Saturday, March 25, 2017

That Spooky Invisible Hand

I don't know what's more alarming: that a house should suddenly go missing, shed to shingles, or that I can't remember what it looked like even though I walked by it all the time. But no matter where you go in this neighborhood, or how often you stroll by, you're going to run into gaping craters where a house you should remember has been deleted, like it had been taken out by a comet. It's all so sudden. Just a hole in the ground, and a porta-potty, and a radio set to a Spanish station, and then you turn your back for a few weeks and there's a big shiny house in one of three neutral colors and a Sale Pending sign.

It feels like Monopoly. You pass by a little green house and by the time you make it around the block again, there's a big red hotel instead. Pluck off, plunk down.

Monopoly wasn't one of the games we had at my house when I was a kid. I got introduced to it somewhere else. And in all these years, I've never come close to winning.  I feel that little burst of optimism when I put my game piece on GO and then it's all downhill from there. At home we had games like Parcheesi. You'd roll the dice and move your pieces just that many dots and no more, and there was an opportunity to jam things up and get in people's way, which, as a small child, appealed to me. That was the limit to the strategy, as I recall.

But at my friends' houses, I'd get all set up with my play money, and my game piece, and I'd fly past the railroads and the tan streets to buy Illinois Avenue or Pacific, reasoning (in an early foreshadowing of my investment acumen) that I liked red and green, and things would progress a bit, and then all of a sudden some kid is horse-trading. "I'll give you this, because you really really need it, and you give me that and that and all that there and most of your cash. C'mon, that's fair, isn't it?" No! That makes no sense! The price is right on the back of the card! You can't do that! That can't be in the rules! I'm telling your mom!

But they could, and they did.

I'm still not over it. Things shouldn't just cost what the richest person is willing to pay; people shouldn't have to sell stuff because they're losing ground in some spooky ethereal market. The Art Of The Deal is a dark art. There's nothing wrong with the little green houses around here. But because money is thundering into this town at this time, it's thought to be a smart thing to take out the little green house and put in a big red one, and the same number of people will be living in it, but they'll be richer, and so will the development company in charge of the comet.

As a result, Dave and I are sitting on what could become a comfortable pile of cash, and we didn't do a dang thing for it except buy a house a long time ago, just to live in. It doesn't feel right. Mediterranean Avenue should just be $60. And there was no reason to take away the thimble.

38 comments:

  1. I don't get why people want those honkin' enormous houses, especially with families getting smaller. All those floors... all those rooms... and they all have to be cleaned. (I guess they hire someone to do that, so that doesn't concern them.) Then, when they get older, they have to buy a smaller home anyway, because they can't handle the multiple floors anymore.

    I inherited a simple ranch home from my mom when she died. It was paid for. It's in a "working class" neighborhood, and yes, a lot of the homes around here are run-down. But I would not trade it, even if I could do so at a profit. Everything is on one floor, so there is no running up and down stairs. Only one bathroom, so there is only one to clean. Washer and dryer in the kitchen, where it is convenient, instead of in a basement. I love this house, and I don't understand how people can blithely "trade up" every few years. If they don't love their house, why did they buy it in the first place? They are probably the sort of people who "trade up" on spouses every decade or so as well.

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    1. And you never know. Sometimes you're forced to trade sideways on spouses.

      Our house has four floors. One of my personal goals is to be able to climb those stairs for the rest of my life. I hope that doesn't mean I'm going under a bus tomorrow.

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  2. What with the comet and all, I see that Pootie is prudently wearing protective head gear. I suspect that you and Dave didn't buy a house, you wisely bought a home.

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    1. Honestly, it never occurred to me that it was an investment. (Especially at 10%!) I don't think we've ever operated that way.

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  3. Everyone is supposed to want to live on Boardwalk. Then they need "staff" and people to do their bidding. It's all a complicated, fabricated waste of time because time is the great commodity. Not stuff.

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    1. I can't imagine wanting anyone to hang out my laundry. I can kind of imagine wanting someone to do a monthly muck-out, but instead I've lowered my standards.

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    2. I would lower my standards, too, if I had any!!

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  4. We've been enduring the McMansion-ization trend here in the East for far too long. I hope that I"ll still be around when the people who purchase these preposterously large houses get their comeuppance -- at some point, they'll get sick and tired of heating/cooling/cleaning/decorating space that they don't use........(BTW, does this sound like I'm one step away from "Get off my lawn"??)

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    1. But you'd sell one in a hot heartbeat, right, Realtor-boy? [kiss kiss]

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    2. HaHa.......Funny, I don't seem to work with many buyers who love those big cardboard boxes....

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    3. Probably no accident. You're running a class operation.

