Tuesday, October 3, 2023 Oct 3, 2023
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These Glass Houses Are All Above Asking

Open-concept homes are super cute, but where am I supposed to hide my true self? Especially when I’m having to pay ... how much?
By Alice Laussade | |Illustration by Robert Neubecker
Glass Houses
Robert Neubecker

My kid’s feet are bigger than his bedroom, so we decided it’s probably time to start looking for a new house to fill with our shin guards and never-used craft supplies. And the timing really couldn’t be better. Right now, everyone is paying $4 million over the asking price and the description of every house includes words like “BEST AND FINAL OFFERS ONLY.”

It’s super. 

Interest rates are going up. There’s a recession looming. And inventory of houses is still near record lows. From a recent Zillow report dated May 19: “Over the next three months, Zillow expects home values to grow 5.2 percent, down from an expectation for 5.5 percent growth in the previous month’s forecast. Zillow’s forecast for existing home sales has been lowered as well, now predicting 5.73 million sales in 2022. That would mark a 6.4 percent decrease from 2021.”

Translation: your Dallas home-buying forecast calls for 100 percent chance of bidding over asking against 110 potential buyers while the house is still marked “Coming Soon” on Zillow (no pictures available).

Even though it’s the worst time to try to buy a house and the whole process of counting your pennies to figure out what you can even afford is incredibly stressful, you get caught up in the excitement. Like, way too caught up. When you get a notification that “There’s a house in your zone!” the heart skips a beat. “In your price range!” You feel the promise of a forever-65-degrees-and-sunny future overtake you. “And zoned for your preferred elementary school!” Holy outdoor kitchen. The Wordle can wait.

You click the link, and the description starts off great: “This two-story stunner in the sought-after neighborhood of White Lake Hollowlands boasts a master suite on the first floor for ease of passing out after a long week of trying to pay off this house, and so much shiplap, it’s an actual ship now. You ship this home.” But then comes the bad news: “This isn’t a house—it’s an experience.” Oh, no. 

Depression hits you in the face like an elbow in the wave pool at Hurricane Harbor. You’re in the “This house is an experience” price range. This is the moment you question your liberal arts degree.

An “experience”? What does that mean? Is it an immersive “experience,” like every new art show that comes to Dallas, since our culture is no longer equipped to quietly appreciate static things that aren’t on a screen? Or is it an “experience” because there’s a Resident Taqueria inside it, and every morning Andrew Savoie is in the kitchen casually whipping up some mushroom fundido for your family? Are we calling it an “experience” because it’s haunted and you’re only going to sleep never, or because it smells like hot cat?

I just want the house to be a house. I don’t need a house with experience. I don’t need my house to type 1,000 words per minute and understand all the best shortcuts in Excel—or do I? 

I thought I knew what I wanted in a new house. I just had a few simple non-negotiables: 4.5 bedrooms (each including a dresser with a sock drawer that auto-replenishes socks in matching pairs), seven baths (each with a bathtub inside the shower rather than the other way around because it’s 2022, and we’re gonna glass-in and subway tile the heck out of the bathroom), an infinity pool in the heart of Richardson ISD (preferably overlooking an LA Fitness parking lot, but that’s not a deal-breaker), a pantry the size of a Whole Foods (complete with shopping carts and a self-checkout lane), and a conveyor-style cabinet that serves up the exact Tupperware (with matching top already affixed) that I need for the leftovers I’m trying to put away. It’s not too much to ask.

Recently, I walked a house while an agent was FaceTiming with a client. (Yes, we live in a time when people are putting down cash offers on houses based on virtual tours. Marty McFly would be so proud.) The agent was describing all the features in detail: “It’s an open floor plan, and the kitchen has great natural light. Plus, look! There’s a pot-filler right over the stove!”

(Before you get as excited as I did about this news, a pot-filler is not a marijuana valet. A pot-filler is an amenity in kitchens that allows you to fill a pot with water while it is on the stove, without having to undertake the arduous task of walking across your kitchen with a pot full of water. A pot-filler will be the first thing that breaks in your new house. It will begin to leak after it is used exactly one time. And it’s OK that you still want one. I want one, too. They are quite shiny. Siri, add it to the must-haves list.)

Quick question, though: where in the name of Ebby Halliday is everyone’s stuff supposed to go in these open-concept homes? There’s one floating shelf in every new build, and that’s it. Why do y’all have only five books and so many empty vases? 

Every home organizer wants me to trade my current possessions for 1,000 clear containers to store fewer possessions. “Sure, you have a Ford Explorer. But do you have a clear container system to store it in? It needs a system.” We are living in the Golden Age of Containerism. That walk-in pantry with pocket doors in your kitchen is great, but you really need more wicker baskets to store your single-serving snacks. Throw away the cereal box and dump your cereal into a clear container. Do this 4,000 times to complete your perfect pantry. Now organize it like a rainbow, whether that is convenient for using these products or not. If you have a drawer in your home that doesn’t have a box inside it, are you living in 2022? 

Where in the name of Ebby Halliday is everyone’s stuff supposed to go in these open-concept homes?

If a house is zoned for The Good Elementary School, there will be a $300,000 markup because there are peacocks nearby. Parents are fighting to get their perfect little baked-white-cheddar-Cheetos-loving 6-year-olds into that school and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through their PTA just to inevitably dump their kids to the same junior high as everyone else once they’re 12 years old. It makes perfect sense. Every kid in the 75243 is watching Moana all day for at least a week after the STAAR test is over, but these kids will also have a curated outdoor garden-farm that will be deep-charred by May 1. It’s called learning, OK? If they don’t know how to fry an herb garden by the age of 8, are they even Texan?

Every house on the market comes equipped with a Peloton room because that’s what we all bought during the End Times. That’s the one thing we all agreed upon when we had no schedule and beautiful weather: the lifestyle of indoor cycling. Gotta have an entire room dedicated to the 27 minutes a month that I have my Jess King time, right? 

Who needs a room dedicated to that much guilt and shame? I’m already Catholic. Let’s replace it with a spinny bookcase door and make a hidden room for when I just need a minute. I’m talking minifridge with the good ice cubes, a nice bottle of whiskey, my own set of snacks and movie theater candy that the kids don’t know about, maybe a weighted blanket. It’s time to trade the pain cave for a recovery suite. 

Let’s ditch the modern farmhouse for a modern pasta-house. Put a Lucia in my Peloton room RTFN. Or a modern couch-house. Just make the whole place out of couch. 

And while we’re making changes, let’s strike “open-concept floor plan” off the list. Is the walk-in closet the only place with walls in every new house? “The entire first floor is open-concept; it’s perfect for entertaining.” Is it, though? Have you ever hosted a party? Because you’re telling me everyone can see my whole house when they come over. Which means every single square inch of this modern farmbarn must be cleaned before they get here. You’re giving me nowhere to hide a clean pile of clothes and two carloads of seventh-grade hormones. What a nightmare. You simply cannot in good conscience sell an open-concept house to a person who has a drum set, a clarinet, a humbling case of acne, and a PS5 in one living space.

Maybe we aren’t ready to move after all. Maybe it’s time to stop offering asking price on houses, only to get laughed out of the backyard oasis. Maybe for now, it would be better to focus on making my current house more of an “experience.” Time to add a pot-filler and start packing up these walls.

This story ran in the July issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Living in Glass Houses.” Email [email protected].

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