I Want a House with a Revenge Pool

Now if I could only just get Ryan Gosling to build me one.

Often, in the evenings, I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood that’s adjacent to the one-half of the duplex I rent. This neighborhood is gorgeous, historical and eclectic. While there are many Craftsman-style homes, there are also a good mix of Spanish Revival houses, and even some Tudors. One home looks like a castle. Another one looks like something right out of a Tim Burton movie.

I love to look at all these houses and wonder about the people who live in them. I imagine they have those perfect, idealized family lives where everyone eats dinner together and they take turns on who has to wash the dishes that night. (Although the people who live in the Tim Burton home I imagine to just be ’90s Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp.)

As Christian Louboutin, the famous shoe designer, said, “A house is very much like a portrait. I cannot disconnect houses from people.” I think he’s right. When I imagine the home I want to own, it’s a portrait of who I am, or, more likely, who I want to be.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place is to find the houses that have some sort of historical or architectural significance. Last year in Key West, I toured Ernest Hemingway’s home for the second time. I walked through the rooms listening to our bohemian tour guide, but mostly looking for the six-toed fluffy residents of the home.

Sam Howzit. CC BY 2.0.

While trapped on the upstairs terrace because of a heavy downpour, our tour guide told the story of Hemingway’s second wife who had a deep well-fed pool put in while her husband was away working as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. When Hemingway returned home he was exasperated by the exorbitant cost and supposedly flung a penny on to the ground in front of her and said, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”

Pauline Pfeiffer was kind of a badass (She was journalist in her own right and worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue!) and she had the penny embedded in the concrete by the pool. The penny apparently became a talking point for Pauline, who at her house parties loved to tell the tale of taking Hemingway’s last cent.

Hemingway’s last cent. inazakira. CC BY 2.0.

I love this story not only because it’s sort of a great revenge story, (Pauline had supposedly caught wind that Ernest Hemingway having an affair while he was in Spain, so the expensive pool being built over his beloved boxing ring was possibly an attempt at spiting him.) but because Hemingway’s possibly apocryphal comment is forever immortalized in this place with Pauline getting the last laugh as tour guides retell her story long after she no longer could. Although this place is called the The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, I imagine it’s really more of a portrait of Pauline’s life, as she lived there long after Hemingway left Key West for good.

Unfortunately, I may never get to have my portrait house with the revenge pool in the backyard or at least it will be a long time coming. Housing where I live is getting more and more expensive and out of reach. The Orlando-metro area was ranked second as one of America’s 25 fastest growing cities, which is great for job growth but not so great when housing shortages cause prices to climb.

And then there’s this tidbit from The Washington Post:

“For years, millennials looked at owning a home as a distant fantasy. Student debt and a weak job market seemed to conspire to keep this generation stuck in their parents’ basements, if not permanently locked out of the housing market.”

“But as millennials find better-paying jobs, start families and begin searching for their first homes, they’re encountering an unfortunate reality: Just as they’re finally ready to buy, the housing market has the fewest homes available for sale on record. And those that are for sale are increasingly priced at values inaccessible to first-time buyers.”

My parents bought their first home in their late 20s. Built in 1975, the house was by no means a stunner, but it had a large backyard and was located right next to our elementary school. More than that, it was a home that held our memories. A place where you could mark the heights of your growing children on the wall and buy your kids a puppy without worrying about your landlord making you a pay a pet fee each month.

Besides the sentimental value of owning your home, there’s also a huge financial hit for being unable to accomplish this goal earlier in life.

“Housing experts say homeownership remains one of the primary ways for the middle class to build wealth, despite the ups and downs of the past decade. And with mortgage rates beginning to creep up, millennials who have to wait to buy could miss out on historically low rates.”

“‘Owning a home for a longer period of time creates more wealth,’ said Christopher Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. ‘If you shrink that amount of time, you’re going to shrink how much wealth it creates.’”

I can pretend that the reason I want to own my home is to create more wealth, but for me it is more about finding a place that’s all mine, my own little piece of the world.

In “Keep Calm . . . It’s Just Real Estate: Your No-Stress Guide to Buying a Home,” author Egypt Sherrod, host of Property Virgins, describes what it was like buying her first property:

“Don’t laugh, but the moment I got the keys to my first property, I cried like a baby. In that minute, I realized I owned a piece of the earth. Land is one thing we can never make more of. It is what is on this earth, and I actually owned my own little piece of it.”

I feel ya, Egypt. I look forward to crying like a baby when I can buy my own piece of the earth, too.

Brittany Morrisey is a freelance writer living in Florida. She occasionally writes things on the internet for other people to read.

This story is part of The Billfold’s I Want It Now series.

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