Hovel Sweet Hovel

SOMETIMES MY HOUSE GETS SO DISHEVELED it seems easier to sell it than to clean it. I can imagine the advertisements: “Cozy ranch loaded with extras.” (Extra dust, extra mildew, extra dog hair.) “Needs TLC” is short for “Needs Truck Loads of Comet.” “Full of character” refers to the family of raccoons who have taken my kitchen hostage.

    It’s during these times that I long to leave behind my wall-to-wall spider webs and start fresh. Last Sunday my husband and I made the rounds of open houses. The first house we visited was a cute bungalow with one very big problem. No cookies were being served. That was a shame because peering into people’s closets and critiquing their fashion choices require great expenditures of energy. The real estate agent said to us, “You again,” and handed over a house flier. When we saw the price, we raised our eyebrows and said, ”Hmmmm,” which is code for “these sellers are out of their skulls.”

    “Do you have any questions?” the agent asked.

    Yes, I thought. What were these people smoking when they chose the living room drapes? But I restrained myself and asked more professional questions like: “How old is the HVAC system? Is this property built on a slab? Are the owners colorblind?” Oops. The last question slipped out. But seriously. That particular shade of green on the kitchen walls belongs on tree lizards only.

    We were also disappointed that the real estate agent was tight-lipped and refused to give us dirt on the owners and why they were vacating the house. What’s the point of going to an open house if you can’t get a little gossip?

    On to the next house, a grand palatial home that was completely out of our price range. Naturally it was mobbed. When an open house is held at a mansion, tribes of lookey loos tramp in to gawk at garden tubs bigger than their above-ground swimming pools. I got a kick out of pretending I could afford the house and asked rich-person questions like, “Is the roof helicopter-friendly?” or “Where’s the gift wrapping room?”

    It didn’t take long for my envy level to reach red-alert levels. I told my husband we needed to leave before I started a Bread Riot. Once we were safely outside, the sour grapes began: “Imagine the heating bills!” “Money certainly can’t buy taste.” “Our raccoons would hate the granite countertops.” But privately I thought, why the hell didn’t I invest in Google stock when I had the chance? Is it too late to go to hedge fund school? For encouragement I reminded myself that when it came to being filthy rich, at least I’d achieved the filthy part.

    Funny though, after visiting a succession of open houses, when I returned home to my slovenly hovel, I appreciated it more. There might be spider webs, but they’re my spider webs and I’ve grown oddly attached to them. Plus they keep the fly population in check. The raccoons tend to attract them.  

Real estate agents beware: Karin Gillespie has been known to eat her weight in cookies at open houses. Visit her at karingillespie.net

This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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