Old and new

We live in a neighborhood full of old houses (50 – 100 years old) and huge old trees that tower over everything. It is the sort of neighborhood where every house is different (no cookie-cutter development tract homes here) and every house has character and charm.

Someone recently bought a house on a nice big corner lot in the area, and tore it down. The yard was full of giant trees and they chopped those all down. Every. Single. One. They built a new house right next to the old house’s foundation, and put it up for sale. Eventually (from what we gathered today) there are plans to put up a second house directly next door, on the space where the old house once stood, basically splitting the old lot into two significantly smaller ones.

From the outside the new house looks okay. The style does fit the neighborhood, and even though they took out all the trees in the yard, there are still enough ‘city’ trees (the ones between the sidewalk and the street) to provide a good amount of shade. But the inside….wow. Just…no. Color me underwhelmed, with an emphasis on the ‘under’.

There was an open house today, and because I love peeking into other houses – especially in neighborhoods where every house is unique – we stopped to take a peek. This is not the first time we’ve done this and sometimes we wander around raising an eyebrow at the previous owner’s decorating choices, or wonder quietly to ourselves what someone was thinking with some particularly strange sort of add-on, but most of the time, the houses are cute, and full of character and charm, because that is what you get when you get old houses, and that is the thing I love the most about them.

But this house has very little charm. The cabinets and finishes all looked cheap, and the bedrooms were like tiny shoeboxes. It reminded me of something I’d see in one of those cookie cutter tract homes – not the model homes where they pull out all the stops with all the best finishes, but one where the buyers went with the lowest priced, lowest quality options throughout.

But what’s worse than the uninspiring interior (because some of it could be fixed if the buyer had the inclination is that there is no yard. Literally. They have paved pretty much every single bit of it. If the people who buy it have kids, there is literally NOWHERE for the kids to go outside and play (unless they want to romp around on concrete). Nowhere for the new owners to plant a vegetable garden. Just…concrete, and a tiny strip of landscaping that separates the new house from the street and it’s soon-to-be neighbor.

I look at our own house, which is roughly 100 years old and which (like any old house) will always have a huge project that needs doing. Our yard is a mess of lawn and raised beds and who knows how many desiccated drip hoses buried in the dirt. Our back deck has so much dryrot the stairs (it’s a 2nd story deck) have completely collapsed. The floor downstairs isn’t level, and don’t even get me started on the walls.  But I would take our house, any day, over the thing we just toured. Our house has character. It has charm. Heck, it has a yard (no matter how much of a mess it might be), and not just a bunch of ugly concrete.

We wandered the house beside another couple who’d also stopped by to check it out, and they were muttering the same thing under their breath as we were. Why? What were they thinking? Who would *do* this? For the price they’re asking, the house ought to be gorgeous. It ought to be the kind of place that impresses you the minute you walk in. But it’s not. And it makes me sad, to see a little piece of the beautiful neighborhood in which we live be transformed into *that*.

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