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  • J. J. Fischer

Dragon Leather, House Hunting, And Other Horrors

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Sometimes, life can throw so many curved balls at you that you're lured into a false sense of invincibility from other hardships.

"I gave birth to twins," you might say. "This will be a piece of cake in comparison."

Or, "I'm raising a three-year-old and I don't even drink coffee." (Hats off to you, my friend. You bow to no one.)

Between us, my husband and I have survived nearly dying (me), chronic illness (me), cancer (him), medical issues (both) and a litany of other crises. By this point in our lives, we're starting to feel a bit confident. That vaccine needle that would have sent me to the floor five years ago? Bring me another. That traffic jam that has everyone groaning in unison? Pump up the tunes while we wait.

A year and a bit ago now, Dave and I decided that it was time to tackle that daunting battleground of the late twenties/early thirties: the Housing Market.

Now, you wouldn’t THINK buying a house was going to be that hard. Not withstanding all the curved balls we'd already hit for sixes, we were two relatively smart, organised, on-the-ball young people with a healthy sense of scepticism and an eye for slick salespeople. A little wet behind the ears, but armed with notebooks and spreadsheets to learn everything we needed to know. We love Kevin McCloud and Grand Designs, but we didn’t have huge expectations… just something modest and liveable.

Little did we know that the area where we lived was entering a gigantic sales boom where houses were selling to Sydney dwellers without even being seen and the budget we had thought fairly sizable was suddenly about what you might pay for a cubby house.

(A cubby house in need of some serious renovations, mind you.)

Not to fear—this story ends happily, and we are now comfortably settled in a lovely three-bedroom townhouse with a cute little backyard that suits us perfectly. But just for laughs, let me introduce you to some of the most fearsome houses we encountered on our quest for a patch of dirt to call our own. Introducing the…

Not-So-Grand Designs—2021 Longlist

The “House-With-Extra-Water-Views”

If, when you get out of the car to attend a house inspection, someone pulls over just to yell out “don’t buy it," that’s probably a pretty significant red flag.

Furthermore, if the rather-too-honest real estate agent, who genuinely seems to believe that “asbestos is great for internal insulation” also tells you, “It’s a lovely place to live, you just have to own a kayak” and proceeds to tell you about the evening they recently spent comparing quotes for flood zone insurance for said house, what you need to do is get in that car and drive, drive, drive, my friend.

And that’s exactly what we did.

“Rubiks Cube House” This lovely dwelling was previously owned by a tiler who only ever brought home three tiles of a single variety at one time.

Like, I’m not kidding. This house was allergic to consistency. My husband and I lost track of how many different types of tiles there were scattered throughout the house. Red tiles, green tiles, blue tiles, little black-and-white ones. Each area (note I say area and not room) had its own patch of tiles and unique colour scheme.

Furthermore, the house was built in the 90s but was mysteriously full of asbestos. The kids dollhouse was the only thing I’d dare to put a deposit on, and unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale.

“Bleak House” Upon standing outside the door of this house, Dave made the apt comment: “That brick is as bland as a SAO biscuit.”

If you aren’t familiar with Australian biscuitry, this is a SAO biscuit:

I can only imagine that the SAO biscuit's creators invented it on a Monday morning after a particularly wild weekend, because it tastes like Boredom and smells like Existential Despair. When you snap it in half, if you do it slowly and make sure to listen closely, you can actually hear your Hopes and Dreams disappearing into a vortex of Perpetual Nothingness while small terrier dogs whine unceasingly in the background.

Believe me, it's true. Church youth groups sometimes do challenges where you have to eat as many SAO biscuits as you can in a row without stopping.

The only problem being, it's a biscuit so dry that you normally have to drink a glass of water to wash down each bite.

A lot like the house, in the end.

“Ape House”

Imagine for a moment that a small pack of wolves decided to join human civilisation for a while. They got themselves a nice, brand new house no humans had lived in before, a nifty little car, a pretty backyard.

Except they were still, like, a pack of wolves.

And that’s all I need to say about this house, really. Even though it was brand new, there were marks and deep, gouge-like scratches everywhere—on the walls, on the appliances, even on the ceiling.

Were the children that lived there previously part ape in addition to their werewolf DNA? How on earth did they reach the ceiling?

Unfortunately, the poor harried real estate agent did not know.

“Skull House” This delightful dwelling had skulls lining every shelf and plastering every wall. Perhaps the owner was a career gravedigger or simply had a morbid fascination with death, but needless to say, we ran for the hills.

“The Asylum” We didn’t actually visit this house ourselves, but we heard about it from friends who were looking for a home at the same time as us. It was a gorgeous house, by all reports (we saw the photos), except for the gigantic holes in the gyprock roof in every room… like a possum had gotten stuck in the roof cavity and decided to shriek its little guts out and the owner had gone insane, grabbed a broom, and started stabbing at the ceiling, trying to kill it.

At least, that’s what I like to imagine happened. “Great Expectations”

AKA “Why-Is-This-House-So-Cheap-Oh-That’s-Why House” This house was on the wrong side of town, but we weren’t daunted. (Actually, by this point we were nearing desperate.) By the look of the photos, it seemed like a lovely, fairly newish house.

That is, until we arrived.

Out of the front of the house was an old caravan that looked like it had once belonged to Davy Jones. Think barnacles, seaweed, perpetual dampness… the lot. I had to stop myself from looking around for the Kraken. But we weren’t going to hold that against it. We were looking at the house, after all.

The real estate agent, as it turned out, was the female version of Davy Jones, complete with terrifying eyebrows and dragon leather boots. (That, at least, solved the mystery of what happened to the Kraken.)

To cut a long story short, the caravan would have been a better buy than the house.

The Conclusion of the Matter

I'm not sure what great wisdom I can offer here, except to reassure you that God was exceedingly gracious to us and we are, I'm stoked to say, now living in a beautiful little place that is happily devoid of skulls and barnacles and, even more excitingly, does not require asbestos to maintain a consistent internal temperature. And when it rains, we don't need to run for our kayaks, or worry about the Kraken lurking in the flood waters hunting tirelessly day and night for the woman who sacrificed his hide in service of her wardrobe.

And that, I'm sure you'll agree, is quite a miracle.

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