a temperature-controlled Tuscan wine cellar. Almost every "Man Caves" episode features — surprise — has an elaborate wet bar.
        Man caves are big business. An online store, ManCaveStore.com, just one of several out there (Manteriors.com is another one), sells pinball and arcade machines; an indoor putting green; neon signs; stripper poles (also available in a pickup truck-mounted model for tailgating); room-sized football stadium backdrops; Harley Davidson wallpaper; and the usual air hockey, Foosball and beer pong games.
        A trend that appears to be catching on in Albuquerque is the kegerator, a small refrigerator on wheels that holds a keg of draft beer, plus tapping apparatus. A lower-cost alternative is a kegerator kit that retrofits that old fridge out in the garage.
        Although men generally tour a home-for-sale listing with an eye toward its resale value, they're just as likely to fantasize about over-the-top alterations: a cherry-and-silver Lobo room, a camouflage hunting-camp theme, checkered-flag NASCAR winner's circle or even a "zombie apocalypse" survival bunker (you can buy zombie fixtures online).
        Randy Baker, vice president of DRB Electric, a South Valley electrical contractor, has two man caves. One is a 40-by-80-foot restored barn with in-floor radiant heating, two antique cars, tools, beer refrigerator, model trains, air-hockey table and an indoor air-rifle shooting gallery.
        The other is a 32-by-48-foot room in his house that has a pool table, antique phones, Foosball table, old U.S. Route 66 signs, beer steins from all over the world and half of an antique wooden bar that came out of a Dodge City, Kan., saloon in 1974.
        "Every man should have a man cave," Baker said.
        Extreme man caves, however, may represent a distraction should the home ever go back on the market. You don't want your recreation of the Starship Enterprise's bridge, for example, to overshadow the master bedroom suite.
        "An over-the-top man cave can be like family photos. If they're out, I notice that my clients spend as much time looking at the photos as they do the house," Radolinski said."
        For Robert Ortiz, an Albuquerque attorney who has been an avid hunter since childhood, that potential downside hasn't curbed his passion for displaying his hunting trophies in a room that could rival an exhibit at the New Mexico Natural History Museum.
        Ortiz's 5,400-square-foot home's entry foyer is a 45-by-36-foot space whose 28-foot-high walls are covered with animal-head trophies hunted on "all seven continents" and organized by region hunted — Africa, New Zealand, the American West, for example. "It's a collection of my life's work, in a strange way," Ortiz said.
        The room's centerpiece is a Kodiak bear that Ortiz shot from 350 yards on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The 11-foot-tall bear, which stands on its hind legs atop a 4 1/2-foot-tall pedestal, holds a mountain goat in its massive claws.
        Appealing to the genders
        What women look for:
        • Practical space for raising a family
        • Adequate room for proper placement of furniture
        • Cozy, smaller spots for reading
        • Bathrooms, bedrooms that exude relaxation with a touch of luxury
        • Space for cocktail entertaining
        What men look for:
        • Large rooms, living areas
        • Adequate space for "his stuff" (collections, hunting gear, tools)
        • Wet bar
        • A room, or even a garage, he can envision as a personal refuge

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