I don’t know if I have to disclaimer this but this is indeed still safe for work! 😉 I don’t talk too much about real estate here but this is an obligatory real estate opinion that I feel should be read.
My sideline amusement these days is browsing beautiful historic homes on the Redfin app. It’s a real estate application much like Trulia, Zillow, Realtor etc. that catalogs MLS data for home shoppers and house perverts like me. All these real estate apps have more features in common than they are different but I prefer the Redfin app a little more just because of their home estimate feature. I find their home valuation estimator to be usually within 90% correct of market value which makes the whole houseporn viewing experience more realistic for me. If you like to know the general cost of the area and care about neighborhoods with good schools then Trulia might be better.
It’s not a house shopping thing. I don’t have much of a plan except to satisfy my weird visual attraction to man’s concrete and slab designs.
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Minus the gross decapitated moose head, everything else here is stunning.
Ceiling beams, purrrr.
So much history, so much detail.
Tudor style with the pointy roofs.
I like big beams and I cannot lie.
An age-old guilty pleasure of mine is looking at the creative architectural designs of traditional American manors. American – because we have borrowed from others and create our own style after our own diverse history. I especially enjoy perving on classic century-old restored manors because I can better imagine the superb quality and mindfulness behind each design. I’m talking about the detail-rich, century-old Southern manor beauties you would find in places like St. Louis, Missouri.
Those historical period details are rare in the Pacific Northwest. Up here it’s the classic Craftsman and recently, an endless supply of McModern luxury condos. The McModern is a millennial refinement of the McMansion stereotype, if you believe Baby Boomers carried themselves away with the McMansion, millennials have their own version with the McModern.
These ‘McModerns’ are popping up in Seattle (and in many other large cities) like mushrooms. As I speak, less than 3 blocks away from our residence, they are building an entire city block of McModerns and they were all sold even before completion. It is a stark contrast with the rest of our neighborhood that is traditional, 1,000ish square foot, lakehouse craftsman cottages for retirees and small nuclear families. I don’t think most McModerns are ugly but after you see one, you have seen a lot of them because they lack detail while making it up in sleek stylin’ and coolness.
They go really well with IKEA design furniture and they’re loaded with huge clear windows. I can’t begin to imagine the utility bills associated with these monsters. McModerns tend to be built by “eco-friendly” builders. That makes a lot of sense. Millennials are sort of on the sobering end of the Baby Boomer’s obsession with Californian King sized everythings so you have McModerns and Tiny Homes covering the whole spectrum.
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Houseporn doesn’t mean I don’t love my home.
It seems odd and definitely ill-fitting for someone like me who enjoy living and being frugal to profess my love for a perfectly spacious 10-foot vaulted ceiling, travertine marble, and the rich mahogany of finished Western Red Cedar wooden exposed beams but….well, I have needs! Is that odd? To me, it’s like staring at a beautiful man/woman.
But then again, let’s be real, it’s not just McModerns or McMansions. Those 1940s, 7,000 square feet, St. Louis manors would be pretty inconvenient for the modern family today too. You have to walk 2 city blocks to find the right person you’re looking for in those manors. It’s not practical either.
And yet, I end up looking at them for hours by going through each year by sold date. I’ve spent more time browsing 100-year-old refinished period pieces in St. Louis on the Redfin app than the actual city I live in. Hell, I’ve definitely spent more time browsing on the app than the ACTUAL house shopping in real life we did for the current house we live in!
Fun fact: we found our current house on the 2nd day and ended the search. When I told a friend over dinner this she proceeded to spit out her water. Our realtor said we were her speediest clients ever. The entire house search, buy and closing process from start to finish took us less than 35 days.
Believe it or not, I hate house shopping. I hate the waiting, the turmoil, the negotiation, the waiting and the heartbreak when something does go awry. Buying a house is an ordeal. You are fighting yourself and second-guessing everything, especially during inspection and negotiation.
My visual attraction to houseporn has nothing to do with a desire for ownership or house shopping.
It’s just like a relationship. Yeah, you see a spicy lookin’ Dutch craftsman as you walk down the block but it’s just for the eyes. You don’t want to live with the hot Dutch craftsman because you have a functional reliable house waiting for you to come home. Our three story ugly yet functional house brings in $50,000 a year hosting on Airbnb. What’s the craftsman going to do to keep you on different levels for guests? It won’t have a nice view from the third story balcony either.
Here is the thing:
Houseporn is a fantasy. It’s eye candy. HGTV is all unrealistic, spoonfed houseporn to the masses. Looks are important but a good house is more than just looks.
