Skip to Content
Zillowing Out

A $700,000 Home We Can Spend The Rest Of Our Lives Updating

Image by Chris Thompson

I spent most of my childhood watching television. Had I known at any point before becoming an adult that writing for television was a job that regular people could potentially have, maybe my life would have looked different and my joy would have been tainted by desire. But I didn't, so it wasn't. We did not watch, in my household, prestige TV. We didn't have HBO. We watched sports and primetime network dramas and comedies. The rest of the time we watched either Law & Order or HGTV.

Watching thousands of hours of both of these shows led me to have two forms of inflated confidence, both of which are dangerous in their own way. The first confidence is that I could be a detective right now and solve any cold case. As I have yet to test this belief, it still remains. The second confidence remained innocuous for many years. Believing that you could do basically any home improvement project isn't of any concern when you rent an apartment. Now, though, it is a bit of a problem, because instead of doing something normal and hiring someone to do a task, I believe I can do it. Why hire a professional tiler to fix the hole in the kitchen tile with new tile when I could instead watch hours of YouTube videos and convince myself that I could make a mosaic? How hard could it be?

All of this is to say that I am (unwisely) undaunted by true fixer-uppers. There are YouTube videos for everything. It doesn't seem that hard to put up dry-wall. I've watched enough videos of people using Citrus-Strip on TikTok to know that it doesn't seem impossible. Because of this, I fell immediately and hard for the house that Julian sent in.

The first thing to know is that Julian also sent along a link to the obituary of the woman who had owned this house ages ago. Her name was Maria Jeritza and she was an opera celebrity. Love that! Here's what The New York Times said about her in her obituary:

She was, said one admiring Metropolitan Opera veteran, a "genuine 24-carat prima donna of the old school." When Maria Jeritza swept onstage — a tall, imperious, yet irresistibly feminine woman with a ravishing figure, exquisite face and shimmering blonde hair — audience knew they were in the presence of a star. And one of the things that made Miss Jeritza a prima donna was that she knew it too.

The entire obituary rules. She said she would spit in people's faces who brought her flowers instead of jewels. She had three husbands and many "close relationships." She was constantly suing people to try and keep scandalous facts about her life from being revealed. She hosted parties "well into her 80s" and maintained a box at the Met until the end, when she died at 94. It would be an honor to own her house, don't you think?

Julian said they found this house because their partner (like many people) keeps tabs on the houses for sale in his neighborhood. Incredible. What we have here is seven bedrooms, six baths, and uncountable square feet in Newark for ... $699,000. That seems underpriced until you look at the photos.

Here's the outside:

Screenshot: Zillow

From the outside, this house is a little boring. It looks like the grandfather of what later became McMansions. There is a nice symmetry to this house, which I appreciate, but all I can see when I look at the outside is a Pottery Barn catalogue. It just doesn't look interesting from the outside.

Once you step in, though. Look at this:

Screenshot: Zillow

Now we're fucking talking. This looks to me like velour wallpaper. I assume that it reeks of smoke, but it will be staying. I do not care that it is water-damaged in some places, we can put a painting over that. Look at it! Don't you want to touch it? I do. I also love the gaudy opulence of the red stairs with the gold walls, and the very high ceilings. It's a shame that some of this red wood parquet floor has been destroyed, but I bet we could find someone who would replicate it.

Next, we have this living room:

Screenshot: Zillow

Yet again, I love it. I love the detail on this flooring and have no doubt it would look great with a nice deep clean. The fireplace is a dark abyss, which is somewhat exciting, but look at that mount for a chandelier. We will need to find a chandelier, clearly. But that's a fun project. I think this wall should be painted a dark color, some kind of navy or like umber. The windows are big enough that the light shouldn't be a problem!

Next we have a library:

Screenshot: Zillow

Someone forgot to love this room, but that's fine, I can love it. The walls need a fresh coat of paint. The ceiling, in my opinion, should be wallpapered. Those shelves need to extend further along that wall, and we need some big leather furniture. I love my new life as a rich old opera singer with three husbands. I love it so much that I'm happy to overlook that weird hole in the ceiling that indicates to me that there is almost certainly a leak happening somewhere.

