House Slut

By Louise Ure

The feeling has been building for months, and I finally have to admit the truth. I have become a house slut.

I know what you’re probably thinking. That’s just Louise cocooning. Not showering until noon and working all morning in her hospital scrubs and bunny slippers. Well, that’s right too, but that’s not the kind of house slut I mean.

I mean that I spend hours a day coveting other people’s houses and doing everything I can to get me one of those.

It started innocently enough. I saw an ad for a charitable organization’s lottery, where ticket purchases would enter you into a drawing for a two million dollar home in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Wooden pillars in the living room rescued from a demolished bank downtown. An infinity pool. A library, for God’s sake! And a good cause to boot, I said to myself, writing a check.

But then the obsession grew.

Every day I’d check out the website and scroll slowly through the room photos one more time. Would my couch fit in front of that window? I’d clearly need a new dining room table. I checked out barbecue grills for the back deck and mentally paced off the space I’d need for the credenza.

The fascination lasted for months. I worried about whether the turn into the driveway was wide enough for me to get the racecar in, and whether we could get good Chinese delivery in that neighborhood.

The letdown was huge when I did not win. I had fantasies of toilet papering the house of the snooty bitch from Walnut Creek whose name was drawn.

Bloodied but unbowed, I reentered the fray.

I started checking out available real estate on line and requesting “new listings” from a half dozen real estate websites. Ashland and Portland, Oregon. Napa Valley. Palm Springs. My inbox swelled with “mini-estates” and “must sees!”

Patty Smiley once wrote about researching houses online as a way to come up with settings for her Southern California characters. Maybe I could use that as an excuse. I added Sedona and Tucson, Arizona to the bookmarked sites and new listing updates.

Soon I was spending two hours a day taking virtual tours and clicking on Google Street View to see what it would feel like to pull into that driveway. I crossmatched the zip codes to education and income level to get a feel for the neighborhood. I checked the political donations from nearby addresses to see if the neighbors had ever contributed to George Bush.

Television shows became a more passive but equally time consuming effort and HGTV was my nemesis. Property Virgins. My First House. House Hunters. House Hunters International. What You Get For the Money. Bought & Sold.

And of course, the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway, the mother of all house lotteries. No check writing required this time, but you have to enter once a day for the best chance. So now there’s an extra fifteen minutes a day to enter … under my maiden name, my married name, my husband’s name, my dog’s name.

Do I really want to live in St. Lucie, Florida at all? It doesn’t matter. I covet this house. I am a house slut.

Unwilling to put all my hopes into that international jackpot of The Dream Home, I searched out smaller, more accessible home lotteries. Oakland, California. Mesa, Arizona. Charlotte, North Carolina. And I drooled. Nine thousand square feet of empty space in the Oakland Hills made my San Francisco house look like a chicken coop. My feet itched for the cool touch of Saltillo tiles surrounding the pool at the Mesa house. I was smitten.

But it hasn’t ended there. I scan the real estate section of any city I visit. I check out the offerings in real estate agents’ windows when I walk past. I use the dog as an excuse to tarry in front of a neighbor’s opened curtains, imagining their home with my furnishings. I even downloaded the Zillow app for my iPhone to discover the property taxes, square footage and comparable neighborhood sales of any house I point my phone toward.

I am obsessed, and clearly a house slut.

Help me, ‘Rati brethren. At least help me limit my search.

It’s clear that I have moving on my mind. But where to?

Here’s what I’m looking for:

• A city/town with 50,000-75,000 population
• No snow
• Primarily one-level architecture
• A political mindset in the blue shades
• Au courant enough to at least have arugula in the grocery stores
• Proximity to water would be great, but not required

Where shall I focus my next house slut efforts?

38 thoughts on “House Slut

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hey, I thought >I <was the…

    Oh, I see.

    I could so live in Sedona. Imagine how healthy and peaceful you would be… that place is just amazing. If there’s anything to this Wheel of Karma thing, you’d be off the reincarnational merry-go-round in no time.

    Reply
  2. JD Rhoades

    I have a couple of HGTV addicts in the house. I refer to it as "Real Estate Porn."

    As far as arugula goes, as I’ve pointed out to those who want to use knowledge of arugula as some sort of code word for "snooty liberal elitist", you can get the stuff at WalMart. It’s in salads in the Mickey D’s, along with radicchio. It’s the folks who think we’re such rubes that we’re scared of arugula who are the real elitists.

