The Secret to Falling In Love With Your Home All Over Again

Home ownership has long been described as the American Dream. Some in the media have questioned that statement recently, and for good reason. For many, their dream has turned into a nightmare with underwater mortgage balances, mortgage rates adjusting, and ever-increasing property taxes. Still, most of us take great pride in our homes, whatever that home looks like.

time fun by Divine in the Daily on Flickr

Remember the first time you saw your current home? Did you fall in love? Remember the excitement the day you closed, or signed that lease, or did whatever you had to do to get you and your family in that home? It was a proud moment.

Over the weekend, we planted a tree in our backyard in memory of my mom (she passed away last September). When the digging was done, and the tree and flowers were in place, I sat on a bench we placed next to the tree. Time to reflect.

I took off my muddy shoes and could feel the warm grass under my bare feet. I watched my kids play on the other side of the yard. I watched our dog roll around in the grass, tired from chasing birds, squirrels and other furry intruders. With storm clouds approaching, I knew we would soon seek shelter inside our home. Safe, warm, dry. I thought, “This is what it is all about. This is the American Dream.”

3 Things to Remember About Your Home

We tend to take things for granted. But experiences come along that remind us all that we have to be grateful for. My kids questioning why there are people sleeping under a bridge. Seeing a neighbor’s home destroyed by fire. Learning of a family close to us struggling to avoid foreclosure. All of these things reminded us how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads.

Home is Where You Make It

For most of us, our homes are a great source of pride. For others, they may feel shame because of the size of the house, or its condition. Get over it. Your home is your own, whether it be a mansion, a trailer, an apartment, or a tiny house. It provides a warm, safe shelter to those you love, and considering the number of those losing their homes, we should be grateful.

Your Home is Not an Investment

This lesson has been reinforced for us over the last couple years, but it is worth repeating in the context of loving your home. It is unfortunate that so many homeowners have seen value wiped out, but what someone else is willing to pay shouldn’t change the value you assign to your home.

A house is filled with memories, and love, and no tax assessor or appraiser can put a price on that. Over time, I suspect values will again appreciate. After all, land is the one thing they cannot generate more of. In time, the laws of supply and demand will take over. In the mean time, enjoy your home for what it is, not just an investment.

Houses are Meant to Be Lived In

Have you ever been to a home with plastic on the sofa, a “No Shoes” policy on all carpeted areas, and an environment pristine enough to perform surgery? These homes often look quite nice, but they don’t feel comfortable to me. In our house, we recognize that homes are to be lived in, which means over time they’ll get a few dings.

A quick look around our house reveals the spot on the front door where I scraped it moving in our refrigerator. The crayon mark on the wall from my son. The muddy spot on the back door where our dog scratches to let us know she’s ready to come inside.

Some would consider these blemishes unsightly. To me, it adds character to our home, and I’m no rush to put a Magic Eraser to those memories.

So the next time you are grumbling about the rent, or upset over that new tax bill, remember why you allocate your hard-earned dollars towards your home. Is it an investment – some abstract vehicle to park your money and expect a return in twenty years? No. It is your home. Now love it.

*This article appeared in the Carnival of Personal Finance: Unanswered Questions Edition

Comments

  1. Beautifully stated. I ended up with a warm smile and a new appreciation for my 800-square foot cottage after reading this. Thanks for the reminder about what really matters. My cats are bent on shredding my mattress, but they make me happier than just about anything else in my home. My boyfriend’s as lazy as I am about cleaning, but we have more fun than fights. A house is a stage, not a museum. Props get moved, even broken, as our daily dramas unfold. All the more reason not to squander money on useless ornaments or status symbols. As my wise father once pointed out, all the treasures we accumulate will someday end up distributed to others or sold in an estate sale. We could all do ourselves a tremendous favor by enjoying what we have and resisting the temptation to upgrade or buy more.

  2. Great post and some wonderful thoughts on being content. We view our house not as an investment or a piggy bank, but our residence. We lived here for almost two months and the walls have already been dinged and the carpets had a spill.

    Now our goal is to actually own it instead of having a mortgage!

  3. Thanks for the excellent post. I love my home even though it could use more work and loads of DIY. This is where my husband and I have lived for 14 years. Many memories are alive in these walls. There is no where I would rather be!

  4. Wow, tough talk…or should I say, tough love? We should always be grateful for what we have–this post is a great reminder of why. Thank you!

