The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 July 2006

Soft and Zillowy

In the four months since I put up a small post about Zillow.com, I've kept watch over the one property I know best — mine — and inexplicably, the Zestimated price has risen by nine grand during that period. I attribute this to strong sales elsewhere in the neighborhood.

On the other hand, I can't come up with any explanation for this:

After checking out our present house and feeling relieved that its value hasn't totally tanked since we bought it, I decided to type in the address of the house I grew up in in New Jersey, the sale of which nearly shattered me two years ago. I longed to see it again, even a fuzzy birds-eye satellite shot.

Zillow responded: There is no house at this address.

I blinked, thinking, there must be some mistake. I typed in the address of our old across-the-street neighbors, just one digit away from our address. It showed up right away. I zoomed in on their house. Their driveway was directly across from ours. I zoomed in and zoomed in. I saw trees with skinny, bare branches. I saw the house that used to be next to ours. I spotted all the neighbors' houses: the Kiesselbach's, the Wubbes', the Schleichers'. But it was true. Where my house used to stand was an empty lot. It was a gray-green scrabble of nothingness.

My house is gone. I'm typing through tears.

And where did it go? Nowhere:

So, I spent the weekend crying over the little green house. Gone, gone, gone. But first I emailed my best high school friend, and asked her to check it out, to make sure it was really gone.

I immediately started planning a massive writing project, in which I would meticulously record every memory of every square inch of that property, from the circular driveway to the mulch pile in the back yard, to the enclosed porch and the laundry room.

When we got home, an email from my friend Cathy. With a photo, taken from her car. "Relax," she wrote. "It's still there — no worries."

If there's a lesson here, it's this: Put not all thy faith in a single database.

Posted at 8:37 AM to Dyssynergy


My childhood house in Miami was torn down when I was eighteen. My parents sold it to a developer that was turning everything in our neighborhood into little concrete duplexes. I didn't care much about the house -- a twenties "Boomer" house in the subtropics needs special care to be kept in shape, and we hadn't given it any special care, and frankly if we hadn't sold the place it would have collapsed around our ears in a cloud of termite-dust -- but the huge tree in our front yard was another thing. It was a giant specimen of a tropical species called a pongam. They usually don't get as large as ours was, I believe -- anyway, they are a popular street tree in Miami and I haven't ever seen a larger one. Anyway, as the lot was being converted the tree had to go along with everything else. We drove by the old place one day soon after. The house was gone, and the tree had been uprooted and lay with its roots in the air looking like a dead elephant. That depressed me.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 11:13 AM on 9 July 2006

It doesn't have my parents house either. So I guess it isn't as complete as we think.

Posted by: ms7168 at 12:35 PM on 9 July 2006