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Zillowing Out

A $600,000 Home That Will Trap Us Forever

Chris Thompson/Defector

This upcoming weekend is the one-year anniversary of me moving to Philadelphia and into my house. One day, I will write something proper about where I live, but all month I have been incredibly nostalgic for things that happened only a year ago. Moving here was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and, like a good marriage or a great meal at a new restaurant, it's a choice you can only appreciate in retrospect because when you make it at first, there is so much potential for it to go wrong.

Things went wrong, of course, but they only made me prouder of my little house and my little life and this very big choice I made and feared would snap back on me like a rubber band pulled too far. All of this nostalgia has made mushy about the process of moving and looking for a place to live. It has made me optimistic in my searches on Zillow. I have looked at the ugliest, dullest house and thought, "Someone could love that and make it great." I had rose-colored contact lenses in and no intention of taking them out.

And then I saw the house that Mandy sent in.

This week's house is listed for $600,000 in somewhere called Zanesville, Ohio. I looked it up for you, expecting Zanesville to be a direct suburb of a city, thus justifying any house listed for $600,000. It is not. The housing market is still just phenomenally fucked. It costs $600,000 for a house in Zanesville, which is almost exactly between Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Mandy wrote, "I know this one is in Ohio but... I'm still somehow shocked, horrified and each photo got worse and worse." That's terrifying, don't you think? What's even more terrifying is that this listing has no photo of the front of the house until the very end. The curb appeal is so bad that it must be buried deep under the photos of... uh... poorly furnished bedrooms.

Luckily, I have withdrawn it from those depths for you to see. Here it is:

Screenshot: Zillow

Yikes! That's not good! The stats are also scary. We've got five bedrooms and six bathrooms. That's big but not terrifying. But. But! We have 8,800 square feet. That's spooky. That's too many square feet for that many bedrooms.

Still, if we keep our rose-colored contacts in, we could imagine this being a lovely garden. It's such a big yard! If we loved it, and planted so many things, and put trellises on that weird wall, maybe it would feel more like a barn and less like a spooky prison. We could paint that top part red. That would help right?

Here's the living room:

Screenshot: Zillow

My body recoils from this. It is painful for me. I have to fight myself very hard to convince myself that we could fix this. Sure, it would be a FULL gut job, but we could try.

Everything here is gray, which—famously—I hate, except for this kind of cool strange table. That can stay, I guess.

But the floor will have to come out. It's laminate anyway, so that'll be fine. And the cabinets will need to be painted. Someone will have to chisel that backsplash with the stripe out immediately before it ruins my life.

Somehow the most offensive part of this room, to me, is whatever tile work is happening behind the wet bar sink in the middle of the room. First off, why do you need a wet bar seven feet away from the regular sink? That's ridiculous. Second off, who approved this tile!? I would like to fight them with my hands! I hate it!

Here's a better shot:

Screenshot: Zillow

NO, THANK YOU. I do not like that this fireplace looks like it could fall off at any time. I do not like that this picture ledge only has a few photos and the only one hung on the wall is one of two football players? Why is that there?

And now i see that this weird tile is also above this window above the sink all the way to the ceiling. What are you doing that is this messy!??!! Why are you doing that! From this angle, I do think that maybe with a backsplash change and a paint job this room could be salvaged. My contacts remain in.

Let's move on:

Screenshot: Zillow

It is rare that we see a room in this column that looks like a normal kids' room to me, but this seems fine. I don't love the way this bed is standing, and I certainly do not like that there is nothing on the walls, but maybe that was taken down for staging.

The two doorways (without doors) to the closet and bathroom are also strange. Let's peek in:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hm. There are minor problems in here. I do not like that this mirror is so, so tall and not centered over the vanity. I don't like that the shower curtain is pulled taut so we can't see what's going on in there. But for the most part, this looks normal.

Moving on!

Screenshot: Zillow

Wow, this is a real type of room. I have seen hundreds of these rooms because I sat in them to watch boys play video games during my teenage years, dark and terrible times.

I don't like carpet, but at least this carpet looks clean. With how much space we have seen in this house, though, I'm not sure why all the furniture seems to be shoved into this one room. How many armoire's does a person need?

Next we have a family room of sorts:

Screenshot: Zillow

I am begging the owners of this house to use a gray that is at least a little green. This gray is so dull it makes me want to gouge my eyes out. It is also kind of strange to me that this family has so many printed photos but they are all exactly the same size and that size is way too small for the wall.

It also does not make sense to need a sliding barn door in here. This house is huge. You can have regular doors.

At this point, I was feeling a little confused. Mandy had said, "I do not think I could make this house work, even if the house was moved to Chicago, where I live." But so far everything in this house seemed ... well ... kind of normal, if not well-designed or loved.

And then I got to this photo:

Screenshot: Zillow

This is a hard no from me. It is somehow worse than the house with the jails in that this looks like an actual prison where we could be held hostage. The walls are so dull in color. The floor is so bare. This mattress is so stained and warped that it scares me even more than that single oppressive light.

I gotta get out of here. Away we go into ... this:

Screenshot: Zillow

Nope! Nope! No.

My contacts are out. They are in the trash. I cannot even imagine who thought that including these photos in the listing would be a good idea. This is clearly supposed to be some kind of movie theater. But look at that one sad chair. Look how they didn't even cover all of this terrifying structure in carpet.

I cannot handle this at all. Here we go somewhere else:

Screenshot: Zillow

This room does make me feel better. It is neatly organized and also explains why some of that theater room looked half-way done. This is the home of someone with tools! Maybe they were making the theater themselves and I have just criticized it completely unfairly!

Let's see how this plays out.

Screenshot: Zillow

Well, I was right to judge. This is weird. I'm pretty sure these squares are soundproofing cubes, but they are definitely NOT going to do anything when there are only 10 of them in a little rectangle. As art, they are also bad.

I do like beer pong, so that part of the house is not objectionable to me, but this weird. I'm not even sure why this is in the house. Here's something else:

Screenshot: Zillow

So it's a bar? The dread is piling up in my stomach. "I also fear how the basement smells and how you probably could not ever fumigate that enough," Mandy said. Great point, Mandy!

Screenshot: Zillow

I'm so afraid. Why is this here? It looks like a coat check. I don't want to check my coat. I want to run away from here and not come back!

Screenshot: Zillow


Listen, I have been in plenty of dingy strip clubs. I am familiar with the ways of the pole. And this is the worst I have ever, ever seen. What is happening to the ceiling? Why are these mirrors so dirty? What kind of terrible, psychopath shit was happening in this house that they would need this room, a coat check, and a full bar, underneath their regular family home?

I regret my optimism. I regret ever having any optimism. I reject all optimism.

It's even weirder when you realize that this monstrosity, this giant haunted house of horrors, is plunked right in the middle of a regular suburb!

This has been a journey that I have hated. My gut is filled with bile. I hate it here so much.

This week's house has been listed on Zillow for $600,000 for 11 days. If you buy this house, please leave me out of it.

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