House Hunt: Experience One


Veronica’s mom, Kathy, is helping me on my quest for a reasonably priced home of reasonable size, reasonably close to Los Angeles. These small requests typically add up to a 1,100 square foot, 1.2 million dollar house down the street from a 7/11 decorated by homeless people asking for spare change.

This is a bank owned house for sale on the edge of Hancock Park, a place I aspire to live when I’m 36 with small children and a book deal. The surrounding neighborhoods are tree lined and darling. It is, however, spitting distance from Wilshire and La Brea. Paranoia permits me to imagine armed robberies and blaring traffic ruining the enjoyment of drinking my iced tea in the backyard. The price is $509 K – a relative steal. Buyer beware, of course.

I pull up to 624 South Orange and survey the outside: wood-slated, white-painted, big-ish mismatched windows. I move closer. I begin to notice strange additions, rotting wood, clues to what might be inside. Kathy isn’t there yet so I wait on the front patio that has been overzealously covered almost completely with cement. The previous tenants obviously had an aversion to yard maintenance. I can hear a pair of competing buyers walking around inside, the wood floors audible from where I sit. They leave and I wait until they’re out of sight until I go snoop around the backyard. As this is my first stop on my real estate tour de force I have no idea what protocol is involved in house hunting. I’m four steps into the backyard when I notice a french window has been left entirely open. So much for the lock box on the front door. I innocently step through the crumbling threshold and into the dining room. There is a strange odor that persists the entire length of my stay; a combination of cat piss, toxic mold, and old lady.

As the MLS description attested, there is hardwood flooring in the living room and dining room. The rest of the house is suffocating under thick cream carpeting that closely resembles a dirty, murdered polar bear. The stains are suspicious. I suspect foul play. I admire that they attempted to deep clean it, not knowing that whoever is going to buy this pieces of property will most certainly not be holding onto that soiled mess. The thought of walking barefoot on it scares me more than a HoJo in Vegas.

There are a reported 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, 1 of which has been done without permits. When I discover this room, which has the architectural bones of the outhouse I used to use at the ranch while my dad and brother killed ground squirrels, I sense that this is the culprit of at least 33% of the smell I previously mentioned. Tucked sneakily in the corner of the rear bedroom, the undocumented 2nd bathroom had a large hole in the ceiling allowing for a modest view of the sky above. How lovely. The ceiling bared no trace of a legitimate barrier from the elements. All I could see was broken orangey drywall and thin slats of wood supporting it. This is the same “roof” utilized over the “laundry room.” When Kathy eventually meets me inside she ponders what they did when it rained. This is a very thought provoking question to which I have no concrete answer. As the mold creeping up the wall of the adjacent bedroom might indicate, these people did nothing to thwart rain from pouring into their house, seeping through their walls, drowning whatever insulation might exist there.

The kitchen is large…extremely large. A “cooks kitchen!” I might have exclaimed if I could ever imagine sanitarily handling food that would enter my body in there. The floor is linoleum, the counters are that thick plastic nonsense, the cabinets are that fake birch people buy at Home Depot and use in rooms they don’t care about (i.e. the lavatories of an ice factory or the tool shed of a fish farm). There is an inexplicable row of bricks that emerge from the wall and then disappear into the shiny white paint again – gone forever, having shown no integral use or purpose for the space. There is an “island” in the center room that Kathy good naturedly points out that it is movable. I would move this whole kitchen straight into a giant blue dumpster if I could. She then looks around and asks, “Where do you put the refrigerator?” Valid point. Apparently in the tragedy of this kitchen “remodel” the contractor failed to install any electrical plugs…anywhere…literally. I don’t think the people who lived here (shudder to think) ate anything but canned beans and tuna fish.

The bathroom looks like it underwent a similarly inspired renovation as the kitchen. Both fireplaces have suspicious holes, one I surmise is where the rat that pooped in the closets got in. I feel as though this house is crying from the trauma it has been through and those tears are evident in the water damage that soaks through the cottage cheese ceilings. It’s so depressing to think that this was once a lovely and cared for home. One that was loved nearly 100 years ago. People that treat properties like this are the Michael Vick’s of home ownership.

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