Editor’s Note (April 2020): Gaining Ground

Home ownership, like an exploding real estate market, drops you in a pool of complications you didn’t plan for
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ON A WINTRY DAY IN 2015, another symphony of grunts and curses proceeded beneath our feet. It was our fifth consultation, a new pair of brave souls venturing under our 1951 mill home to investigate a concerning pool of water. The crawl space, which barely met the regulatory height minimum, was so restrictive that every plumber who entered came out a changed, more cynical man. Each time, the professionals theorized a different culprit for the water. This final crew gave the most accurate yet most disturbing diagnosis: Our bathroom’s shower did not have an exit pipe.

No, really. Each time we washed, soapy water went down the drain and collected in a big hole in the crawl space. The man who had flipped our house and sold it to us six months earlier cut many corners, but this was his magnum opus—a sterling tribute to the gods of negligence. Also, the empathetic plumbers related, some, if not all, of your pipes need to be replaced. At least this crew had earned their $100 consultation fee.

To save money, I pumped out the pool of water myself. (The pros took care of the other stuff.) As I twisted and crawled, now the one grunting and cursing and staring down massive insects, I thought about the things we homeowners take for granted: a dry crawl space, heat and air conditioning, a holeless roof. Even owning a home is a privilege, though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.

Home ownership is just one multifaceted component in that massive machine of real estate that propels Charlotte into the future, a labyrinth inside a much larger labyrinth. Depending on who you are, the forecast can either be encouraging or foreboding. In this year’s Real Estate issue, the many-sided field is unpacked in several different narratives: a family at the center of a perilous renovation in Myers Park; a young professional searching all over town for her first apartment; the suburbs set to explode in the near future; the state of land prices; and what the upcoming 2040 Comprehensive Plan could mean for all of us.

At the center of all of it is this concept of “home,” and what that means beyond the slogans hand-painted onto your grandmother’s rustic decor. Is “home” where the heart is? Sure. Is “home” where you hang your hat? Yeah, but some of us just pile them in the closet.

Is it a place where you simultaneously forge treasured memories and confront your emotional and financial limitations, conjuring a constant, low hum of anxiety that spikes every time a board creaks? Now, for me, that one lands a bit closer to “home.”