Drive by shopping
My husband and I have been browsing homes online for a few months. We won’t be buying anytime soon, so it’s really just a tease. It’s so easy to do now. No more squinting at grainy postage stamp images in the newspaper. No more abbreviated descriptions (4 BR, GRT VWS! FXR UPR—it’s almost like text speak before texting even existed). No more tedious trips to a realtor’s office where you head to the parking lot to pile up in their people hauler and knock on doors to invade other people’s homes.
It’s sort of fun to just look from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to be a serious buyer, you can just browse. You can comment on people’s kuntry kozy kitchens or general décor. We saw a house that had been built in 1980, but with an interior that harkened back to the late 60’s and early 70’s. I’m talking metallic wallpaper in the bathroom, people! Even the TV was cubic and bulky. It might have even had a dial.
We decided to do some drive bys and wound up checking out three houses. The first was in our current town. This was one my husband had fallen in love with. It had everything you could imagine—a media room in the basement, a stone patio with an outdoor kitchen, and a hefty price to insure that you would be nowhere but at home, subsisting on Top ramen and tap water. We turned onto the street. “It should be right here,” my husband said. “The directions say it’s right here.” We kept driving, winding down a small hill, until we found the (pretty sizeable) house. And there, right behind that house, facing in the same direction, was another sizeable house, which looked to be the same exact floorplan, but done in brick facing instead of stone and siding. The online pictures were clever enough to disguise the neighbor in the rear, but seeing it for myself was all we needed to say no. “They’ll never get what they’re asking.” I said. You can fix a crappy kitchen or a bathroom covered in hideous wallpaper, but you can’t do anything about someone else’s house in your backyard.
We went to the next house on the list of favorites. “Hm. Giant power lines right across the street. Hm, is the backyard right against that road? Hm. Next.”
The last house was one that I loved. It was sort of in the middle of nowhere, which is about 3 inches from the interstate when you looked at it on the map shown online. You could get there by way of a two lane road that took you through rolling farmland and small town living. “It’s the county’s commuter secret!” touted the realtor’s ad, which must have been code for “It’s in the middle of B-F nowhere.” The hermit in me loves this—open land, and no people for miles and miles. We found the house, and it looked about the same as it looked online but moving there meant taking the little two lane road every single day. “Probably not so good when it gets snowed in.” I said. And also, “Sort of inconvenient,” which is code for “Too far away from Target.” Unsaid: There are two little homemade crosses on the side of the road. In two entirely different spots.
Three houses was all it took for me to want to quit looking. Everything looked better online; none of them seemed right, which is both depressing and satisfying. My husband can click through the photos of that dream house knowing that there is another one directly behind it. I can look at that house in the middle of nowhere and know that I have to travel a lot more than 3 inches to reach the interstate.