The sellers wanted more, and Karen and Dennis Hertz weren’t sure they were willing to pay it.
It was 11 years ago, and the Hertzes had been going back-and-forth with the owners of their dream home for six months. Its listing price was more than they wanted to spend, but it had an indoor pool, after all.
When the final counter-offer came across from the sellers — $5,000 higher than the Hertzes’ last proposal — Karen made Dennis a promise that’s come back to haunt her for more than a decade.
“I said, ‘I promise, if you buy me the house, you can decorate in anyway you want,’” she laughed. “Well, it was open mouth, insert foot. He’s always throwing it in my face.”
And that’s how their home on Brockham Way, near Hatherly Place, became one of the most bedecked homes in Sterling Heights.
It’s not just Christmas; their house gets the full trimming treatment for Halloween, and also is adorned to a lesser degree for Thanksgiving and Easter.
“Halloween and Christmas, I do go a little overboard, a little crazy,” Dennis admitted. “As a kid, growing up, I’d always done that. I just got into it, and kept the spirit with me.”
Their Christmas display now encompasses a veritable village of wooden figures and inflatables covering their corner lot, including eight reindeer, a sleigh, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, a pair of snowmen and an enormous snow globe. A floodlight illuminates a life-sized Santa, who moves his head from side to side.
And then there’s the obligatory barrage of lights: ropes of white ones ringing the circular driveway, rainbow-hued icicle-style ones dripping from the house’s eaves and balcony, ones formed into stars and bells that hang from the balcony pillars. Dennis proudly said he upgraded to all LED this year, boosting the brightness.
There also is a pair of live, decorated Christmas trees, hauled onto the yard specifically for the occasion. Dennis said those are more recent additions; he picks them up at the same time he purchases one for the gravesite of his son, Kevin.
Kevin, a huge fan of the elaborate holiday festivities at his home, died of a brain stem tumor in January 2010. He was 14 years old.
“He wanted us to put a Santa sleigh on the roof — that was his dream,” said Karen. “Kevin still believed in Santa when he passed away. He was very young in that way.”
Dennis said he threw himself fully into the decorating when Kevin was sick, in an effort to cheer him, and Karen said she initially found it difficult to summon that same enthusiasm after Kevin’s death.
But now, they have four grandchildren who love the fuss, and neighbors and passers-by continue to praise the work, so they’ve kept up the tradition, she said.
“We do have a lot of neighbors that thank us for doing it, and tell us every year they look forward to walking by our house or driving by our house,” said Dennis.
On a recent night, Karen said they were out hanging lights on the balcony, when strangers riding by yelled up, “Great lights!”
“It’s just stuff like that, where you’re going, ‘There’s a reason why we do this,’” she said.
Despite Karen’s promise to Dennis, the holiday decorating didn’t start out as intense as it is now.
“The first year was just very minimal,” said Karen. “Then, every year, we add more things. We got to the point where the yard is full. The last six years, it’s been really decked out. It’s wall-to-wall decorations.”
Now, there’s one inquiry that always arises: “Everybody’s big question is, where do you keep all the stuff?” said Karen.
The answer: in the attic space above the garage, where Christmas decorations occupy four rafters worth of space, followed by three of Halloween and one each of Easter and Thanksgiving.
With no space remaining in the attic, nor on the lawn, Karen joked that Dennis couldn’t possibly purchase any additional features. But he couldn’t resist making yet another investment in the display, hence the LED upgrade.
Karen said they typically rack up a $400-$500 electric bill from to the Christmas display alone.
“We should put a little can out there — ‘Donations,’” she joked.
The Hertzes’ home is located at 4782 Brockham Way, at Hatherly Place, near 15 Mile and Ryan.