It has to be practical for your needs.
Maybe the additional converted mother-in-law unit will make the house incomplete without a garage to park in but it keeps one mother-in-law sheltered. Maybe the fence hides the exceptional garden you love to show off but it also keeps your dogs from running away.
My husband and I could afford with an 8,000 square foot lot with an L.A. party mansion style infinity pool in the yard…technically…but I don’t want to pay property tax on an 8,000-foot lot nor do I want the maintenance of a pool.
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When buying a house, it’s not just about aesthetics.
It’s like finding a soulmate. It’s not about how incredibly attractive they are or how much you would like to be in one. McModerns and McMansions might not be fitting for those of us who would like our utility bills to be under $500 every month in winter.
No, I don’t want to move. We’re happy in the house we live in. There is nothing wrong with our house, we love it.
A person can have houseporn fantasy and it is not a reflection of their characters as a person.
Houseporn viewing does not destroy my relationship with my dormitories. In fact, I grow to love our house more and more every day.
My house is real, with scraps, smears, and the occasional “Ewww the dog is dragging her butt across the floor” remarks.
Those big mansions are imaginary and I cannot love them more than what is my real home. Our house will never be anything like my dream 100-year-old St. Louis manor because…100-year-old houses are a can of worms. Plumbing, heat, and A/C are relatively new inventions and that’s a ripe old age for a house. If we buy an old manor, we have to upkeep an old manor. They’re beautiful but they’re hiiiiiiigh maintenance.
I rather have something that will take care of me at the of the day by keeping me warm and secure even if it’s not what you call an HGTV super model home.
Our reality house fits our needs and our budget but there is nothing wrong with a fantasy about a beautiful, buxom creation occasionally. Home is home.
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Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
I have been scouring redfin too. Like almost every day although we have no money to buy another house right now. Those historic houses are definitely beautiful. But I’ve been checking modern houses with basic colonial design (not a big fan of big or puts of windows).
I think it’s fun to look at houses. That way we kinda find out what we like or don’t like about a certain model, maybe until we actually live in it. 😀
I look at it for furniture too because some home stagers do that so well! *Shudder!!*
We have a lot in common except I am addicted to hgtv to get my house porn on. I record shows like beach hunters and Hawaii life and pretty much anything to do with waterfront or island living.
My daughter keeps asking why I am watching these shows and does that mean are we moving there. I’m happy with my home and property too. No plans on moving but can’t explain the fascination with these shows I have (another one is watching shows with insane backyard pools etc)
I can literally watch Drew and Scott from the Property Brothers like…anytime, anywhere hmmmm <3
What's the backyard pool show? There's one just for pools?
That’s my secret hobby too. I’ve been looking at houses on the Big Island for years now. I’m training myself for real house hunting when we finally move to Hawaii. 🙂 I’m not even looking for a nice house. It just needs to be near the beach and be on 3+ acres. We’ll build a small home if needed.
Not a big fan of Tudors. They seem so old fashion.
3+ acres in Hawaii?! Woahhh why? That’s big! Subdivisions? 😉
Do you like ceiling beams Joe?
It all depends on what you are use to with land I guess. You West coasters talk about big land as 8000 sq feet and I chuckle. My first budget starter home was 20k sq feet and probably cost less then a parking spot in San Francisco. I don’t think I’d want to own a home with less then half an acre. Then again land is cheap here.
I do fall for the house porn from time to time though. Especially here in the land of the Duponts of northern Delaware it’s cool to look at a turn of the century English style stone manor from time to time. I would never want to own one.
I am so looking up Dupont, ND 🙂
I need some space after living in the city for so long. Suburbia is still too crowded for me.
Ceiling beams are cool. 🙂
There are places on the west coast where you can get bigger properties too, but you gotta go out a bit further. This doesn’t make sense when you’re working because traffic is really bad. It works better when you’re not working full time.
Mike - Budget Kitty says
Well if that’s not a clickbait title I don’t know what is! My wife loves watching HGTV shows to see all the different types of houses. I don’t mind it but it’s a dangerous game, if you start seeing one beautiful kitchen or backyard pool after another you may become dissatisfied with what you have and be tempted to upgrade just to keep up with the Joneses on TV.
Hahaha “a dangerous game” I love it. Just tell her it’s OK to fantasize but don’t do!!
I should subcontract my house shopping to you – we’re in the market some time in the next 24 months…
The Luxe Strategist says
I like looking at houses in my area all the time, but I’m not actually serious about them. Just like to keep up on prices just in case!
