The myth of the “good poor” kills me, the idea that people should have to point to their accomplishments and credentials to make clear that they don’t deserve to have to live on the street. No one should have to live on the street.
— Dana McMahan, in an essay for The Morning News, about buying a vacation house in Detroit.
I can’t explain the allure of a claw-foot tub, but I do feel it. I feel it in my bones.
This aggrieved response, in Salon, to the NYT magazine piece about Portland — why people move there, what they do then, and how the city is changing — makes some sobering points about how our culture views freelance work and the money that results.
In 2013 my husband had a salaried position and did some freelance work — freelance work he has been doing for the past 10 years — on the side. In 2014 he quit the salaried job to pursue freelance full-time and is making roughly three times what he used to. Had he left that salaried job for another, we’d have no problem. We’d produce his last two pay stubs and even though it was a new job his work history would demonstrate some indelible quality about him and we’d have our mortgage.
But it doesn’t work like that for freelancers. The invoices we send out every month, the checks we deposit, the estimated taxes we’ve already paid — none of it really means anything until we file our tax return. Freelance money, we’ve come to realize, isn’t like other money. At a time in our economy when a salaried worker can lose his job without warning and then be unemployed for months, if not years, he’s still seen as a safer bet than a freelancer. Our money doesn’t count, and neither do our jobs. This is cultural, I understand, and there are countless ways — from healthcare to the tax code — that our culture is set up to favor salaried workers.
No one who reads this site could mistake freelancers for slackers. But it’s true that when Ben and I both jumped off the freelance cliff, we didn’t consider the long-term ramifications in terms of things like mortgages. (Move somewhere significantly cheaper and buy in cash?) Anyone have experience convincing banks to lend to you as something other than a FT employee?
The best thing ever is when the Gray Lady goes slumming and, for her weekly Great Homes and Destinations round-up, looks at houses for less than $1,000,000. You can tell she’s trying to care about the lives of (relative) Normals and their six-figure real estate, really she is, but her heart just isn’t it. Observe: “The kitchen is a long, narrow room with stainless-steel appliances, rustic wooden cabinets and a high ceiling. Off the kitchen, there is a den.”
After that, there’s only the sound of muffled sobs.
We can do better than that! Herewith, Good Enough Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $539,000. And we’ll focus in on some of those Mid-Sized Cities you all were raving about.
Fantasies and gratitude for reality aren’t mutually exclusive! Or maybe fantasies distract from gratitude. I don’t know! It’s not greedy! Or is it?
This morning, the Grey Lady offers us properties that can be had for the negligible sum of $1,750,000. 121 acres and a chalet in Vermont! A 5,000-square-foot farmhouse in North Carolina! Something in California as well, but who wants to live in that drought-ridden state? The farmhouse looks the most intriguing:
The plan is center hall, with a living room with a bay window on one side of the entryway, followed by a bedroom. On the right is another bedroom now used as a family room, followed by a dining room. Each has a wood-burning fireplace. The kitchen is part of a long, open room at the back of the house, which has a breakfast nook with windows. In addition to newer stainless-steel appliances and a stone-topped island, the kitchen has a cast-iron Aga stove. Three more bedrooms are upstairs, including the master, which has a bay window, a sitting area, a walk-in closet and an en-suite bath. All bathrooms were renovated to period, with white tile and claw-foot tubs. The three-car garage, a 2009 addition, has a sitting area that opens to the patio and saltwater pool, an upstairs recreation room with a pitched wood-beam ceiling, and a fourth full bathroom.
Claw-foot tubs and a garage with its own sitting area and patio. It’s good to be the king. Also, in case you’re curious, as I was, an Aga stove is a retro, candy-colored behemoth.
So, what can you get for the more reasonable, although still princely, sum of $750,000 that will be pleasant even factoring in climate change? Crank up the Good Enough Homes & Destinations generator!
Mueller’s painting with too broad a brush. Not so much a broad brush, even: a flamethrower.
Sometimes, at a dinner party, or at another kind of event where you are meeting friends of friends and engaging in small talk, you’ll start off by talking about what you do, and then where you live, and how crazy the real estate market is around here and how that’s reflected on shows like Selling New York, and then you suddenly realize that the acquaintance in front of you has also watched HGTV on more than one occasion, and have they seen Love It or List It or Property Brothers?
I don’t have cable, nor own a television for that matter, and yet somehow, I’m aware of all of this. I’ll be traveling for work somewhere and will find myself in my hotel room watching someone put up a subway tile backsplash in their kitchen.
Why do so many people watch HGTV? According to Pacific Standard’s Phillip Maciak, HGTV is “so watchable because it features attainably realistic ritual re-enactments of the American Dream every half-hour.”
Today I talked to frequent commenter ThatJenn about utilities.