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Zillowing Out

A $345,000 Home Where We Can Stub All Our Toes

Chris Thompson/Defector

Last week this column entered its fourth year. Since the launch of Defector dot com (we lived, babe), I have—with the exception of this summer where I was very busy on the road—scoured Zillow for houses for all of us to observe and love or hate. I have, at this point, dozens of Zillow alerts. I have two Zillow accounts. This means I have taken in the breadth and depth of Zillow, and it makes me feel qualified to say that it seems like a terrible time to buy a home right now.

This spring and summer had some of the least interesting houses I've seen in the three years of this column. On top of that, property seems to be severely overpriced and home inventory is low while interest rates are high. Alternatively, it's a great time if you're looking to bankrupt yourself buying a piece of garbage, which means it is also a great time for this column. The prices are sky high, the houses are trash. Time for us to party.

This week's house was sent in by a reader who found this house in their hometown. "This is a house designed by an eccentric hillbilly where any straight lines are clearly accidents and trip hazards are design features. Who wouldn’t want to live in a pair-of-quonset-huts with a deer that spies in through the back door," they wrote.

Absolutely terrifying questions here. Can't wait to see how this ends.

The reader's hometown (and where this week's house is located) is St. Joseph, Mo., a town about an hour north of Kansas City, right on the Kansas border. It is famous for, and I am not making this up, being the birthplace of Eminem and the death place of Jesse James. It is home to Missouri Western State University, and has a population a little over 70,000.

This house has been listed at $345,000 for more than a month. It has four bedrooms, four baths and... uh... 3,800-square-feet. That's a concerning number of square feet for four bedrooms, so I decided to research St. Joseph very briefly. This house sold in September of 2020 for $115,000. That rustling sound you hear is me raising a Texas car dealership sized red flag into the air.

Despite the lies told to me by the lead photo on Zillow, this appears to be the front of the house:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hmm. Seems like someone dared to ask the question: what if an egg had two garages, and the answer is not very satisfying. I do not like it.

Would you believe Zillow tried to convince me the front of the house looks like this by placing this image first:

Screenshot: Zillow

Somehow this is both better and worse. I didn't know that anyone hung siding vertically? They probably shouldn't, since one of the goals of siding is waterproofing, and now instead of having a lot of wood or vinyl to run off of, there are dozens of seams and gaps where water can seep in the house. I do not like when water is inside houses, no one should like when water is inside houses.

Seeing this photo confused me, because I assumed at first glance that this was the back of the house. How silly of me. When you look through the trees on the right, you can see the egg garage. So these are... both the front of the house?

Here's an aerial photo:

Screenshot: Zillow

Already, I am afraid. Why aren't these half cylinders the same size? It looks like when you are forced to share a snack with your sibling and you cut it a certain way to convince your parents the pieces are equal, while fully ensuring that you get the bigger half.

It's also strange that these two cylinders are connected by what looks to me like a double wide trailer. I find the contrast between the electric green grass and the dull, sad, house very jarring and unsettling. And at $345,000, this already feels like a steep ask. Perhaps what you're really paying for are the three acres the house sits on. I don't know. I'm unfamiliar with the value of land in St. Joseph.

Let's go inside:

Screenshot: Zillow

First off, I must note that all of the photos on this listing were taken vertically on an iPhone. You can tell that this was a choice someone made and they should be punished for it. The punishment should be...having to list this house at a much cheaper price. Imagine paying almost $400,000 for a home that someone didn't bother to take the time to shoot in landscape mode.

Other things I hate in this photo: the gray wall, the exposed HVAC pipe, the weird loft without a barrier. Whatever is happening with this tile?

I am a big fan of getting cheaper versions of fancy things in order to have beautiful things in your home that you cannot afford, but I do not understand buying mock-granite tile. Tile is cool on its own! There are so many sick tile companies making beautiful stuff right now. Tile is back! So why make your tile be stone? It's not necessary! And because these tiles are laid out with all the grain going in the same direction it's not even an effective illusion!

Here's another angle:

Screenshot: Zillow

I am gonna bang my head so hard against this table that I never remember seeing any of these photos. Who did this? Why is this jagged rock wall here? It looks perfect if the goal in your home is to discover weird bruises and scrapes on your body all the time. I do not understand why you need this for what is clearly an electric fireplace, and I especially do not understand why it needs to be shaped like some kind of phallic chimney rock. This is bad. Real, real bad.