    -kristiina

  5. Hey now, don’t knock the “No Shoes” policy! I’ve been brought up with no shoes in the home and now that I’ve purchased my own, I continue the same habits.
    Trust me, it’s less about keeping things pristine, and more about not creating extra housecleaning. If there’s mud/gum, I’ll find it, and step in it and bring inside. Being a klutz, there’s more than enough for me to keep up with.
    And I’ve never been one who’s comfortable in shoes. At the end of the work day, I can’t wait to kick off my shoes :)

    Great post, though. Most of my peers still think of their homes as an investment and I’ve tried to reason with them, especially in my area where home prices are totally out of sync with rent, it’s definitely not an investment.

  6. Hi

    Your website design was lot better before. What did you do? Why change it when it was good?

    This new one feels cluttered and hard to find information.

    • @Raghubilhana: My old theme was very out-dated, particularly the behind-the-scenes code. When upgrading to a new theme I decided to update some of the layout as well. I certainly appreciate your feedback, and am curious what information now appears to be missing.

      • I read your blog occasionally, but never post.

        I have to agree with Raghubilhana. I do not like the new layout.
        My other favorite blog Gail Vaz-Oxlade also did a similar new layout, I don’t like hers either.

        There seems to be too much advertising. I feel that I’m being bombarded on both sides of the page (left and right). Plus the article is squished in the middle, which means I have to scroll more. The other layout is much easier to read.

        Plus all the old blogs are now short excerpt which means I have to open a new window to look at them. Whereas before I can quickly scan them if I want. I don’t necessarily come to check out the board everyday, so miss the old quick read.

        • @ib: Thanks for your feedback! I’ve implemented a few changes based on your comments (and others). The archives now appear more like they used to (full posts rather than excerpts). I also removed an ad position from the left sidebar because I agreed it was a bit much.

          The homepage now displays the last five full posts, allowing you to stop by and catch up. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on the new design.

  7. I for one like the new design. Easy on the eyes!

    As far as the post, that is one thing I never understood with the recession was why people were having a fit about the value of their house going down. If you are not trying to sell or take a mortgage against it (which you should think long and hard about any ways), what’s the big deal???

  8. Yeah, same feelings here. My wife and I bought our house in 2001, and it was labeled a “starter home” back in the days of McMansion mania. It’s about 2500 sq ft, 4 bed, 3 bath, walkout basement. PLENTY of space for our family of 4 (soon to be 5). As far as cleaning goes, it’s hard enough to get the main level clean. We rarely get much cleaning done in the basement. It’s still not quite finished even after 9 years, but we’re getting there, piece by piece.

    I see all these house poor people who have 5 acres, 4000 sq ft, whatever. All they do is buy expensive tractors to mow their huge lawns and clean, clean, clean constantly. Plus their heating and cooling bills are double mine. They’re the ones stressed out about making payments and refinancing their mortgage every 3 – 4 years to pay off credit cards, then beginning the debt cycle all over again.

    My house will be paid off in 7 years, and I really have no plans to upgrade anytime soon, if ever. It’s my “investment” in financial peace.

  9. Great post. I know when hubby and I bought our house last year we looked at the price of the house and considered if we thought it was worth that. This is the house we plan to stay in, so for us as long as we can afford it and it’s what we want, does the “value” really matter? Our home is an investment in our family, not a financial investment.

  10. What a great article – made me appreciate even more than ever that we just paid off our mortgage (early) and now the house is truly ours to live in. Not to decorate and clean for others to look at in pristine condition, but to simply be a comfortable and simple abode for us and our beloved dogs. Thanks for your warm and fuzzy words!

  11. I love the mindset change of looking at a house not as an investment, but as your home. We bought a townhouse thinking it would rise in equity then we could sell it and use the extra to put a down payment on the next house. Well, now our house is worth the same as we bought it 5 years ago. And we are close to outgrowing it. Now we have to do it the old fashioned way, save up money for a down payment. I will always view homes differently from here on out. Great post.

