I have a confession to make. I am a real estate junkie. Full blown addict. I’d like to think it started with HGTV more than a decade ago. I loved to play the imaginary game of “Which house will they choose” on House Hunters. (House Hunters International doesn’t count. It’s the red-headed step-child of House Hunters, with no personality. The homes are in areas I’ve never heard of, and the budgets buy you a primitive cave with a light bulb, and all people can say is “But look at the view!”. Basically the only reason anyone is even nice to this show, is because it’s remotely related to HH. It’s popularity thru relations.). Then I sadly learned the secret that reality television is about as real as Santa, and I watched it with a little more disdain. A little less enthusiasm. Oh who am I kidding … I was crushed.
The truth is though, while the real estate portion of the show was an interest (I am amazed at the fluctuations of home prices across the U.S.) I think I just liked the idea of legally being able to look inside people’s homes. So while I didn’t play the game anymore, I did enjoy the tours.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Peeping Tom. I’m not even a real estate looky-loo, but that’s only because I’d be too embarrassed to be one. I don’t want to see into all homes, just pretty ones. In my real life, away and before real estate television, I played my own version of this with a couple of homes I was madly in love with. I imagined how gorgeous they were inside, and when time and open curtains would permit, I’d fine myself slowing down as I passed their homes, straining my neck in to see the layout or décor as best as I could from my driver’s seat. My daughter would be mortified. I’d shush her, reminding her I was doing no harm, it was just wishful thinking. I just needed to know if a home that beautiful on the outside was as nice on the inside.
House Hunters just allowed me to do that from the privacy of my own home.
A few years later I got to play my own version of House Hunter when I started to look at buying my own place, and that’s when the addiction really set in. If HGTV was my friendly neighborhood pot dealer, then online real estate websites became my full blown moved-on-to-smoking-crack, gun wielding, drug dealer.
I became obsessed. I found a way to look into these homes and see what I had hoped to see in that pretty little blue jobber I had driven past daily. Soon I found an awesome real estate agent, and happily worked up spreadsheets of areas and prices and MLS listings. (Spreadsheets are my happy place) I started to send these to her on a weekly basis, which she appreciated. Or so she said. She could write me back and advise that this price was low because it was an auction bid, or this was a short sale, or this was a cash only transaction. I think she was amazed at the listings I would find, and how quickly at that. We could get everything done in a fell swoop. I spent my Saturdays perusing condo’s, wrinkling my nose in contempt at some, as if I had the queens jewels to protect and wouldn’t even consider an area that was brimming with tacky security screen doors, or laminate cupboards. I found sleazy pockets of South County I didn’t even know existed. I also realized that my buck could only be stretched so much, and that compromises would have to be made.
Eventually I got lucky with my place – the market was just so perfect, and I found a quick short sale that was brimming with most of the amenities I had on my list. My agent quickly worked with my deadline, literally sending me closing documents hours before I was due to board a plane for Costa Rica for ten days. She was that good.
So that should have been that. The party was over, time to pack up the websites and the spreadsheets. I had a piece of the American Dream, which basically meant instead of renting from my old sleaze-fest of a cheap SOB landlord, I was now renting from a cold calculating lending company that would just as soon spit on me, as look at me. Ok, I went a bit far there. I don’t think they would actually spit on me. But most lending companies are cold, unless they fear losing your business.
But I found I couldn’t exactly walk away from. Truth was, they continued to foist their poison on me via emails. I could have opted I out. I knew that. I told myself I wasn’t because what if one day I wanted to sell. It was a fools game. I had gone thru rehab by actually buying a place, and yet I kept the drug sitting right there. Then one day in boredom, I opened the attachment when I felt no one was looking. I wasn’t going to look at the listings. I would just look at the prices. The location. But it wasn’t enough and soon I found myself clicking on the actual listing and perusing the pics. No pics and I moved on. I told myself I was just studying the market to see what neighboring places were going for. Seeing what my investment was worth.
Pretty soon I was back to almost an email a day. Some people do porn, I do snaps of home interiors. On some weeks, the emails would pile up unopened, because I was already so high from the binge the week before. Then the site started to add features like showing me the listings that sold. The ones pending, and I knew that monkey was fully on my back. I swear if the industry wasn’t already so saturated with agents, and so iffy on the income, I would consider becoming an agent on the side. Just so I could look at these homes! Then I think of having clients like me, who on one hand might have been super helpful with things like spreadsheets, but on the other hand, probably drove her agent bat-shit with unending questions, fears and manic moments.
All kidding aside, I have comfortably owned my place for a few years now, and while the habit of shopping is still there, I realize I have no desire to move. I am accepting of my addiction. I look at it as a hobby for now. I do like to play Judgy McJudgerson from time to time. Carpet instead of hardwood floors? Tsk tsk, that will never do at that asking price. I wonder when granite will be the avocado green laminate of the 70’s. I remind myself that at some point people actually enjoyed orange shag carpet. I ask myself if I would rather vacation to some remote spot or upgrade the bathroom a bit more. I have watched the listings and sales long enough to know when someone is crazily asking too much money for their place, with the lack of upgrades. I know when I see a steal from time to time, and I wish like crazy that I could afford it. I see how lovely I thought my place was when I bought it, and how some of the amenities I was thrilled for initially would be have to be upgraded for me in a move.
Yes, some days I wish my place was a little larger, or had an attached garage. I use the site as a barometer for my own homes value and seethe a bit when someone undersells, because I don’t want it to set off a domino effect in my neighborhood. I rack up the real and imagined equity and ultimately wonder what I could buy in Texas or Oregon, or wherever it is I end up retiring. Because as much as I love So Cal real estate, it would be crazy to remain here on a limited budget.
I think ultimately this just really plays into my shopping addiction. I like to window shop, but this is at a much higher level.