There are websites that I regularly troll (Slate, Go Fug Yourself, The New Yorker, etc.) for information, gossip, good writing, and procrastination. But while I love reading The New York Times for many reasons, I have a secret passion (no, not for David Brooks) on its web page: the real estate section. It’s a strange habit, seeing as I don’t live anywhere near New York, I have the income of a shiftless hobo, and to be fair, it’s a bit voyeuristic. Nevertheless, on the weekends and on Wednesdays, I scroll down to the Real Estate section in the lower left-hand corner and look through such pieces as “What you get for… $400,000”. The price range changes every week, and it’s kind of cool to see that you could get a country estate in Wyoming for the same price as a flat in New Orleans. There’s a variety of snapshots of the exteriors and interiors of the homes, all artfully decorated and spruced up, though sometimes the ugly wallpaper or questionable furniture emerge.
Somewhat more intriguing are the spreads on fabulous foreign abodes, like this eco-friendly home in the Maipo Valley of Chile, where a lot of wine vineyards are. The NYT even dedicates a special online section to such manses, some of which are for sale and some of which just declare the owners’ exceptional taste, luck, and extravagance. It’s called “Great Homes and Destinations,” which sounds like a show on HGTV. I’ve no idea how they find any of the homes on display, but it’s fun (for me, anyway) to peruse strangers’ homes and mentally walk through.
On the weekends, there are special slide shows devoted to homes and apartments for sale in NYC and in the tri-state area, which always makes me feel good for living in the Midwest, where I can get twice the space for half the price. In fact, I went apartment hunting a few weeks ago, led solely by the come-ons of Craigslist, so it was sort of like a less glamorous version of the NYT real estate, except entirely devoted to Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
The language of real estate is hardly poetic: 2 BR, 1 BA, kitchen w/ dw, w/d in basement. Some Craigslisters try to dress it up a bit, exclaiming about the “charm” of the “hardwood floors.” My new duplex has hardwood floors in the bedrooms, though I’m not sure why this should be a selling point — you have to cover them with rugs so your feet don’t get cold wandering around! But sometimes you have to accept the “charm” in spite of itself.
So what secret haunts of erstwhile respectable web pages do you follow? Are you ashamed to acknowledge that you read the People updates on banal celebrity lives? (It’s okay; I do, too.) Do you spend too much time reading about baseball, or fashion, or books, or whatever? Well, I might suggest you add the real estate section of the NYT to your secret list, for a bit of wanderlust on a weekday afternoon.