Friday, January 4, 2008

Toothpicks and Tarpaper

Not far from here some farmer sold an acre along the highway to a real-estate developer. The developer shaved all the trees off, and in record time, using toothpicks and tarpaper, erected another of those "dream houses," aka "McMansions." It has columns out front and a little treeless yard. It has never had an occupant, not in four years.

Nearby, within sight, are three acres of pasture in -- get this -- a floodplain. There a developer built yet another dream house, dressing it up with curtains and porch lights. Every summer for four years now, the hopeful real-estate agent opens up one door of the three-car garage and parks a car in it, and puts a kids' trampoline in the back yard. But you never see any kids, because there aren't any parents dumb enough to buy a dream-house in a floodplain.

On a ridge just above it, visible only in winter when the trees are transparent, is a huge rustic barnlike "dream house" with a wraparound porch and dramatic rows of Anderson windows. The buyers wanted to run a bed-and-breakfast in the nice oak-and-hickory Missouri woods. Anyone could have told them that city folk on weekends don't want to bed-and-breakfast in the woods. They want to be able to walk up the street to have a latte and buy antiques. This dream-house was advertised for sale in the paper, for $550,000. It's still for sale, for $450,000.

Now, you and I know that most people can't pay $450,000 for a house, or even $300,000. Even $200,000 is a little steep for most families. And the economists are wondering how it happened that "the bottom fell out of the housing market."

1 comment:

Paula said...

Agree! Agree! This is what I don't get! When you build in idyllic seclusion - it ain't idyllic or secluded anymore! Especially if you build an enormous MacMansion. There was a balance to building before - trees and space around houses; time spent inside and outside, noise and quiet. Now the houses are ALL two-story, with no yards. On TV I see the houses that people are now losing due to the sub-prime crisis and I think - who's surprised! Look at them! Who needs extravagance like that?