Monday, July 17, 2006

Looking for some surreal estate

Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an article about a new trend in the real estate industry - wherein home-building companies, to show off their model homes, hire actors to portray a "typical" family living in those homes. The idea, presumably, is to help potential buyers better visualize what living in these homes would be like, at least if they were better-looking and had nicer taste.

It kind of surprised me to read this story, because it was a tactic that seemed decidedly unWisconsin-like, unless things have changed radically in the four months since I moved here. But a closer inspection revealed it was a reprint of a New York Times article, datelined Santa Clarita, California. This was less surprising, considering current trends in the California real estate industry include charging $950,000 for a refrigerator carton under the 405 Freeway, plus forcing prospective buyers to write a love sonnet to the current owners, plus free pedicures for life, plus the sellers get to jump up and down yelling, "Big money!", as though they're on "Wheel of Fortune". (My wife and I considered all these options when we were considering a job in California last year, and decided moving to Jupiter was a more cost-effective option, especially considering I ended up not getting the job.)

Of course, hiring actors to hang out in Wisconsin houses might be a shrewd move, when you consider some of the houses we looked at in the Milwaukee area. For example, there was the house that was still being used as a "day care center", which meant as we were looking in the linen closet, the woman who owned the house was hanging out on the couch, smoking a cigarette and watching soap operas while the two kids in her charge slept on the couch next to her.

Most of the houses we looked at were empty, though, which meant that there would have been plenty of room for actors to ply their trades. And so in case we decide to look at houses again in the near future, allow me to help the real estate actors of the world find their motivation, because acting like the 19 Minutes household would require some specialized acting talents.

For starters, the husband and wife would need to spend much of their time debating whether it would be worse to have lace curtains in their bedroom, or no curtains at all. The husband would spend the rest of his time on the front steps, playing an incomprehensible game with his two-year-old daughter. The game basically involves taking small rocks and placing them in a plastic cup - but God forbid he tries to put the wrong rock in the plastic cup, because then all the rocks are dumped back out on the ground and the game starts over. The wife would also be in the yard, pulling weeds, then second-guessing whether they were weeds or plants that would have yielded beautiful flowers, had they only stayed in the ground for another week.

For her part, the two-year-old would divide the rest of her time between discovering the miracle of sock fuzz between her toes, and asking her dad to tell the "t-shirt story", which was the exciting story he made up on the spur of the moment about his t-shirt ("Once there was a mommy and a daddy. And one day they went to a store called 'Sam's Club' in a place called Flagstaff, Arizona...").

But there's probably a good chance that whenever we go house hunting again, the trend of hiring actors will likely have passed. And that's why I'm polishing up my sonnet writing, just in case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have the exact address of that box under the 405? The 405 runs very close to the UCLA campus and this sounds like a good deal. I can give the pedicures myself and I once had a poem published.