I want to move back to Columbus.
I could not afford to move back to Columbus any more than I can fly. The houses are far too expensive and the property taxes are astronomical. Every formerly cheap neighborhood is being gentrified just as fast as rich people can buy and flip the houses. So instead of making concrete plans to move back to Columbus, I’ve made a grim hobby out of watching Columbus’s real estate listings.
Columbus real estate listings are different than the ones out here in Steubenville. When you look at real estate listings here in the Valley, you quickly learn a certain vocabulary that realtors speak. Calling something a “well-maintained family home,” for example, means that it hasn’t been remodeled since 1972. A “Handyman Special” is similar to a “well-maintained family home” except for the addition of black mold and the lack of necessary copper wiring. When a house “needs a little TLC,” it means that it’s a “handyman special” with a lurid hole in the ceiling. Also, nearly every real estate listing in the Valley is described as “conveniently located near Route Seven” because if you go as far as to buy a house here, it’s very important to have your escape route planned in advance.
Realtors in Columbus don’t talk like that. They have a more cheerful and optimistic vocabulary, and far too many capital letters. You are breathlessly invited to BECOME A PART of CLINTONVILLE HISTORY! Houses get cutesy nicknames like “CLASSIC GERMAN VILLAGE CHARMER!” Neighborhoods are described as “HIGHLY DESIRABLE” if they’re already too expensive, or “UP-AND-COMING” if they’re not yet too expensive. The word “turnkey” is used with quite a bit of enthusiasm even though “turnkey” sounds like a Medieval torture device. I don’t want to live in a turnkey house. A turnkey house sounds like my arms would be dislocated by Procrustes every time I went to bed.
Also, apparently all the realtors have bought stock in corporations that make white paint. Every single one of these “updated” houses feels like walking into a refrigerator. They’ve sucked every ounce of joy or personality out of the dwellings. All the walls have been freshly painted in the brightest, most sterile, joyless white. This is not a neutral white; it’s a loud, day-glow, neon white. It’s a white so bright you could probably see it with your eyes closed. And after they’ve painted every surface white, the realtors start adding their own eccentric personal touches, like this house where every piece of original wood trim is painted black to clash even harder with the white. Or like this uniquely horrendous house, where they’ve gone so far as to paint the outdoor brick, hang a terrifying metal moose head in the living room, turn the dining room into an optical illusion, and create a shower which would scare arachnophobes into a heart attack.
Why would anyone do this to a lovely hundred-year-old house? Houses are supposed to be cozy and inviting.
But the realtors don’t stop at turnkeys and nightmare-inducing paint jobs. In many cases, they start knocking down walls as well. The whole point of a foursquare house is that they have four square rooms to a floor, but the realtors don’t like rooms. They want everything out in the same neverending corridor like Mary Tyler Moore’s apartment. The only separation between the kitchen, the dining room and the foyer is a butcher block. This creates what realtors call “a nice, airy open floor plan.”
Why would anyone want an open floor plan? Open floor plans are a nightmare. They have no privacy. They have no closet space. They echo. They’re expensive to heat. They’re difficult to dust. It’s nearly impossible to catch an escaped pet parakeet. There’s no place to put a television where you can watch it without glare. There’s no refuge from any kind of noise; you can’t so much as walk into the kitchen for a quiet emergency glass of wine while the children watch loud cartoons.
And speaking of kitchens, how are you supposed to cook dinner in an open floor plan? Children’s toys roll into the kitchen and trip you when you’re trying to drain spaghetti. Smells waft all over the house. You have to do all your dishes and make the kitchen tidy before opening the front door or people will see the mess and judge you. Kitchens are supposed to private.
I wonder how many times an eager young Columbus realtor has taken a sledgehammer to a wall, thinking in all capital letters as realtors do: “LET’S MAKE A NICE AIRY OPEN FLOOR PLAN!” and accidentally taken out a load-bearer.
Maybe that’s what’s driving the prices up: rogue realtors accidentally demolishing perfectly good houses in a desperate effort to be trendy.
On second thought, maybe I don’t want to move home to Columbus.
It’s a silly place.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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