I’ve lived in an old, beautiful apartment with tons of character. Crown molding, exposed brick, high ceilings. The heating situation was a HUGE pain. Old windows were drafty, and the apartment was freezing all the time. It wasn’t fun to have to wear a winter jacket at home. And my roommate and I were so cheap we refused to turn on the heat past 59 degrees!
Oh yeah I remember that on one of your posts! I like the industrial lofts in NY but they’re like…$3 million lolol!
Mrs. Groovy says
I’m not a fan of those rectangular shaped homes. They just look ugly to me.
I think our cathedral ceilings are 16 feet high which really makes a 1500 SF house feel larger. We’re also going for the exposed beam look too. My biggest problem with a large home is housecleaning, although I suppose if I were willing to spend money on a huge home, I’d be willing to spend money on a housekeeper.
The McModern are really really boxy. I would die to see pics of your ceilings after it’s done. It will be stunning!! Exposed beams are so visually rewarding. It will gather dust and does nothing but it’s lovely 🙂
Mr. Tako says
I use redfin for house shopping too, but I try to avoid looking at the nicest places. I know there’s always going to be a nicer house out there that’s prettier or bigger. With a bigger price tag too!
Most of those places just are completely unrealistic! I’d rather take an ugly duck with good bones that I can fix up.
SC | MissFunctional Money says
Oh man, I FEEL YOU on this fantasy. We spend so much time virtually touring homes — because even though we’re perfectly content in our little one-bedroom right now, one day we will (presumably) exit the honeymoon phase and want to not be on top of one another all the time. But I doubt it 😀
Have you ever been to Charleston, SC? I feel like the historic homes and exposed brick here would make you swoon! I take one look at the price and think, yeah, right, but then I see the wide porch, and the window box, and the working fireplace, and the floors …… 😉
Muahahaah no but I’ve even perved in SC real estate before!! Yes they are beautiful! I randomly Redfin cities just to peek around. Annnd it’s not $800 per square feet. It’s actually reasonable AND SANE!!
freddy smidlap says
lily, did you know we own a gigantic stone house from around 1865? it even has those exposed beams in the attic which we will leave exposed when we insulate and drywall it. it has leaded and stained glass in some windows and is a joy to live in. it just cost us a damned fortune this past year for a a roof and paint job. check out my post on not maxing out the roths for before and after. and then, while i was at work yesterday a chunk of plaster ceiling fell onto the dog bed and thank goodness he wasn’t on it. it must have been 30 pounds of rock-like potential injury. the house of usher is a lot of work and a big ongoing expense and it’s a good thing mrs. smidlap doesn’t mind putting in time on things like plaster.
Holy cow what, where are you guys? OK I’ll check out the post. I’m glad your pooch is A-OK. Old homes are a sh!t ton of work.
freddy smidlap says
we’re in buffalo, ny. the city was really down and out when we stole the place almost 20 years ago but has seen a the past 10 years or so. some day we’ll sell it and i’ll have a place with a garage and no longer have to scrape ice from the windshield in winter. it’s the little things in life, really. houses and land are cheap in so many places but you might end up socially crippled in those places.
The Curious Frugal says
I don’t even like cleaning our 850 SF house! Can’t imagine living in a mcmansion. Though now I’m going to check out some of those sites you mentioned…bad influence 😉
They have apps too 😉 😉
Hi there! Just happened to chance upon your blog!
I’m from Singapore and fellow Chinese (:
I look at Redfin and Zillow almost every week since we’re shopping for one. I do peak once in a while to look at those bigger and nicer homes that close to $2-3 million dollars. It’s nice to dream and see yourself in those type of houses. But reality sets in for me when I know I won’t need all that space.
Anything over 2,000 sq is unnecessary for me but it might be because we’re west coasters.
Chris @ Duke of Dollars says
There is a road near where I live fillllllllllled with beautiful houses – I’m with you! I love taking a drive just to see the different options and sometimes with their huge front windows, you can see how nice their rooms are inside as well.
Then reality hits and you see their account balance on the mortgage :p
Sarah | Smile & Conquer says
I guess I have to admit that I too have a houseporn habit, and it’s a contributing factor for the fact that we just bought a new house. We weren’t planning to move this year but after finding the perfect house online (just a few blocks away) we’re going for it!
I completely agree with the McModern’s…not my taste. They’re becoming more popular around here too but I much prefer older homes with character and charm. The place we’re moving to is over 100 years old and I love it.