Also bad: the fact that this floor is sunk by one single step. The tile being the same makes it hard to see the drop, so clearly someone is going to eat shit trying to get to the dining table. And with not one single soft thing in sight that will be a brutal fall.

Here's the kitchen:

Screenshot: Zillow

This looks like the kitchen of most rental apartments I have visited. We've got cherry cabinets with a very specific (early aughts) pattern on them. We've got fake granite of a different texture and coloring than the tile. The appliances do not match, and all of them are the cheapest version of an appliance available. There are no windows to be seen. Plus, there are two separate kinds of stools. I do not have the patience for this today.

Moving on:

Screenshot: Zillow

Oh, great! Have you ever thought to yourself, what if a staircase was slippery and potentially fatal? Well do I have an idea for you! It's this!

At the top of this staircase we end up in this hallway:

Screenshot: Zillow

This is kind of incredible. It looks like a house you would make in the Sims, in that every design choice seems like it was made by a teen girl who is in love with a vampire. There is more fake granite tile—though this is more convincing than the white tile, so I like it a lot more. The walls also have some kind of faux stone texture on them, and the ceilings is covered in what I can only assume is imitation tin tiles. It's hard for me to judge this hallway because I do think there's a way to style this so that it doesn't scream "gothic castle where you will die." But unfortunately for the owners of this house that would require purchasing some soft things like rugs, and they clearly hate that.

Next, a bathroom:

Screenshot: Zillow

Yet again, a room to receive blunt force trauma. The tub is nice and big, which I like, but the shower is elevated. Not only is it elevated, the step out of the shower is made of either stone or porcelain. In other words, something slippery. To live in this house you would have to wear non-slip Danskos like a chef at all times, including in the shower, or risk facing your demise.

What's weird about this room is that it feels like someone is trying to smooth the edges of this house by renovating a few things to the level of a very cheap new-build apartment. The entire vanity section screams Home Depot sale. Somehow this room has a lot of weird choices and no character at all. Really incredible stuff. Rare to see something this upsetting.

Here's another room:

Screenshot: Zillow

This bed must have been built in this room because there is no way it is ever leaving. Yet again, I am forced to believe that this is the home of some people who would like to be vampires. I haven't seen bedding this red since Twilight was in hardcover. Very upsetting. Here's another angle:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hahaha! What a fun life! Imagine having to crawl over your bed to go to the bathroom because you bought a four-poster bed that is so large it could be supported by actual trees. Hold on, let's go up to this weird loft:

Screenshot: Zillow

This is a huge no from me. Now we have carpet? After all these thousands of feet of tile? And we have this weird ceiling fan And it looks like the ceiling is about to burst open and let rain inside? How on earth is this listed at almost $400,000. This is a mess! You can't just put in some mid-century modern hanging lights and call this a real home. This place is a nightmare

I guess let's go in that scary little room and...oh no. What is that?

Screenshot: Zillow

No. Nope. Absolutely the fuck not. I don't know what that weird little creature or podium or whatever it is, and I don't want to know. I can't look at this. Why is it looking in the mirror? Or is it looking at me? Look away!

Screenshot: Zillow

This is not much better! This is gross and weird! Famously, one of my toxic traits is that I love glass bricks, but even I cannot justify having them be used as some thin barrier between the big tub, which seems to be poorly spray painted, and a living room. Awful!

Time to leave! I hate it here.

Screenshot: Zillow

Sure, why not go down some treacherous stairs while we are here. At least that weird little bathroom creature isn't following us.

Now we are in the room with the garage doors:

Screenshot: Zillow

This appears to be a regular garage for cars or activities or whatever. But it feels important for me to note that this space does not appear to be insulated at all. I looked up the weather for Missouri and it appears that it can, in fact, get rather hot and cold there. So this seems like another, though much stealthier, death trap. Of all the garages we've seen, this is certainly one of the biggest, and that is the only nice thing I can find to say about this house.

Here's something nice to cleanse our palette:

I rarely say this because I do believe that most houses can be saved with a little love and effort, but it feels like the only option here is to bulldoze this to hell. Give this land back to the deer. They will be better custodians of it than whoever did this.

This week's house has been listed on Zillow for $345,000 for 38 days. If you buy this house, good luck against that creepy bathroom podium thing. I shan't be visiting.

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