I recently found myself in conversation with a young Turk of Silicon Valley. When he learned that I’d been in real estate, he declared that he intended never to buy a home until the time comes when he can build his dream home. He’s been sketching this place out on paper for years, and it includes some architectural features that defy the laws of physics.
I’m an ardent believer in the power of dreaming, so I listened and acknowledged the beauty of his dream. But I felt compelled to also voice my belief in the power of homeownership and my opinion that most homebuyers do fall pretty hard for a home, emotionally speaking, before they buy it.
What he said next was probably more profound than even he knew: "I’ve never met a homeowner who had that sort of romance with their home."
It’s entirely possible that he hasn’t met the right homeowners. But it’s also the case that many of his peers who’ve reached adulthood in the last decade have been exposed to a net balance of negativity around owning a home. They’ve been infected by the sense that homeownership is more often a burden than a blessing. And while that has certainly been reality for many an American homeowner in the last few years, it is also the case that many of us love our homes (or once did) deeply and with the passion you might expect would underlie a 30-year, major financial commitment to anything.
If you’ve fallen out of love with your home, and you’re committed to staying put for years to come, it is a worthwhile endeavor to rekindle that romance, and re-excite the spark that makes coming home, being home, maintaining home, and even writing out the checks that keep the lights on, the mortgage paid and the taxes current, a blessing. Here’s how:
1. Spend time in someone else’s home. Make more of an effort than you might otherwise to accept your pals’ barbecue and dinner party invites. Go on those home and garden tours that are put on locally. When you travel, consider renting someone else’s home (or part of it) on a site like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com, rather than just getting a hotel room.
And pay attention to the homes’ locations, comfort level, amenities, decor and nice touches, or lack thereof. I assure you, one of two things will happen: If you love their space, you’ll leave inspired to make tweaks to yours; if you don’t love it, you’ll be super-grateful for your home, just as it is.
2. Get out of your comfort zone and routine. Following the theme of inspiration and gratitude, seek out experiences entirely outside of your comfort zone. The further outside your comfort zone, the better. Take a trip to a destination unlike the places you normally vacation; if you live in the city, go stay on a working farm. And if you don’t have time to take a whole trip, just spend a couple of hours in a part of town that you don’t normally go to, or spend an afternoon doing something you’ve never done before: Take a workshop, go for a hike or take a tour. If you drive, take the bus. If you’re always checking your phone, lock it in the trunk of your car for a whole weekend. If you eat out, cook — and vice versa.
When you have experiences that jolt you completely out of your sense of the norm, it resets your brain in a way that allows you to come home and see things that are familiar in a very different light.
3. Inventory and fix any little glitches. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day duties of living and working and raising a family. As time goes on and little things at home break or need repair, many of us fall into the habit of putting them on a list that never gets done. Over time, as the list of doors that creak and handles you have to jiggle grows longer and longer, that can create doldrums and annoyance, as you have to deal with these little glitches on a daily basis and it starts to feel like ‘broken’ is the normal state of affairs at home.
Once I no longer had little kids on a constant demolition path through my own home, I almost instantly fell back in love with it, in part, by taking meticulous care to log and have fixed any and everything that wasn’t working exactly as it should. It’s a never-ending battle, mind you; if you keep on living in a home, things will continue to wear out or break, so I have a handyman on call to constantly tend to my ongoing list. And every time I have him fix a wonky cabinet or touch up the wall with the scuffed paint, I am reminded of just how much I love my home.
4. Have a Financial Health Day. Many times, financial hemorrhages and simply feeling like your home is disproportionately draining your bank account can create resentment and anxiety that gets in the way of feeling warm and fuzzy about owning it. Now, every mortgage or home-related financial problem might not be within your power to fix, but rather than letting things spiral without doing anything, the next time you take a personal day off from work, set aside some time to do a deep dive into your home-related financials.
Set an appointment with your mortgage broker to discuss refinancing, if appropriate. Appeal your home’s property tax assessment, if you believe it’s too high. Check to see if recent increases in your home’s value will qualify you to have the private mortgage insurance removed from your mortgage. Figure out what side business or job you can do to pay down your consumer debt or help get you out of the stresses of paycheck-to-paycheck living.
5. Make peace with long-ago compromises. I’ve met people who have lived in homes for decades, who still have pent-up resentments and anger about compromises they made with their spouse or co-buyer during the house hunt. And that’s a terrible way to live, because you spend so much time and money at and on your home — if you feel that way, you essentially live with a major emotional dissonance. This can also create a grave rift in relationships, as the disgruntled party might wield the fact that she acquiesced on such a big item as a weapon of martyrdom or victimhood.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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