  12. It’s funny how having your house paid off changes your perspective of your house. I now look at mine as an old friend instead of an outflow of money each month…

    Now If I could just get the real estate taxes taken care of somehow. :)

  13. My home is peace and security (a paid for roof over my head), as well as an investment…The investment meaning it is paid for, the HELOC is in place if needed, andIF needed it will provide the final 2 years of my daughter’s college education without touching my higher yielding investments, and it will provide starter cows for my son’s dairy farm, again at lower interest than he can find elsewhere. The edible landscaping and “food not lawns” philosophy feed me well also! Aside from a few non-edible flowers for fun, everything growing there, except the little grass remaining, is edible :)

    I bought a tiny 560 sq ft house and rebuilt it from the ground up – to 1035 sq ft – a labor of love – and totally totally mine and all about me :) When your house is paid for, and all about you, how could you not be happy in this soothing comfy haven you have created out of love :) This month it stretched to hold 6 rambunctious grandkids for a week… in a tiny 2 bedroom that was really a stretch – but there is always room for love :) And the floors are kidproof !

    My home is my haven from the storms – both weather and political. Paid for and secure – my fortress. It is MORE than enough.

    • Well put, Marci! You and Money Reasons (above) eloquently described exactly why I want to pay off our home early. I can think of no better insulation from the storms around us (as you said, Marci, political or otherwise).

  14. I appreciate your perspective. When I was growing up, we moved frequently. Until recently, seeing a blemish always made me think “but what if we have to sell the house?” After seven years in the same old house, I am finally starting to appreciate its “character!”

  15. Great post. I also wondered why people cared if their house dropped in value…unless they were moving right now, why would it matter? I’ve taken advantage of the drop in values and am paying $2200 in property taxes instead of the $3100 I was paying in 2007. Woot!

    I also don’t freak over blemishes…most of the time, no one else sees them anyway. I love having our two indoor dogs and realize that means our home will never be museum quality. It’s good enough for us. :-)

  16. Thank you for this warm and thoughtful post – especially the fact that you included renters! The “American Dream” is to have a happy home, not a huge home, a perfect home, or even a purchased home.

  17. I still rent, but I smile every time I walk through my door. One, because it is all mine after years of living with roommates in Los Angeles, I moved home and was able to afford my own place (at a fraction of the cost as well). Two, because I am slowly able to decorate the way I have always wanted. Sure, I hate seeing the boxes still in the dining room because I can’t afford to get bookshelves, but I know that will all come in time.

    Great article and what a fantastic way to remind us to be thankful for what we have!

  18. Well said.

    The goal is to have a home. It doesn’t matter if you own, mortgage, or rent the place. The most important thing is that you can call it home.

  19. You make me feel such love for my little house after reading your post ..
    My father left me his home after his death in 1996. It was already considered older and not in the best of neighborhoods when my mother and I moved in. Through the years, I’ve married and added 3 dogs to the household and this past year, I’ve become ashamed of my home. It’s falling apart in some spots and the two puppies we adopted wrecked our laundry room .. and so much more!
    Now, I just took a look around and I have found memories of them puppies who are now almost 3 years old, memories of when I was younger coming to visit my dad and sleeping in the same room I now inhabit nightly. You gave me fresh eyes and for that, I thank you so much.
    Slowly but, surely .. things can be done but, I’m not so sad about not being able to do it right away .. this house is lovingly lived in .. <3

  20. There is a huge emotional component to our homes. Memories are made there…babies coming home from the hospital, kids birthday parties, daughter walking down the steps in her prom dress, etc. Its where many of us spend most of our time, and make many memories. While this isn’t the case for everyone, many of those memories can be great.

    Additionally, as I mentioned, home is where we spend a lot of our time. It is, quite simply, where we are based. HOME. Our territiory.

    Taking that into account, one should also remember that a home is also a cost center. Yes, that might be a cold view, but it is a good balance to the emotional side of it. Its BOTH, for many of us, in my opinion.

    The cost center side of it can be onerous in markets such as this, where people have seen the market value of their home decline – precipitously, in some markets. And remember, you never truly OWN the property, when you consider real estate taxes. Those aren’t going away anytime soon. Additionally, the costs associated with repairs, maintenance, and normal operating expenses of the home make it a source of significant cash outflow.

    I like the idea of purchasing a home that is within your means, and suitable for a household of your size, that you feel safe and comfortable in. Consider the commute to work, schools, and how you feel about the area. But don’t go overboard and focus on working just to maintain your lifestyle. Work to maintain your lifestyle while saving as much as you can is a more comfortable, balanced, and prudent way to do it.

    Remember, a home is both a special place emotionally AND a cost center. Keep both in mind, and don’t focus on just one aspect over the other.

