Not to re-visit the days of when we were moving last fall, but moving sucks. I mean, the moving itself sucks, but, worse than that, the process of buying a house sucks. One of the things I said somewhat frequently while we were in the house hunting stage was "why can't we just buy a house online?" I was somewhat serious about that, too. I mean, you can buy virtually everything online. You can even buy a car online. Why not a house?
Don't get me wrong, I understand why you can't buy a house online, but I don't like it. When we had to get a new car, I wanted to want to buy that online, too, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. A car is expensive enough that I wanted to "feel" the car before deciding on it. We did look at options online, but, in the end, we went down to the dealership and checked out the cars and test drove and all of that stuff. I can't imagine, in that sense, actually buying a house online. I'd need to go "feel" it, too.
Except the process of looking for a house is so horrid, there should be some kind of process for it online! There just should be.
A few months ago, while watching a period show with my wife, she said something along the lines of "I bet those are Sears catalog homes" about a neighborhood in the show. I had to pause the show and say "what?" Then, after she explained, I had to say "what the heck!"
Because, see, before there was the Internet, you could buy your home online. Okay, so not online, but from a catalog. Seriously. Sears offered houses, HOUSES, in their famous Sears catalog.
We all know about the Sears catalog, right? Who, growing up in the 70s and 80s, didn't await the Sears catalog with great anticipation every winter so s/he could sit down with it and circle all the toys s/he wanted for Christmas? That's what I though. Maybe some kids still do that? I kind of doubt it. I only know that my kids don't because we don't get the Sears catalog nor do we shop very often at Sears (which I'm sure is a part of why Sears is having... issues... these days). But we USED to love the Sears catalog and "window" shopping in it. Back before the days of the Internet changed all of that.
At any rate, back in the day, specifically the days between 1908 and 1940, you could order a house from Sears' Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans. To make it even more amazing, the price for a house was as low as $650! Yes, less than $1000! And the most expensive plan was only $2500! At least, in 1908, those were the prices. Yeah, so you had to own a piece of land to put the house on, but, oh my gosh, you could just flip through a CATALOG and pick out the floor plan you liked best and order your house. They'd deliver it right to your non-existent doorstep, pre-assembled and ready to be put together. Mostly, you could even do it yourself with friends and relatives much like an old-fashioned barn raising. This Is Amazing! And I want it to come back.
Okay, so it may have to wait until we start colonizing other planets and there is, once again, plenty of land available for cheap for people to build on, but, still, this is such an amazing thing!
As great as I think it is to be able to order your house from a catalog, to be able to pick a floor plan and choose your bits and pieces to fit that floor plan, customize that floor plan into something that is you; I don't think it's such a great idea in writing. Not that it can't be done successfully. Plenty of people do it: write by formula. Plenty of people enjoy reading it, too. I just don't enjoy it. It can be kind of interesting to see how people make the formula their own, but, in the end, I generally feel like "I've been in this house before." Unless you've done some pretty spectacular job at customization, it gets a little boring wandering through the same old floor plan over and over again.
Honestly, I feel that way about houses, too. If I could, I would design the general layout of my house myself. The thing I want out of a house is not something you can buy anywhere today (but that's a different topic). There is no existing layout for what I want. It's not the big house in the woods kind of thing. Or the big house on the hill. Or any of the "big house" ideas that most people have about big houses. It's so much not that that my wife was actually surprised by what I want out of a house. I want the same kind of thing out of my writing. I don't think I'm there, yet, but I am working on it. I think, based on the number of people who have said things like "that's not what I expected (but in a good way)" about my book, The House on the Corner, I'm getting there, but I'm not all the way there.
Still, the idea of being able to order a house online is awesome. Until I have the resources to design my own house, I'm all for the idea of the catalog house!
[Oh, and just to mention it, Sears wasn't the only company that sold catalog houses, just the most well known.]