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  5. At the risk of sounding...something...I'd state that there is a slightly different perspective on the owning a house thing. Having moved 15 times in 30 years in the Navy, we only owned one house, in Arlington VA. It was a simple brick house in a great location (location and location). It felt like home to us whenever we moved back into it, having rented it out for a few years. We even renovated it pretty well. But we always knew that someday we'd probably be moving on. And when we did, it paid handsomely, as we hoped it would. It was a home-investment after all. Then the new buyers really did some awful things to it, but that's another story. My point is that sometimes a house is a temporary home, and moving on is part of life. Make some money on it? Sure! Not that I agree with tearing down all the cute older houses for McMansions. At all.

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    1. Especially if you're in the Navy. I'm one of the stay-puttingest people you know. I remember moving into our house in 1978 and thinking: Thank goodness we don't have to do THAT again!

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  6. Sigh on the McMansion front. Their owners have not only more money than I do, they have more energy. Cleaning them? Bleah. Finding the thing you just put down? And I need my outside space.

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    1. I can lose the thing I just put down in a closet.

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  7. That last picture? I live in the wee blue house and people with lots of Monopoly money have built the HUGE grey house and others just like it behind my little house.

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    1. Maybe you could paint something naughty on the roof.

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    2. Um...no, but when one neighbour drove around to my place in his SUV and asked my to chop down the big palms because he could no longer see the ocean...I was very tempted to say something rude.

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  8. This is veering a bit off to the side of the topic, but I remember meeting a woman years ago who was positively chortling that she had just built a little plain bungalow in an area filled with lovely older two-storey-with-attic homes. She gushed that she got to look at all the picturesque homes without having to live in one. I remember thinking maybe she shouldn't be quite as proud of herself, or at least not quite so loud about it. But then I have a soft spot for older neighbourhoods, having never lived in one. They look like the books of my childhood.

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    1. Veer away! I've never lived in a new neighborhood. Although this one is newing up around me.

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  9. I've actually been to Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, across the Solent from Portsmouth, England. I like to think that's where the Monopoly name came from. As for the repulsively-named gentrification, it's ruining a lot of historic neighborhoods. And resulting in a lot of houses that are too big, too hard to heat and too hard to cool. I suspect they will be dreck on the market when climate change and the energy crunch hit.

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    1. This is another of my crotchets. All the new homes are being built up tall partly because they're foregoing the basement. Code for earthquake now is too expensive. And all these big houses get air conditioning that the owners no doubt turn on as soon as it gets above 70, when really AC is called for about three days a year here, and the basement would stay cool forever. They're not building for climate change. I hate that.

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  10. LOVE Pootie's overalls and hard hat :)
    Redevelopment is happening here too, big old sprawling 100 years old houses are being demolished and in their place goes two or three long and skinny side-by-sides, or two on a block, one in front and one behind. Thank goodness all the original blocks are too small for high-rise flats. Those are happening in other parts of my city. Developers buy the old homes, then sell the multiple new ones for twice as much each and laugh all the way to the bank.

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  11. I think I would have liked to grow up in just one place, but as a child we moved around a lot and since I first got married in 1971, I've lived in about twenty places. Now I'm here in my current home for life, unless I win lotto, then I'll buy a slightly larger home(just one extra room) with a yard, nearer the ocean.

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    1. Even if I downsized, I'd want my grand piano. So I might have to put barstools up to it and eat off it.

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    2. and a mattress underneath for sleeping :)

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    3. Oh, I already have pictures of that, from when I had more houseguests than I had beds.

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  12. I always loved the look of the old Victorian homes but at my age of almost 65 climbing stairs is not a plan. I far prefer one level homes, especially if you have kids as chasing up an down stairs is tiring. In some areas, cost of property is what is costly so that is why homes go up instead of out in design. Now if you can afford 4 acres you could have a large one-story home!!

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    1. I still think I'll be able to climb those stairs. Which is not really thinking ahead, for a woman who tips over as often as I do. So far the bones are holding up.

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  13. We love our basement. It's cool year round but then, we're in Canada. We have air conditioning but we only turn it on twice a year and that's for guests. Oops, I'm bragging. Sorry.

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    1. You should brag. I've noticed some of these new-ass houses have been roaring their air conditioners as soon as it gets above 75. It's disgraceful.

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  14. Once again you have captured that essence of the idea that more is better and bigger is the direction to go. I went to visit my eye doctor and found a dirt hill! Imagine how that feels. You definitely think you should have had your eyes checked sooner.

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    1. At least then you could see the dirt hill!

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  15. I watch shows where people think nothing of spending a half million dollars on a house and I look around at ours that cost thirty-nine thousand dollars has three bedrooms, one and a half baths, swimming pool and hot tub and think how blessed we were to be born at a time when real estate wasn't so expensive. We bought our house almost forty years ago and now we are sitting on a gold mine too, but I can't help but feel sorry for all the young people just starting out and trying to buy a home. How did real estate get so expensive?

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    1. Never mind that. How did you get to be Snickelfritz?

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