Woah woah! New house?! Congrats!
I smiled at the note about your dog, ours does the same! Ewww!
I am an MLS addict too but not for big old beautiful homes, I love looking for rundown houses and picture how I could make them beautiful. I even tried once, but not that easy when you are not handy!
Wow!! Really??? Haha that sounds like a lot smarter version of the drooling houseporn that I do.
TJ @Half Life Theory says
Hi, awesome selections there…. beams are awesome! Most as far as that dark coffee colored look, have a certain visual appeal to them. It’s great you are coming out of the closet and taking on your addictions head on lol. Houseporn is BAAAAAAAAAD hehe
But yeah, even though you guys aren’t looking to buy or even want to at all, i think it’s a fun hobby. When i look at houses i did tend to use it as a visualization exercise. Kind of thinking…. what would it feel like to live here..
I haven’t looke in a while though, so this i guess scratched that itch in a sense. Cheers Lily!
I do the same TJ 🙂
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early says
I wonder if those of us in the PNW are just more obsessed with old buildings because of the fact that there are so few of them here, because I’m right there with you.
Ooh good theory! It could just be because I’ve been living only in big expensive cities with very limited builts and designs.
The Poor Swiss says
I also like old houses a lot. My grandmother lives in a 500 years old manor. I would really like to live inside and renovate it. I know a man not far from me that builds almost its entire house. These days I’m also a DIY furniture porn addict 😛 I can’t seem to stop watching DIY videos 😛
Hahaha that’s super cool! You know you can make a lot of money redoing old furniture and flipping it!
Dr. McFrugal says
My wife and I love looking at Redfin, Trulia, and Zillow too. Horray for houseporn! We don’t intend to sell our house or move into new one. But when people in our neighborhood put their house on sale through Redfin, we like to be house voyeurs to see what their house looks like! LOL!!! House porn… House voyeurism.. 🙂
Btw, we don’t have a McMansion or a McModern. My wife and I live in a McTransitional. The exterior of our house looks like a modern French cottage. And the inside is totally transitional style with neutral, muted warm/cool gray tones throughout with some elements of modern and traditional thrown in. We have a lot of plants too, which add an element of calm and beauty. My wife doesn’t like the uber traditional historic manor because she thinks it looks haunted. I tend to agree…
Oh man I think we have similar taste. Modernish take on the old <3. Because I still like modern bathrooms and modern kitchens. I have stalked every house on sale within an 8 block radius since we've purchased in our neighborhood, that's another topic hahaha.
NZ Muse says
I looooove Tudor houses (not many of those here). And 100 year old villas. And ranch style houses.
But I *want* a low maintenance boring house, and that’s what I can afford, and that’s what I have 🙂
I still keep an eye on listings, i like to see what’s out there and to see if for my money are there properties out there I would rather have (answer is still no!)
Haha same here. We’ll end up with practicality over looks. I can’t do much with 6000 sq mansions. I hate cleaning!! :p
Very interesting data on the Redfin app, thinking it 90% accurate on listings. I’m definitely going to pay attention more to this and try to use it more. Thanks for the tip.
It is pretty accurate. I know it doesn’t take account into externals like highways and loudness of street.
Accidental FIRE says
I also love Tudor style houses. There’s just something about them….
And you never cease to crack me up
Thanks yo yo 🙂
I like McModerns! I think they look really good, but good point about having a window break on you and then it would be pretty disastrous.
Marissa | Squirrels of a Feather says
This is hilarious! I know how you feel…we were actually looking for a home here in New Jersey for a while and are taking a break. It’s insane how little you get for your money out here; the taxes alone could buy a car (we are talking 18-20k/year). Hard pass. It’s even harder because my husband and I have very different tastes (I like modern, he likes colonial “boxes”…I also looove exposed beams). Besides the usual house buying issues, we also have feng shui considerations. Thus, the pool of buyable houses shrinks further and further.
Independence Engineered says
I’ve been in the market for buying a new house now for 8 months and there seems to never be a day where I’m not on Redfin or something! Looking at homes in my price range, but also looking at the nicer homes. Sometimes I feel like I just go and look at the nicely staged homes for future home ideas/interior decorating inspirations and etc.
I grew up in a McMansion or something slightly smaller than it in the Bay Area and at the end of the day I thought and still think the house is way too big for my needs. That said, McModern/Mansion are so nice to look at though. Goal right now is stick to my guns and the advice of Financial Samurai along with all the data I’m seeing and save for a house and buy when the down turn hopefully happens.