Here is the room next to that room:

Screenshot: Zillow

I would die for this room. Look at it!!! Look at these gorgeous squares of wood. Look how moody it is. Look at that intricately carved trim! Whatever these ugly white doors between rooms are doing, will have to be ended immediately, but everything else in here is perfect. I am starting to think that whoever buys this should wallpaper every ceiling. My new life of opulence and beauty is changing me.

Next, we have the kitchen:

Screenshot: Zillow

It does not surprise me that the kitchen is like this. I am certain (based on vibes alone) that this woman had people around who could cook for her. But it is a little disappointing to see such a big gorgeous room fitted with a design worthy of an off-campus apartment building. The honey oak cabinets are bad, and the tiles don't match, and the appliances don't match. This would need a full gut job. But most cabinets are terrible, and most kitchens are terrible, so that's not really a dealbreaker for me.

Here is a lovely staircase:

Screenshot: Zillow

Yes! Yes! Yes! I love it. There are so many things you can fix and remodel and dream up for a house, but character is not one of them. A staircase like this can't just be injected into any home. The home has to desire it. And this house wants to be loved in a way that only the 1920s embodies in popular culture. This house wants to host parties that people dress up for. It wants to have someone leaning over this railing shouting, "Bernice!" while a bunch of other people laugh. It wants a crystal punch bowl on every floor and it deserves it.

I mean ... look at these:

Screenshot: Zillow

Get the Citrus-Strip! It's time to make these doors shine! I will cry at their beauty.

Next, we have a big bathroom:

Screenshot: Zillow

Boring! This should be retiled entirely with tiny colorful tiles. Imagine if this whole room were tiled in 1x1 red squares. Or even black with a bold print above the tile line. That's the shit we like! The windows and deep tub can stay. They are very nice. But they might need storm windows on the outside to help with heating and cooling costs.

Here is a much better bathroom from the second story above ground:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hell yeah. This is the shit I like.

This bathroom is right down the hall from this room:

Screenshot: Zillow

I am usually adamantly against carpet, but I actually kind of love this pink plush, since I think this is the primary bedroom. I think this solely based on the fact that it has two full built-in walk-in closets, one of which has a safe in it. Though, I guess, this could have been a kind of wardrobe space.

There is another multi-room suite on this floor that has this gorgeous shoe holder built-in:

Screenshot: Zillow

*chomps cigar* They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

They do sometimes make them like this, however:

Screenshot: Zillow

Imagine uncovering this whole brick wall, staining, and sealing it. Imagine what beautiful wood must be dying to be uncovered beneath that carpet. Imagine the art we could hang to be spotlit by the overhead track lighting.

But I think Julian was right when they said, "The issue is honestly less the extensive neglect and water damage, but more just how much house there is. I imagine that rehabbing this house would easily exceed the sale price."

There are three whole floors above ground, and two (2!) basements. It's kind of hard to tell that just looking at the photographs, but that's because a lot of the house isn't photographed. The 360-degree tour, though, shows it all. From that tour, I know that this is the basement:

Screenshot: Zillow

This is sick. The room this is in, is very long, and at the end of it, is this sick bar. What you can't really see in this photo is that there are glass shelves all along those mirrors where you can store your liquor bottles.

This is only the second basement level. If you go down to the very bottom of the house you can see this:

Screenshot: Zillow

Can't you just imagine the hostess standing up there, belting her lungs out, her eyes reflecting the shiny crystals of the chandelier. Sure, this wallpaper probably needs to be replaced, and the floor absolutely has to be redone, but open your little minds! Imagine what it could be!

Julian finished off their email by saying, "Honestly, there's a lot I like about this house, it's just that altogether (especially with all the intense water damage), it's absolutely overwhelming. It's the house of a grand, aging, maximalist prima donna, and it deserves to be restored by some very wealthy eccentric with that kind of energy." I agree. And I think that simply, it should be me. If anyone is willing to fund this, please let me know, because the only thing I can think when I look at this mess of a house (for better or for worse) is: I can fix her.

This week's house has been listed on Zillow for $699,000 for 34 days. If you buy this house, please let me help you fix it. I want to throw parties there.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read another couple free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter