Am I a Voyeur?

It’s dirty little secret time and here’s mine: I’m obsessed with looking at real estate web sites, especially when there are photos to go along with the listings. And I know that I’m not alone. People in the US have been buying and selling houses like crazy over the past few years. The flipping of houses has become a hobby/business for some. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Two years ago almost to the day we made an offer on the house I sit in now. It was the first property purchase for both my husband and me and we were shit scared. In the two years that has passed, that fear has not really gone away and what I’ve come to realize (and what I suspected all along) is that owning a house is a) overrated and b) a huge pain the ass.

Gone are the days when I can call my landlord and tell her that we need a plumber to fix the shower head or that I can take money off my rent for painting the windowsills. Long gone are those days. Now it’s all up to us to fix and pour money into and every bit of chipping paint and leaking faucets sends a chill deep into my heart.

But we knew what we were getting into. It was just that time in our lives when we had to buy or else face the fact that we were throwing money out the window.

And so we bought and so here we are–not in our dream house (I don’t think either of us actually has a dream house–a dream location maybe but not a house) but a place that is attractive and comfortable and that will hopefully appeal to some family who is willing to pay us more than we bought it for.

So if I find owning a house egregious, why the obsession with looking at real estate? There are several factors at work but the biggest one is that I’m nosey.

There. I’ve said it. I like looking at the photos that are available with the houses for sale. I like seeing how people decorate and what sort of geegaws people have (for example, I’m amazed at how many people collect porcelain dolls! I’m terrified of the things but apparently I am in the minority). Also, I like to count how many visible television sets there are (the norm is around three or four per house) as opposed to the number of books, which are few (and I know that real estate agents tell you to pack up books and things to depersonalize the house but I don’t think this is why I don’t see many books).

I’m also fascinated by the wall color/covering choices people make. My mother warned me about wallpaper while I was growing up (seriously). She told me time and again that you are best to choose something neutral because you’ll end up getting sick of the crazy design after a while. Apparently, many of the people whose houses I poke through online did not get the same lesson.

I like seeing how people set up their living space. Once in a while, I’m pleased to note that they have created spaces for conversation where there is not a television in sight. But more often than not, every chair and table and bed is positioned for better viewing on the tube.

I should stop here and say that I am not a television elitist–far from it. I love TV. Watch it all the time but not, I suspect, as much as most of my neighbors do.

This nosiness of mine is not a new thing. From what I can remember one of my favorite times to be in the car was at night because then I could see in through people’s windows. See the color of their walls, the glow of their television. From where I sat it all looked so warm and cozy. It looked like the people were having a happy life. A well-ordered life, without clutter and a puddle of dog pee staining the carpet.

Perhaps this is what drives me to write–the desire to see, to know how others live. To understand why it is they collect porcelain faced dolls and have psychedelic wallpaper. To envelope myself in their surroundings and know how it is they exist.

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