    Reply
  3. billie

    OH, Louise. I commiserate. I have never been drawn to contests, but everywhere I go I always pick up a real estate booklet and peruse the offerings. I have had much fun during late nights browsing castles in Scotland and villas in Tuscany. Take it international! My favorite ever advertisement said "ramparts in good condition." 🙂

    And hey – there’s a huge house on 10 acres with a pond and a pool for sale right across the lane from us! Or if you prefer, another house with horse barn, pond, pastures, and two home offices! I’ve been in full real estate mode, sending emails to try and lure in good new neighbors.

    Reply
  4. Louise Ure

    Alex: you’re the House Exotic Muse. Or Dancing Queen. Not House Slut. And Sedona does have a couple of great properties right now.

    Dusty, my aim is to not live among people who are afraid of the word arugula. But that’s probably more of an IQ thing than a geographical one. I hope.

    Billie, I’m there. A house with two home offices and a pond? Wowza.

    Reply
  5. Rae

    Great post, Louise. I have a tendency to mentally refurnish other people’s homes, especially if I like them. I’m invited into someone’s house and immediately start thinking. "Well that piece shouldn’t be there – I’d put a nice little love seat there, and that spot is just crying out for an occasional table, yada yada yada".

    As for good house slut spots, one of my favorites is just south of Portland. It’s the area between Albany / Corvallis and Salem, on both sides of Interstate 5. (I think f it as the Willamette valley, but not sure if that’s technically correct.) There are some great little towns, with fabulous houses, on decent-sized pieces of land. And you’re within easy striking distance of both Portland and Eugene.

    Reply
  6. Pari

    Louise,
    I adore your place in SF. Wow. A move? Really?

    Santa Fe is a pretty nice town to live in if you’ve got money. Poajaque and Tesuque also work but they’re much smaller.

    Like Billie and others, I do pick up the real estate rags when I’m in other towns — but that’s mainly curiosity. I want to know the relative income of the place. What I do even more often is drive around those towns and fantasize about living in some of the houses I see. Right now, I want land with water rights more than I care about a structure. I’ve entered a very weird agricultural phase in my life . . .

    Reply
  7. Sandy

    When I was growing up in a Midwestern city, AAUW had the yearly Home Tour to raise money. My mother and I loved browsing through the houses. This enjoyment has continued wherever I have traveled: When I have time in a city or a village, I drive up and down the streets or lanes looking, wondering, imagining. You’re not a house slut. You’re a house buff, perhaps, or a house devotee.
    P.S. Do you really want to leave San Fran?

    Reply
  8. kit

    *ahem* My name is Kit, and I’m house obsessed…..
    The other night…I went out with my husband selling lumanaries for our Relay for Life team, door to door….my hubby said it was my cover story for looking at houses…..he laughed at me. But I did get to see this awesome house I’ve been wanting to see….and I rationalized that I told the truth when I told the lady I really wanted to see her home. I mean, come on…who wouldn’t want to….it’s a New Orleans style house in the middle of the deep freeze of America…..only one like it, AND I know it’s history….I was in house slut heaven.
    thank you for posting this….I don’t feel so alone, any longer…..

    Reply
  9. Louise Ure

    Rae having seen your house and sense of decor, feel free to come over here and redecorate anytime! And thanks for the Willamette suggestion. I was looking a little north of Portland, on the southern Washington state border, but I’ll aim a little farther south.

    Pari, you’re already living in paradise. Yeah, a nice plot of land with water rights. Good idea. The next war will be about water.

    Reply
  10. Louise Ure

    Sandy, I don’t really want to leave SF, but it’s not the easiest location to grow older in, with housing prices and cost of living still out of sight, even in this lessened economy. House buff; I like that.

    And Kit, how nice to know we are kindred spirits! Like J.D. says, we’re probably into house porn, but who cares?

    Reply
  11. toni mcgee causey

    ohdearGod, I am so glad I’m not the only one who entered that contest. I didn’t even THINK of using the dog’s name. Dammit. However, I did email my sisters-in-law, my cousins and random neighbors and explained why, if they received a notice from HGTV, that they had to give the house to ME ME ME ME ME.

    Not that I was obsessed or anything.

