Discover more from Chronic Creativity
What's in a house?
Searching for houses, finding people
I receive a notification from the Realtor app. I unlock my phone, my thumb hovering over the screen to swipe it away. Probably another $250k+ home, I think. But the price stops me. It’s in our budget in the city, not 40 minutes outside.
I click it.
It’s only been listed for 5 minutes. I quickly flip through the images. It looks recently renovated, at least in the last 5 years. It has three bedrooms, but it only one bathroom. That could be workable. The kitchen is on the smaller end. It doesn’t have a garage. The lot, however, looks plenty large to put one up soon.
It doesn’t have the best curb appeal, a two-tone siding that looks faded, and a porch with chipped paint. However, nothing appears fundamentally wrong with it. Nothing needs immediate attention. Even better, it’s only 5 minutes away from where I work.
I sent the listing to my husband and then to our realtor. The date is scheduled. We bubble on and on about how this house could be the one. We could stay in town and not need any extreme fixes. We could save on gas.
This could be the one! I marvel to myself as I drift off to sleep.
It’s a bright Friday afternoon as my husband and I arrive. I can see the elementary school straight down the street. The key box is opened, and the side door is ajar. Not immediately seeing our realtor’s car, we head to the front door.
I crack open a slanted metal gate. The sidewalk leading up to the house is worse for wear. The porch, on the other hand, doesn’t look as bad as the photos. Our realtor greets us warmly and lets us search on our own.
The hardwood floors are a bit scuffed. The bedroom downstairs would be a great office. We get to see the rolling island not seen in the pictures but the listing mentioned. It’s small. Then again, so is the kitchen. The kitchen windows are old. The listings said all first-floor windows were new. Some disappointment sets in.
My husband and I ascend the stairs. One bedroom sports an adorable built-in bench. I note it would make a good kids’ room, maybe even a nursery. The bathroom is nice sized and, while not attached directly to the master bedroom, is one door down.
It’s not as nice overall as I had hoped. Yet my hope doesn’t wane.
That’s when we decided to check the basement. It has a weird step-like foundation, leaving a shelf of sorts. It’s slanted, though nothing unexpected from a house built around 1910. Well, until I see the wall behind the furnace, directly holding up one of the kitchen’s outer walls.
Debris on the ground catches my eyes first.
It’s cracked all the way up. I point this out to my husband, who dismisses it until I insist he look at the entire wall. Now coming into full view for both of us is an incredibly slanted, crumbling, cracked wall with a few holes of light dotting the top.
As we inspect further, we see potential water damage and a barely sealed window on the other end. It has a plastic bag attempting to cover a much bigger hole than it. We move outside.
The concrete on the crumbling wall has fully come off. We move one piece aside to see the bricks behind. I swear I can see inside one area. The entire floor is slanted. It’s not even subtle. We don’t need to tilt our heads to evaluate. It’s there.
The masonite siding tells the story.
The gutters weren’t put up well or in time when the kitchen was added. A trail of grime and broken panels lead down. The dirt has been the victim of too much water at one point. Yet the owner dismisses that there is any foundational or water damage.
Funny, I think, because I’m pretty sure a bank would refuse us a loan if they knew the damage.
The houses need serious work unless we go outside our price range, out of our driving limits, or give up parking. This becomes a common theme. The next house doesn’t have substantial foundational damage but would require too much out of pocket to make it what we want.
Another has a good foundation and little to renovate. It only needs paint. Despite this, there’s only room for one car. Oh and the lot is barely a few feet wide. We look at one that’s out of the budget. It still doesn’t have what we want.
It also doesn’t have a master suite, leaving us with two small downstairs bedrooms and a large, unstructured upstairs perfect for hosting. Because heavens knows the downstairs isn’t big enough for that.
On top of our hunt, we learned of an unfinished basement with dog sh*t left since before it was listed. The owners hadn’t cleaned it up. One of our friends’ current homes had a porch that wasn’t structurally sound because someone skimped on the concrete for one of the posts.
Another couple had a retaining wall they’ve had to completely redo. Not to mention the first house we looked at as we thought it was a steal of a deal. Turns out, the house needs to be bulldozed. It’s a steal if you have the money to build.
The more I’ve looked at it, the more I see people in the houses. I see potentially anxious, neglectful, and humorous people living in these houses. The crayon on the walls leads me to imagine the small kids. I see the odd marks in the hardword fixtures and small fence outback and realize a dog has lived there.
There are marks on the carpet where a large armchair used to sit. There are marks on the hardwood floors that show where they put the rugs. People have impacted where they lived. They’ve shaped the house, sometimes letting it warp like their own lives. Other times, the home improves. They still show a few cracks of wear, however.
Ultimately, it’s not the architect or designer of the house that determines its fate. It influences it, yes. The owners hold the true power, much like how our mind affects our body.
So, as I sit here reading that the one home I really liked is now pending, I know I’m not alone in my oddities. I’m not the only one with a gnawing pit of anxiety. I’m not the only one hiding things I’d rather others not see. Pets have also damaged my home.
There are people and houses that need help. I’m one of those people sometimes, too. There are cracks in my facade. I’m not always alright.
And, maybe one day, you’ll tour my house and find the secrets in the basement.
Wishing you the best this week,
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