It’s No Murder House, You Animals

Raise your hand if you’re a paranoid introvert!


Right, yes, me. I am a paranoid introvert. And what’s the worst thing that can happen to a paranoid introvert?


We’re having a… a…. oh God, we’re having an Open House this weekend because apparently, you can’t shut yourself in your home and still sell it to people sight unseen.

Now… I have been to tons of Open Houses and I have never looked through medicine cabinets or refrigerators. I open closet doors to see how big they are but ignore everything in them. I take off my shoes if I’m asked and I always ALWAYS respect the cat who lives there. But that’s me. That’s not everyone. That’s not the nightmare vision I have in my head of randos wandering my house in their muddiest boots looking through my personal effects and holding the door open so my cat escapes. I don’t have much in the way of stealable jewelry but I imagine it’ll be all gone. My worst enemies will show up and take pictures of my toenail fungal spray and backup underpants. My son’s favorite toys will be misplaced and the resulting meltdown will span ages. And someone, somehow will break my Keurig and make me cry.

I’m just hoping I’ve built up enough Open House karma that nothing bad happens while I’m gone.

Also, I’m sending in my in-laws to spy.


Of Tiny Houses and Catfishing House Hunters

I live in a small shitty city that keeps trying to change its image and failing. The surrounding suburbs are lovely and expensive and with expanding commuter services, can bring its rich residents to the much bigger and more prominent city 40 miles away. This means that a $200,000 house in my city is a $400,000 house in the suburbs. The price difference compensates for things like taxes, school quality, and chances of being stabbed at Honey Farms. Far fewer people get stabbed at convenience stores in the suburbs.

This is all to say that house hunting isn’t going well.

Two more houses were hunted this afternoon, one in the suburbs and one in the city, both comparable in price, bedrooms offered, garage size, land allotted, and freaking lying shamsters pretending that their Zillow ads were accurate.

The ‘burban house purported to be a 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 attached garage, mostly ranch-style house with a tiny alley of a backyard and hardwood floor throughout. One or two could easily live a pre-kid or post-kid low-maintenance existence in the openish floorplan, fully renovated kitchen and Fiat compatible garage with a spare room for the college friend/grandkid to stay in for a couple days on a visit. The third “bedroom”, a converted attic space with no storage whatsoever, could be used for… storage or activities that only take place in the center of the room since the angled ceiling sloped at such an extreme that even a tiny woman of barely-above dwarf stature couldn’t walk more than a few inches toward the wall without hitting my head. One would have more headroom in the Fiat than in this “bedroom”. Oh and it was For Sale By Owner which means grumpy older people will follow you around their empty house grunting every time you open a closet door. Which was 4 times. Because there were 4 closets in the whole house and perhaps I mentioned that the third “bedroom” did not have one.

The city house, on the other hand, was new paint on old plasterboard. When will people learn that “paint” does not mean “renovated”? There were some lovely updates: a new back splash, new water heater, new perfectly round dirt patch in the back yard where an above ground pool obviously used to be. The rooms were large and airy except for the paint fume covering mold smell and how charming are those old-fashioned door handles that “lock” with a skeleton key large enough to give away at ceremonies and just as useful. Turn them really hard while holding the plate they’re barely attached to to reveal tiny closets that the midsize plastic buckets I buy at Target are too big for and you’ve got your Master Suite His and Hers Closets just outside a half-bath with paint over water damage decor.

I’m disheartened by today’s expedition and not just because my in-laws tagged along. Where are the nice houses at the price point we can afford? Why were they abundant when we were struggling to pay our bills or before we had the child? Why is the market saturated with murder houses and catfish? And are people effing serious about the tiny houses because those are ridiculous and need to be stopped. I’m not saying we all need mansions but I have literal nightmares about trying to squeeze into the world’s tiniest bathroom amidst a bathroom-type emergency situation and where even do they store more than 2 rolls of toilet paper?




Just Paint Over It, They’ll Never Know

Another Sunday, another open house and this one, on the surface at least, was… passable. It was an old structure, possibly past its hundredth birthday with patches and paint-overs and very new siding. But there were child hazards everywhere.

The front porch was a granite slab about 3ft off the ground with no railings, attached to the front steps which also had no railings and the smallest of the bedrooms on the second floor was immediately adjacent (inches, really) from the staircase which had, of course, no railings. There were some hastily patched holes in the floor boards my son could certainly punch out of place without too much effort and all of the windows were set down at toddler height making it so very easy for my son to fall out of. The listing said “finished carpeted basement” which turned out to be a desk in a cellar with discount carpet fragments laid across the concrete floor and the stones that formed the foundation painted white. Above the desk, hanging from a ceiling beam was a Harvard diploma. As with most Harvard graduates I’ve encountered, the owner must think we’re all much too dumb to understand the meaning of “finished” or “carpeted”.

But it was painted serene and HGTV-approved colors and the floorplan was flowing and comfortable. The bathrooms were newly cabineted and clean (although the first floor half bath had 3 very large windows on two walls making your bathroom time feel like a neighborhood performance) and there was plenty of space for a family of three.