    I just do not have enough lifetimes to live all of the places I’d like to live.

    billie, that cracked me up. Ramparts. [Scotland! (sigh)]

    Reply
  12. Louise Ure

    Toni, I didn’t even think of asking other folks to give me the house if I used their name! Silly of me. Of course they’d be happy to do so. Right?

    And yeah, I’m going to use Billie’s line when/if I sell the San Francisco house. "Ramparts in good condition" would pull in a lot of buyers, methinks.

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  13. Tom

    Louise, let us help. If there’s not enough space in the new driveway, I’ll carve out a niche for at least one of the race cars in our garage. No, no, don’t thank me, happy to help.

    We’re looking in the Appalachians and Blue Ridge foothill areas. Like you, Pari, we’re getting agricultural, suddenly.

    And, yes, I agree – the next war will be about water. A couple of years ago, when there was a picture of Shrub taking a book on the history of salt with him on vacation, I knew what was next.

    Reply
  14. ArkansasCyndi

    Hi! My name is Cyndi. I love House Porn! LOL My dad was a real estate appraiser for years. One year, I took a break from my real job and worked with him. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it was to go through houses, measure then, draw the floor plan (which, of course, required looking EVERYWHERE, every closet, etc)

    I live on a lake in Arkansas. We are one of the few states NOT in financial crisis. We have a relatively low tax rate.

    Here’s some porn houses in my area.

    Reply
  15. Louise Ure

    Tom, only you would have the kindness, the generosity of spirit, to offer a home to one of my aging racecars! That’s better than greyhound rescue, if you ask me.

    Hmmm …. Appalachia. The Blue Mountains.

    And Cyndi, a lake in Arkansas! I can picture it now. (There was no link with your post, but if you have one, email it to me tout de suite!)

    Reply
  16. Karen Olson

    New Haven fits all those requirements, except the "no snow." We get snow. Too much snow. But you can always hire some guy to plow for you.

    And you don’t want to live in Port St. Lucie, Florida. My parents lived there for two years and moved back to New Haven. They call is Port St. Lousy and said they were way too young to live there, and they were much older than you are when they were there!

    I watch HGTV all the time. I always wonder why the people on House Hunters pick the houses they diss the most.

    Reply
  17. Chris Hamilton

    I was going to post and say that my wife was the snooty bitch who won the house and she objects to the insult (she doesn’t like being called snooty). Good thing I didn’t do that.

    The nice thing about St. Lucie is there’s pro baseball there. Every year a bunch of pro teams with real pitching staffs come in a play the Mets for about a month each spring.

    Aren’t I great, folks. I’ll be here all week. Please don’t forget to tip your servers.

    Reply
  18. Louise Ure

    Karen, Port St. Lousy? Then don’t mention THAT in the Virtual Tour. And New Haven’s got a lot going for it … if I could leave for three months in the winter.

    Chris … thank you for not mentioning that your wife was the …. never mind. And Florida does seem to be winning the battle with Arizona for Spring Training teams. But is that enough to overcome the humidity?

    Reply
  19. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Well, San Francisco is my favorite city in the world.
    But if you’re looking for something smaller, I’d go with Pari’s pick – Santa Fe. Or, maybe Taos. However, you will get snow. Annapolis is another favorite, although, things will get cold. Then there’s Southern California with the year-round perfect weather. Manhattan or Hermosa Beach – muy perfecto.
    Man, I’ve been through that "covet thy house" thing. The last straw was when I realized I could get 80 acres and a three story house in Baton Rouge for $150,000.

    Reply
  20. Louise Ure

    So, when are you moving to Baton Rouge, Stephen? 80 acres? Wow.

    I’m off to check out Hermosa Beach right now. As soon as I get done ogling the $3 Million lakeside bungalow in Arkansas that Cyndi just sent me the link to.

    Reply
  21. Lisa Hendrix

    You might look into the Ashland/Medford area of Southern Oregon (Ashland being bluer and more au courant, but also noticeably more expensive considering it’s only 12 miles away). Everything is here except water, but mountain lakes are less than an hour away, and the ocean, about 2 hours. Plus there’s a city-owned ski resort up the mountain (srsly), though it seldom snows down in the valley. Definitely should make your short list.