  21. Thank you for this post… it came at a very opportune time for me. I’ve been considering selling my house, and wondering if that was the right thing to do. After reading your post, I realize that I truly do not want to sell. I like my house… because it’s not just a house, it’s my home. It’s a keeper, whatever else I do, or wherever else I go… I want to come home to this.

  22. Hi,
    I really like this post, and I am looking for some advice.
    We live in an area where houses are very expensive(not affected much by the economy so far here) and we cannot afford a single family home. (And with our current careers and salary, probably never will). We are currently renting a single family home. Our rental is a historic property owned by the community, so our rent does not pay anyone’s mortgage, just the costs associated with the upkeep of the property. Because of this, our rent is significantly lower than the average rent in the area, and definitly alot lower than what we would be paying for a mortgage. My question is, is it wiser to stay put here even know we are renting? Or to try to purchase all that we could afford, which would be a smaller condominium? We aren’t sure what we should be saving our money for. Thanks!
    Kate

  23. I have to say that a home is not an investment, but a house can be.

    The problem is that too many people started thinking that buying a house was an investment they could live in and use for a while, and then sell it for a profit at their leisure.

    The idea is right, but the time frame is what’s wrong.

    Once you own your home free and clear, any price appreciation is profit when you sell it. The problem, of course, is that it’s not very liquid and you may have to “hold” the investment for a long time before it’s profitable.

    Treating your home solely as an investment, or trying to flip it is what’s crazy. The housing bubble drove that point home. But owning your home, and being conservative with your debt will give you a significant chance of having an asset that has appreciated by the time you’re looking for a place to retire.

    Of course, there’s demographic issues at play too. For example, most people don’t live in their homes until retirement, much less live and work in the same town for their careers.

    I think this is where the divide comes from – a home was a good investment before HELOCs and at a time when people had stronger roots in a community. But that isn’t the norm any more, and people are more transient and easy going when it comes to debt and spending. That diminishes the return on the investment.

    That’s just my 2 cents. ;-)

  24. Loved it! I have a friend who’s house you have to take the shoes off before you can even come in. Needless to say I don’t go there but once a year if that. Her grandkids done even like going inside cause they cannot play with their toys without being told all the time to pick them up or told it is to much noise. My house is always clean & organized but it is lived in & with love. I just have to vacuum a few more times during the week is all, no big deal…

  25. My family and grandkids always take their shoes/boots off at my house, as well as at their own – it’s the way I was raised, and the way they were raised.
    My guests may or may not, as they please, but this is mud country – so most do. I almost always take my shoes off when visiting someone else’s home – it’s the polite thing to do, according to my raising.

    Once you’re in the house tho – it’s comfy and kid proof and I’ll clean after they leave – and the grandkids know to pick up toys before they leave also – but not until.

    I think the shoes off thing is just depending on where you were raised and your culture.

    • @Marci: I think you are right; it’s often based on the way we were raised. My best friend growing up always had to take off his shoes (as did visitors), and a trip to his grandparents’ house revealed why – they had the same policy.

      After looking over the condition of our carpet, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t implement the same rule (although I think the dog is more to blame than us humans!).

  26. I agree completely. I grew up in a very “lived in” house and I remember sometimes when we would visit other peoples’ homes they would be so nice, looked like museums, and the parents were extremely anal about leaving everything pristine. I remember thinking they were lucky to live in such nice places, now as I’ve gotten older I realize it was just the opposite. I make a good living but intentionally try to not make my home fancy, I just try to make it comfortable and live in it comfortably. As far as the things you mentioned I agree completely, except on the no shoes on carpet policy, we don’t have that policy in my house per se but we’ve made it a habit for no one to wear their shoes in the house. Of course there are times people do and we don’t care, but for us that is part of the “comfort”. Why drag in all the crap from the streets onto the carpet I want to be able to just lie down on if I feel like it.

  27. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I could never understand why the one room you were never allows to go in was called the “Living Room.” I always wondered why people would have rooms they hardly ever used or enjoyed.

    Anyway, great article and good advice!

  28. Great article. As a real estate agent, I often wonder where the ‘home’ buyers are, as opposed to the investment buyers. As much as we love our first home that we haven’t really done anything to in the last 10 years, we almost got caught up in the ‘move-up’ frenzy a couple of years ago. I’m so glad we stayed in our home. It’s got issues but it’s ours, and it’s the only home our son has known. After a financial crisis last year, I walk in the door every day and thank God for my wonderful home.

    P.S. We have a ‘no shoes’ policy and it saves a fortune on carpet cleaning.:)

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