Our house is a very, very, very fine house

When will we escape Forbes?

Deadspin was a good site.


Let’s talk about a house. Specifically, a house I lived in.

The newsonomics of Forbes’ real performance and price potential

This isn’t the house, this is the building that used to be Forbes HQ before they moved to New Jersey for some reason. Totally unrelated.

Back in the day, right after I finished college, I stuck around in Fairfax, VA, for a while to do work for George Mason University and eventually work freelance, mostly from home. I needed a place to live, so I joined a bunch of dudes who had been in a fraternity with me (it was the Jewish fraternity, don’t get excited) in renting a house walking distance from campus. We all knew each other well, and we, as a group, were mostly graduated. We all went in together because we wanted to hang out, have a porch, a place large enough to throw the occasional party, and a big room where we could put a big TV. It was our early 20s, you know?

I didn’t set up the agreement, but I moved in after the first few months they were. I liked it because I could claim the master bedroom, have my own bathroom, and be near people who would pull me out of my 80-hour work weeks to see sunlight and eat normal food.

We rented the house for under market price. I’m not sure how much under market price, but perhaps a lot under. The house had been expanded by its owner and they did not do a good job. There was a cheap conversion of the garage into the aforementioned big room to fit the big TV. Also, someone hadn’t had the foresight to understand why putting the A/C vent at ground level behind the leaky sink in a second-floor bathroom was a bad idea.

We had a sort of unspoken agreement with the owner; he charged us a very reasonable rental rate and mostly ignored the consequences of renting to a group of 20-something bros, as long as we kept the front lawn clean and well mowed. In return, we didn’t mention the fact that the basement washer and dryer (the basement was supposed to be its own living space) didn’t work, or that putting vents at flood-level caused the occasional drip into the kitchen, or that the hill to the bottom entrance was impossible to back a car into if you wanted to unload furniture. We would only really call when something life-threatening happened, like when that downstairs dryer lighting on fire, or the time the garage-expansion started smelling like we’d entered a hell dimension because the leaky vent caused substandard drywall to degrade into sulfur.

The house was in a nice neighborhood for families (walking distance from a school even) and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rising housing prices around us allowed him to get a tax break on his losses with our low rent, it almost currently allowed him to consider the value of the rapidly degenerating residence significantly higher than it probably was worth. On the outside the value of the house kept looking better and better in the rising marketplace, but on the inside we barely had a working kitchen, collectively owned a startling number of cats and dogs over the years, discovered black mold, and occasionally the satanic smell would come back as another piece of drywall degenerated.

Song break! I’ve been really into a genre I only just have stumbled into called Murderfolk. It’s fun! Anyway, here’s one of those songs:

So when the first group moved into the house they had put down a security deposit. Over time some people left the house and it was refilled with other friends. The people who were involved in putting down the initial deposit… well… we couldn’t *prove* we weren’t getting the deposit back when we finally moved out, so, when a person moved into their room, that new person would pay them back their portion of the deposit and then be responsible for that chunk of the deposit, like a debt that got passed on and purchased by new entrants.

At some point, we were all ready to move out. We’d all hit our mid-20s and also, for some reason, none of the doors worked properly anymore. As we were considering the move, we made some good attempts to clean up, we even patched the depression in the floor where a chunk had collapsed and people were basically supported by carpet tension. We deeply, deeply considered trying to fix the drywall that fell apart in one of the closets because the shelving hadn’t been attached to any studs. Deeply considered it. Instead, we decided we’d just move out slowly, passing our rental agreement on to the next generation of early 20-somethings who we didn’t know very well.

We moved out one at a time and each of us had our portion of the safety deposit purchased by an incoming new resident. Each of us got a little cash and headed out to grow up and live in less flop-house-esque places. The house, on the inside, was worse for our passing. The new group saw their rent go up as the marketplace went up. As long as the outside looked fine, the rotting inside didn’t really matter. The guy who owned it, he got his rent, we who had lived in the house in its prime got a fun time and got some money out of it. And the next group? Well, as long as they followed the unspoken agreement where no one mentioned the holes in the floor and just walked around them, they benefited from the illusion as well.

I don’t know how long this process went on after us. Eventually, that house is going to be sold, if it hasn’t already. When they sell it, the owner will likely put a spitshine up with that security deposit, but the quick clean up won’t fix the A/C vent that doubles as a drain; they will reattach the shelf to the drywall instead of the studs and it will likely be aided by that cheap drywall. But the owner will make a profit, I’m sure!

Here’s the thing, the new owner, they’ll probably hit all those same problems soon enough, but as long as they keep up the illusion on the outside of the house, they’ll likely be able to make good money on their sale too.

Eventually though? The whole neighborhood will turn around in surprise as the house falls in on itself. But right up until they do people will likely pass by and say ‘look at the outside of that house, it must be a very, very fine house.’

Forbes: a very very fine house.

At the top of the reading list, may I recommend Wonkette’s piece “Stick To Sporps”:

Forbes has had an outsized role in sending modern-day Vandals to sack and poop on their betters. There is a class of media management that have been hiring each other to ruin the LA Times (defeated! for now!), all of Tribune publishing (renamed tronc by its idiot looters), and now the former Gawker Media, which became GMG (Gizmodo Media Group) when Univision bought it and then G/O Media when Great Hills took it off Univision's shaking hands. (Last link by Univision employees. And it's not pretty either!)

At the LA Times, former Forbes dude Lewis D'Vorkin, in his very short career there, was ready to implement an "unpaid contributor model" instead of journalism by journalists. At G/O, former Forbes dude Spanfeller had BIG NEW ideas straight out of 2004: MOAR LISTICLES. Plus those Taboola things littered all over the Internet. Plus ??? PROFIT!

A very good read!

More good reads: