By: Dan Balm

“Man-Cave”: Time to Retire the Term

Tags: Balm Real Estate, Dan Balm, Toronto

One of the great parts of my job is showing homes.  There are a lot of cool elements to the activity; observing clients engage with the home, discuss its selling points and often dream of its potential.  Any given showing takes a pretty typical course; foyer, living space, kitchen, bedrooms/bathrooms then… basement.

The basement portion of a showing is a layered experience.  Most buyers will look at the usability of the space (ceiling height, room width) potential liabilities (moisture, flooding) and sometimes storage opportunities.

But here is the funny part; once in a while on the way up the stairs back to the main floor, one of the buyers will dismiss this space that comprises between 20% – 35% of the home.  Using both the term and the hand-wave they pin it with the moniker “man-cave”.   Even as I write this, I feel shivers down my spine.  The same kind that Sideshow Bob felt when he repeatedly stepped on multiple rakes.


The term “man-cave” is a dated and offensive term that not only insults the person who will be stuck in the room, but the home itself.
It conjures images of the old TLC show “Trading Spaces” where two couples decorate each other’s homes for a combined nineteen bucks.  You know the reoccurring episode I’m talking about: one couple finds out that the husband of the other couple is a New York Jets fan and BOOM – the couple arrives home to find green Jets paraphernalia vomited all over the walls of their basement.  In doing so, they have relegated the lower floor to a single use for everything that anyone thinks is bad about the male gender.  Its like men have not grown to have interests more than watching sports and drinking the swill that is commonly associated with an evening at Medieval Times.


“Why do women have small feet?  It gets them closer to the stove!”

Attitudes have changed over the years, and so too have houses.  As late as the 1970’s, we saw homes built with separate sitting rooms where the man smoked his pipe, a kitchen that the woman was to toil in and a dining room that everyone was supposed to eat in.  Today we are seeing open kitchens where two adults cook and friends and family eat together at large islands and breakfast bars.  According to StatsCan, participation rates of married men in the kitchen have raised from 54% to 76% from 1986 – 2005.   They don’t have time to hang out in pre-defined spaces assigned to gender; like “dens”.
Properties are changing too and let me paint you a picture.  The basements I am seeing with my clients are usually dug and the HVAC ducts moved to one side so a tall person can actually walk through them freely.  There are built-in shelves and storage compartments that house multi-media, adults’ books and sometimes stuffed children’s toys that the family dog has taken too many liberties with.  I’ve seen built-in speakers, built-in wine fridges and built-in Murphy beds.  These spaces I’m describing are not a cellar where the family men and their embarrassing friends are sent to be unseen, but multi-use spaces that the family can go down to relax individually or to spend time in together.


In addition to changing attitudes towards gender roles and architecture; in a city like Toronto where the average home price is currently at $1,060,000, home owners rarely have the luxury to assign a room to one person.  When every square foot of a home costs hundreds of dollars to own, the prudent home buyer will try to maximize the use of their space.
Now while I am advocating for the retirement of the term “man-cave”, I’m not saying YOU can’t use it.  Use it all you want.  Have a big “man cave’ parade down Yonge Street and invite all of your football watching, beer drinking friends.  Have a belching contest while you’re at it.  But you probably want to use another realtor because I’m not the guy for you.


If however, you like walking through homes and discussing progressive ideas for living spaces in 2016, book a showing with me and let’s find you a home!