Were I a serial killer, I would not delight in this home quite like the one we visited last week but there was still a vibe. A bad vibe. Maybe no one was murdered, but perhaps a few wives were slapped around by abusive husbands. Maybe some children were punished corporally. Maybe there’s Yellow Wallpaper under some of that paint? I felt stifled and not just because all four realtors were wearing the same overabundance of perfume. Moreover, I felt like I didn’t want to be there, not just live there. I didn’t want to visit the people who might live there. I didn’t want to be their neighbor. I didn’t want to work with them or grocery shop in the same town. I just couldn’t wait to leave, hike back up the street to our car, and let the people who are impressed with fancy bathroom cabinets fight over it.

Like last week, we gave up on open houses after that. We’re not serious shoppers at the moment anyway and with me working less than part-time to take care of the child, it’s probably not the best time to move. But after three weeks of disappointing open houses, we’ve concluded this: people are getting REAL good at taking pictures for their listings. Too good. Ain’t no “no filter” bragging going on here, now, is there?

The Better to Murder You In

“Wow, they took REALLY good pictures,” said my husband as we escaped another open house this morning. “Really good, like… really misleading… pictures,” he continued, driving away without looking back. We had done two drivebys earlier this week in anticipation of this open house, each time craning our necks to see as much as possible of the yard and the driveway and the garage as we passed. From the outside, it was adorable: brick and stone, manicured lawn, seal-coated driveway with a big back yard and a swing set!

“Did it feel like maybe people died in there?” I asked. “Like maybe it was a murder house. That basement seems like it would be really handy for murder.”

d63cb70ee1a3088b63e4450e2b4e8755“It just really wasn’t what I expected at all. The layout didn’t make sense. And what was with the Game of Thrones wrought iron gate down to the basement. It was just, like, out in the middle of the kitchen. Just a hole in the floor with a big swirly graveyard gate.”

“Yes, I did wonder how long it would take our child to impale himself on that.”

“And there was just a shower in the basement. Just… out in the room. With a clear curtain. A big shower facing the middle of the room with a clear curtain.”

“The better to murder you in?”

“It was dark.”

“Like you didn’t like the lighting or the wallpaper or like thematically dark? Like soul-crushingly dark?”

“It felt icky.”

“Because it was a murder house. Do you want to go see that other one?”

“No. No, I just… I just want to go home. I just want to go to our nice normal house with the finished basement and the showers inside the bathroom.”

“Our annoying neighbor doesn’t seem so bad today, huh?”

“She still needs to cut her grass. It looks like wheat fields.”

“It looks like the yard of that house should have looked to warn unsuspecting visitors of the evil within.”






“This House is Suspect”

or so I whispered to my husband in the unfinished basement of an allegedly newly constructed house this afternoon.

I love Open Houses because I like to see how other people live. I like to imagine that I live other than how I do. I like to redecorate in my mind and imagine how much easier it would be to corral my kid in this new space. And then I like to go home because I hate moving.

My husband and I have it in our heads, however, that we need more space and a second garage and one more bedroom and a better school district and we don’t want to pay for any of those things. We belong on House Hunters. We are those assholes. Although quietly so because we do not announce how much we hate the paint and would prefer granite counter tops so much as we say, “Oh, mmhmm” to whatever the realtor says and then bitch behind her back.

Oh but the house we saw today! It was lovely from the outside, on a quiet street in a busy area of town close to grocery stores and ice cream stands and not too far from work. It was a split level, which he loves and I tolerate, but laid out such that I could stand living there. Gorgeous kitchen WITH granite counter tops and those drawers that won’t slam no matter how hard your toddler tries. But there were scuff marks. And gouges. And paint peels. All those little destructions even a year with a child or a pet would make or several years with adults who occasionally bump into things or drop things or spill things would make. Things that are no big deal… unless it’s a brand new construction.

I ran my hand over a section of cabinet that looked like it had been keyed by Carrie Underwood and asked, “This is a new construction?” The realtor affirmed and added some comment about how new is always nicer. “Is it?” I asked, rubbing a dark spot to see if it would come off. It didn’t.

My aunt has three dogs and 4 cats. Her house has this kind of damage.

My husband asked about the unfinished basement. In a split level. That conspicuously mentioned the extra living area in the basement… you know, for a Neil Gaiman character known for his weapons skills who doesn’t mind a little mold or terrifying darkness. “No,” said the realtor who didn’t even bother asking us to sign in or if we had representation, “This is it. This is finished.”

So we should finish installing the light fixtures and the electrical socket plates, then? Do you still have the paint so I can touch up the walls and the trim where the paint has been scraped off? Oh and you’re asking price is more than the 5 year old house down the street with 1200 more feet of living space?

t-alp-desolation-wld-07-2013-052_optDarling, this house is suspect. My estimation is that they ran out of money and now have to sell as high as they can to cover their losses. And if this “new construction” is indeed “finished” looking like it’s been lived in for 20 years, I can’t imagine what other shortcuts they may have taken to get it on the market. Let’s go home, shall we? Let’s buy more baby gates and call it a day.