Monday, January 28, 2008

House hunting

A friend's funny blog entry about her struggle to find a house in northern Virginia brought back memories of when we were shopping for our first house. Who knew that in a city like Charlottesville there are so many dwellings that are utterly uninhabitable? And yet, for sale.

We had to rush into buying a house, because the landlord had put the house we were renting on the market and we gave our realtor fits because we insisted on buying a house that met four seemingly impossible criteria:

1. It had to be in the city, preferably an easy bike ride to UVA.
2. It had to be an old house. (Later, I had to further specify what age was acceptable, since our realtor was showing us houses built in the 1960s and calling them old.)
3. It had to be large enough for a family with four children.
4. It had to be in our price range.

And so we looked. We looked at a house that had no furnace. We looked at a house that backed up on a junk yard. We looked at a house in which the washing machine was reached by going outside and around the side to a separate basement door *and* the ceiling in that basement was only about four and a half feet high, so you had to bend yourself in half in order to do your laundry. We looked at houses in which every wall was covered with fake wood paneling. We looked at a house that was so filthy I wanted to go home and take a shower immediately upon leaving. We looked at a house with the most incongruous addition imaginable, not unlike a double-wide nailed to the back of a 1950s ranch. We looked at a house in which the owner kept an enormous turtle in a plastic wading pool, right by the back door. The woman who lived across the street came running out to greet us. She appeared desperate for someone, anyone, to buy that house and make the turtle neighbors go away. We looked at a house that had been on the market for ages, but that we hated, for some reason we couldn't explain. Later, the seller's Realtor called ours to find out if we were interested, and if not, why not. "Because we'd need a priest to do an exorcism before we moved in," I said. Our Realtor ran this through her convenient brain-located client translator and came up with, "It doesn't have that Old World feel they're looking for."

Where was Pimp this House (or whatever that show is that teaches you to maximize your curb appeal) for these people?

Now we have a house. It was a perfectly acceptable house when we bought it, but we've torn it to pieces to such an extent that it has come to resemble the houses of horror we looked at when we were shopping. Maybe not quite that bad, but what was once a decent bathroom is now a pile of rubble. Putting our house on the market and opening it up to the scrutiny of buyers is unthinkable. It's a good thing we don't have plans to move any time soon. I think I will just die in this house and leave my children the hassle of selling it.

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