Or, rather, a house is not an investment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging the idea of home ownership as a smart or worthy venture—especially in San Francisco, one of the few places in the world where owners have traditionally seen a consistent and high return on their real estate investments. Nor am I suggesting there is no need to be prudent about financial decisions concerning real estate.
I’m talking about the tendency for some buyers to lose sight of what I think is the main reason for purchasing a property: To have a place to call home.
Alain de Botton eloquently speaks to this in his book The Architecture of Happiness. He writes, “We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: To compensate for vulnerability…we need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.”
I try to remind clients of this when they begin fretting unduly over rates of interest or appreciation, or when they let fear of overpaying—a legitimate and understandable concern!—divert them from obtaining the home they truly love.
“Let’s be careful about the financial aspects of this purchase,” I say. “But let’s not lose sight of the fact that, after the deal is done, this is where you’ll be living. Will you be happy about that? Or will you be happier not to live here?”
The financial benefits and risks of home ownership are only part of the picture. At least equal consideration should be given to a property’s impact on one’s emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Every bit of comfort counts in this rough and tumble world.
If a house doesn’t tug at your heart strings, don’t buy it. Even if it’s hands-down the buy of the century. But if it feels like home, step right up. Home is where the heart is.