16 March 2007

Flipped Off: How Speed And Greed Kill Houses

DON'T KILL THIS FLIPPER. Save your rage for those d-bags who
ruin houses and then jack up the price.


Know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get a pump-action 12 gauge Remington and ventilate the liver of the next "handyman" I see attempting to "flip" a house.

Yeah, OK - I won't. Yeah I know, I'm all Buddhist and stuff and the whole shooting somebody with a shotgun kinda runs against the grain of the whole compassion thing. (Yeah. Kinda. -Ed.) But I'm hacked at what I see these guys doing to houses, not to mention to what they're doing to prices, and I desperately need to vent my anger by at least soaking one of these guys with a squirt gun filled with wee-wee. That's harmless and it'll get the point across, right?

Let me back up. Here's how I hyperextended my spleen on this particular subject.

Teresa and I are in the market for a house. We have to get something by July 1 because that's when our lease is up. Besides, Crashy McThunderfoot just moved in upstairs, so our apartment is kinda like living in the basement of a bowling alley now. If only to save our eardrums, we must move.

So we're out looking for houses now. You are already well acquainted with my inclination to obsess on turn-of-the-century Craftsman architecture, not to mention work myself into a pungent lather over small domestic gems of the early 20s. So the first house we go to was - at least architecturally - a classic small Craftsman bungalow. My kinda place. Looked great from the street. But oh, Sweet Mother of Gustav Stickley what this man - the owner, who we'll call "Flipper" - had done to the place. It was obvious in very short order that he had tried to flip this house - to improve its appearance quickly and on the cheap so's to fool the first cloth-eared bint with a swollen wallet and leaden aesthetics that walked through its ill-hung front door.

First of all, he must've got the paint and plaster buckets mixed up. The place needed plaster desperately. What it got was 36.8 coats of paint. Even that did not stop the canyons that were forming in the walls even as we watched. Then he replaced all the interior doors with hollow-core pieces of shite; turned the kitchen into a mustard-colored, black-marbled, 1970s love pad, and then - and THEN - painted the Christ-all-freakin'-mighty out of the exterior without - withOUT! - scraping it first. It looked like a case of post-adolescent acne that got a dermabrasion treatment from Lizzie Borden.

Needless to say we didn't buy it.

But - man! - don't you think people like that oughtta be arrested? At least? The Craftsman bungalow is an American architectural icon and legacy. Anyone who compromises one of these places in any manner should at the very least be forced to live in a rusted-out single-wide on the Hanford nuclear reservation. Surely there must be some rule of law whereby these speedy, greedy Home Depot recidivists can be flogged in a very conscientiously designed village square.

But no, this is America, and those who throw art into the meatgrinder of commerce get their own TV show. And those who throw Thomas Kinkade on their walls are looked upon as "art collectors". (Frankly, I'd rather draw on my walls with a poop crayon. But that's just me. And my poop crayon.)

So off we went and continued down the list of homes that we had decided to view that day, and the next was no better. Someone had turned the back porch of a cove-ceilinged 1920s cottage into a very long, narrow bathroom - or rather Bathing/Pooping Assembly Line. If you turned sideways in there you'd be trapped forever. Best to just face the wall and move along. And again, plaster that was practically basted with dusty flat cheap-ass acrylic.

Oh, the price on both of these palaces? 'Bout $380k. I think you can buy Utah for that much now. Which brings me to my next point, which is the fact that house flippers have contributed in no small way to the hysterically inflated prices of real estate in our formerly affordable neck of the Pacific Northwest. (Not exactly so. The increased focus on Seattle because of the Grunge Movement, microbrews, our "liveability" index, and MegaJillionaire Paul Allen's Seahawks - not to mention overpaid Boeing veeps, Genentech billionaires, Immunex zillionaires, a feistly little startup with a can-do attitude called Microsoft - and - the predilection of the mossbacks to fleece California transplants all contributed in their own small way. -Ed.)

Yeah. So. Poop. Not going so well so far with the whole house-hunting thingamadillyo. However, we are venturing down to Tacoma on Saturday to take a look at a Craftsman we found there for a buck-two-ninety-five. We've discovered that you can still find unmolested architectural treasures in Tacoma for cheap. And we've been assured by our agent that the low, low real estate prices have nothing to do with the fact that the city is riddled with crime and smells like baked ass, or that "Tacoma" is the Salish word for "the place where evil dwells". We'll give you a full report when we get back.



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