From the NY Times: House Hunting, Catch and Release Style

Old House

Somewhere along the way, tramping around a solidly built old house became my version of the ultimate in weekend recreation.

After the house museums, the heirloom houses most likely to be available for scrutiny without attracting the attention of the police are properties for sale. Back in the day, the classifieds were the most popular way to get an idea of what was on the market, but not every house was advertised. The other alternative was to seek the help of real estate agents, but you had to be pretty genuine about buying to spin their wheels.

Now, with all the information that’s available on the Internet about real estate for sale — street addresses, maps, directions, even satellite photos — it’s easy to make a solo reconnaissance mission, whether driven by mere curiosity or serious shopping intent. You may not get inside, but you can get a good look at the architecture, the lot, the condition, the neighborhood — enough to fuel your dreams or earn your scorn.

On my own or with an equally obsessed companion, I regularly make jaunts, camera in hand, to as many old houses as I can manage to visit. Credit crunch notwithstanding, I’m not ruling out a purchase, should the right many-times-preowned thing come along. But that’s not necessarily the point.

House hunting can easily become an end in itself. I really want a house to live in, but the search is a lot of fun. I’ll be a little sorry when it’s over.

I enjoy the internet searching and the poring over pictures. Debra and I often look at the pictures in promising listings, trying to ferret out what secrets the images hold. Does a missing bathroom picture mean that that room is a disaster? Do various design choices mean that the owners are old and looking to move off Long Island. Perhaps a crib in the bedroom shot means that they’re expanding their family and they need a bigger place. It’s a fun game for a lazy afternoon.

Of course, once I buy a house, I can become one of those lookie-loo people who go to neighborhood open houses just to see what they look like. That can be fun too, although I think it might feel a little disreputable.