So, how creepy would this be?

“On a scale of one to ten,” I asked my Patient Husband, “how creepy would this be?”

He said, “With zero being ‘not creepy at all’ and ten being ‘I’ve already called the cops’?”

Yes. It’s now Real Estate season. Signs are popping up on the roadsides faster than dandilions, and because I’ve been driving a lot lately (and stuck in interminable intersections in some REALLY nice neighborhoods) I’ve begun looking at houses and wondering what they’re like inside.

Writers like crawling into other people’s heads and living their lives. That’s just baseline creepiness for me: I’ll ask myself “What would it be like to live in a postapocalyptic world if all I had for shoes was what I’m wearing on my feet right now?” and in about fifteen minutes I have a rough outline of a story where someone’s hiking from Washington DC to New York. Most often these things get discarded, but sometimes they turn into stories.

Lately I’ve been looking at these two-hundred-year-old farmhouses and wondering how they feel inside. How it feels to standin a house that’s not linear, where the house itself goes at a right angle — or two right angles! How it feels to stand in an attic that meets itself in a T with windows on three sides.

And here we are, me stuck at red lights in neighborhoods I could never afford, looking at these curious homes with signs proudly proclaiming “Open House Saturday.”

Meaning I could go inside one of these houses to research floor plans. To experience existence in a house where all the rooms aren’t contained in a rectangular floor-plan.

I said, “So how creepy would that be?”

My Patient Husband, who I don’t believe has ever wondered whether he could walk from New York to Washington in the shoes he’s currently wearing, said, “I think that’d be pretty creepy. The social contract with an open house is that you’re there to consider buying it.”

So I guess for now I’m going to be stuck with YouTube walkthroughs of old famhouses. In fact, forever, because that two-hundred-year-old Victorian with the T-shaped attic just isn’t in the budget.


  1. S.A.

    Lol. As a writer, I can totally identify with this! In fact, I used to go to a lot of open houses just because I have this innate research need to know the floor plans of various houses. I need to know how in the world this house or that can claim to have 4 bedrooms when it looks like a 2 bedroom. What did the builder sacrifice to make this happen? Or was it a visual trick from the architect? I also, living in the Midwest, am fascinated by big city floor plan layouts in apartment buildings. How do people live like that?!? What kind of reclamation magic has this loft owner or that loft owner come up with to make a living space? I think the creepy factor is somewhat mitigated if your friends with a local Realtor and she’s familiar with your quirkiness. If you don’t eat the food she made for potential clients and you don’t intend to rob the place, they are usually okay with it. It also helps if you brag on/post her listings on FB because then it is called advertising, not creepy. You can also score big points by bragging on/pointing out neat features of the house to the other people looking at the house while your there to generate buzz.

    Also, as a middle school librarian, I find your post-apocalypse comment apropos. My 17 year old and I just read/gobbled up “H2O” this weekend and “the what’s on your feet when the apocalypse hits” was a big deal. I will never look at puddles the same way again.

  2. LS King

    Jane, we definitely are the same kind of creepy. (And um, yeah, I’ve done it before.)

  3. Jessica

    My mom LOVES visiting open houses, even when she’s not on the market. Usually the realtor is on hand, and she’ll just tell them up front that she’s not really an interested buyer, so they don’t waste time trying to market it to her.

    The owners are rarely there, so that awkwardness can be avoided. Even if they were, I bet they’d be flattered to hear, “I’m an author, and doing research for a story–I was hoping to see what this beautiful old farmhouse looks like from the inside.”

    And they KNOW there will be strangers traipsing through, so most private artifacts have already been hidden away.

    It’d be bad to make an appointment for a private viewing of a house that’s up for sale, but walking into an Open House? I’d do it.

  4. Elizabeth D.

    Yup, I’d do it, too. In fact, I have. It’s how we wound up finding our real estate agent for the house we did end up buying. That initial open house, though, was way out of our price range. We just thought it was pretty! Walking in, they had no idea how much money we had. For all they knew, we were cash buyers hoping to like what we saw! I don’t see any obligation, personally.

    I like to wonder about places, too. For me, it’s when I drive through downtown Dallas, and I look at all the offices lit up in the night. I wonder who is still there, what stories have happened there, what kind of days everyone has had. I imagine characters out of the dust. And I’m not even a writer!!

    Anyway, I’d go. I personally wouldn’t tell them you were there for research. I think that would take the awkwardness of it way up. I would just act interested. Because, you ARE interested. Just not interested *in buying.” 😉

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