    Reply
  22. Pammy D

    San Luis Obispo. It’s hip, got good restaurants, great weather, 10 minutes from the ocean, and smack dab in the middle of wine country. It’s about halfway between L.A. and SF. And I do believe housing is way more affordable than either.

    Reply
  23. Louise Ure

    Lisa, I fell in love with Ashland about five years ago and did some serious real estate shopping at the time. (Glad I didn’t buy at those inflated prices, though.) Medford may be a better option for me as I’ll need someplace accessible for the race cars and the tow vehicle, and those cute in-town streets in Ashland are difficult to navigate!

    Reply
  24. toni mcgee causey

    Heh. Stephen, I live in Baton Rouge, and if there are 80 acres and a three story house around here for that price, I wanna know about it. 😉 (Our economy is doing pretty well–housing values haven’t fallen as much as national values.)

    We do have lots of lakes around here and there’s a lot of gorgeous acreage outside of Baton Rouge, but you will drive forever to get supplies. Or good schools (though that is slowly improving).

    Reply
  25. Louise Ure

    Pammy, you may have hit my sweet spot. SLO (and don’t you love a city with those initials) has just about everything I’m looking for in a city. I think a weekend reconnaissance is in order.

    And Toni, I’m with you about that great deal in Baton Rouge. But your comment about "supplies" reminds me … that arugula request of mine was not meant as an elitist kind of thing, just that it’s indicative of a city whose grocery stores might help me in my quest to become a real cook and not just an out-of-a-box eater.

    Reply
  26. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Heya Toni –
    I was using a bit of dramatic license on the Baton Rouge listing. That was actually, from what I recall, a home in a little town about 45 minutes south of Columbus, OH, and the person who bought the place had some kind of inside connection, and…this was probably six years ago. The Baton Rouge listing that I remember was around the same time and it was a two story house with six acres on a lake for $300,000. Still a good deal, considering that an 1800 sq. ft. house in Redondo Beach can cost up to a mil.

    Reply
  27. toni mcgee causey

    Hey Stephen, you’re not kidding about the L.A. values–man, those are insane. (Still. Even with the pricing fall.)

    And no worries about the confusion. Hell, I don’t even know where I am half the time, much less remember exact details from that sort of thing. I was just being wistful for the acreage. 😉

    Reply
  28. Murderati

    My favorite Dr. Suess book is Oh the Places You’ll Go. I am a geographic slut. Wherever I am, I want to be somewhere else.

    Nashville probably gets too cold for you, but it is a fantastic town. With Whole Foods AND Trader Joe’s, mind you.

    Reply
  29. Catherine Shipton

    My suggestion is perhaps not practical…but does meet criteria suggested if you see blue as just code for another political system altogether, but sort of democrat like.

    Just take a really big jump to the left when approaching your side of the Pacific and come back down under…we’ve got pretty good weather…bugger all snow…we cling to the coast, lots of communities of the size asked for. Even in my town of 5000 we have Arugula in the grocery stores…no judgements just good eating.

    It’s a hell of a commute though, so I can understand if it doesn’t warrant all that serious a consideration…although maybe winter here?

    I also understand your house sluttishness…I’ve trolling for a house in Key West.

    Reply
  30. Louise Ure

    Catherine, you know where my heart is, don’t you? I think of my Sydney days as the happiest of my life. Hmmm … maybe a little something in the Hunter Valley and look out over those vineyards in the evening.

    Reply
  31. Sylvia

    I entered the Marin house raffle as well but I was going to take the cash so that I could stay in my own dream house. Alas, I was ticked and bummed about not winning as well. Yes, let’s TP it.

    I hear ya.

    Reply
  32. Hank Phillippi Ryan

    Please please move to Newton, Massachusetts. (This is a shabby and transparent ploy, but it would be such fun to be neighbors.)

    Fine. So we have snow. But only in the winter. And sometimes in the spring. And oh, yeah, in the fall. But doesn’t having the whole Atlantic Ocean make up for that one tiny snow thing?

    And hey, there’s lots of arugula. And it’s blue as can be.

    Just think about it.

    Reply
  33. Park City Real Estate

    Hi,

    If you manage, inadvertently, to lose your slut status once you get to high school, maybe because you are in honors classes or have a sense of humor or play short stop on the Varsity softball team, don't worry.

    Thanks,
    Perk.

    Reply

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