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Real Estate

To All the Houses I Loved Before

published Dec 7, 2021
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“I scroll Redfin like it’s Instagram.”

When I read that text from my best friend a few weeks ago, everything clicked. I, along with many other people in their 20s and 30s these days, am locked into a habit of “Zillow scrolling,” or perusing real estate listings until I find one that soothes me. My friend and I happen to be Redfin gals — we think the site’s layout is easier to read than other real estate listing aggregators like Redfin, Zillow, and Trulia — but you get the idea, and you can probably relate to it.

A real estate listing site being like Instagram is quite the apt comparison. Instagram is mostly still filled with images of an aspirational lifestyle — a virtual land of make-believe that’s incredibly hard to look away from. I’m trying to take a break with it anyway, in the hopes of decreasing my horrifying screen time totals. So far, I’ve set a 20-minute time limit on the app (please clap!). What’s derailing me, and filling the Instagram-sized hole in my phone, is Redfin. It shows me a different kind of aspirational lifestyle, one in which I’m a homeowner.

Maybe one day in the very distant future I’ll be able to buy a house, but right now, it all feels like a fantasy. Tapping on the latest Redfin listings is like peeking into windows of lives that I’ll probably never live. While the app serves an entirely different purpose for people who are actively trying to buy a house — good luck to you all!! — to me, it’s a comforting fantasy to escape to. (I’ve made peace with not buying a place for now, if you can believe it.) I can let my mind run wild with the idea of me owning an antique farmhouse; I can sit and think about what chic vases I’d put in my sleek Brooklyn condo.

I decided to look back at all the houses I loved before — the ones that gifted me a brief getaway from the stressors of 2021. Cheers to what could be and what could have been.

To the A-frame in Northern California,

I went nuts picturing myself dwelling within your sloping walls and ceilings. When and if I ever become a laid-back person, I will live in an A-frame just like you. (I’ll be perfectly chill about climbing a narrow spiral staircase to get to my lofted bed every night, and equally chill on my way back down in the mornings.) Your wood-paneled walls made an immediate impression on me as I scrolled through your listing photos, you see, and I could practically smell the gentle curls of smoke rising from your wood stove. Thanks for being a cozy place for my brain to travel to.

To the adorable cottage on Cape Cod,

I will miss you the most for one main reason: I made the mistake of thinking I could turn my fantasy into a reality. After my eyes widened at your weathered shingles and outdoor shower, in a fit of delusion, I actually called the real estate agent who listed you. I certainly didn’t have enough money to buy you and I wasn’t even pre-approved for a mortgage. I’m not sure what I was thinking — I was just blinded by love. Can you blame me?

To the old farmhouse in New Hampshire,

I look at real estate listings almost every day in my job as a real estate editor. But I’ve never seen one like you — one that I’ve just known I needed to be mine. You are the house I picture myself living in, in 15 years or so. You are my ideal home and then some, with your gigantic kitchen I’d love to bake focaccia in, your screened-in porch I’d love to host dinner parties on, your wood-paneled attic I’d love to set up my home office in, and your wine cellar I’d store my favorite vintages in (when I eventually know about wine and vintages, that is). 

To the chic condo in Brooklyn’s Park Slope,

You probably already know the coolest and most stylish version of me would live in you. Though you’re small — just over 500 square feet — you’re mighty, with chic built-ins and custom cabinets. You’re bigger than the studio apartment I live in now, so I consider you quite the upgrade. You’re also just steps from my favorite place in the city: Prospect Park. If I were to spend the rest of my days being a cool and single Brooklyn lady, I’d never give you up.

To the affordable three-bedroom in my home city,

You inflicted a special kind of pain: the pain of knowing that if I were a few years ahead in my savings goals, I’d be able to reasonably afford you. Your realistic amenities — a good-sized kitchen, a laundry room, and a giant closet in the primary bedroom — wooed me from the get-go. Then there’s your proximity to my family, something I haven’t been able to enjoy while living in good ol’ New York City. Maybe one day you’ll be mine, but not yet.