Dear 22-year-old self:
You’re going to live in many homes throughout your life. Each will be special in their own way. Each will have benefits. None will be quite as impactful as the “big move” that took your family from Egypt to Utah and will constantly remind you that changing houses isn’t a big deal relative to changing countries…permanently. Here are three reasons I believe you shouldn’t fight the urge to move and why you should, in fact, only stay in a home for three to five years (despite everyone around you thinking you’re crazy :-)).
Note: I just realized how much my many realtor friends will thank me for promoting moving from one house to another :-).
1. A house is an object; a home is people
While most associate the word “home” with the physical structure in which they live, I urge you to constantly remember that a house is no more than an object; admittedly, it’s a very large and very expensive object, but it’s an object nonetheless. You should do your best to connect yours and your family’s emotional ties to the people residing in the home and not the home itself. Moving every few years will show you that you can be happy as a family unit no matter the house in which you reside.
2. You don’t know what you don’t know
Ask those around you about their neighborhood and almost all those over age 30 will tell you they live on the perfect street within the perfect neighborhood in the perfect town. It’s perfectly normal: we all like to justify our circumstances because it gives us comfort. The problem is that this means most of us settle within the same neighborhood that circumstances first placed us and, in our desire to justify that neighborhood’s perfection, we never explore other neighborhoods we might like even more. So, move around, check out new neighborhoods, and meet new people; you’ll surprise yourself by how much you like these new places. Like in most other aspects of life, diversity and diversification are good for the mind and soul.
3. What you need now isn’t what you needed five years ago
When you’re single or before you have kids, a hillside home with views will seem perfect; once you become the parent of young children, you’ll gain appreciation for flat driveways and streets where they can learn to ride a bike; as your children enter school age, proximity to schools becomes more important; and so on. A similar transformation occurs for your needs of the home itself: with young children, it’s nice to have kids’ bedrooms that are very close to yours; as the children age, you’ll want them to have some autonomy; later in life, you might not want a home with too many stairs; and so on.
There are clearly many other considerations and implications for which you have to account, but I’ll leave those for other letters:
- renting vs. buying: there’s a time and a place for each with neither being the perfect solution every time.
- lifespan of interior finishes: a well-done, newly-built or remodeled home looks fresh, and “new” for about five years; by year ten, the finishes begin to look dated; so, you can buy a home, remodel it, enjoy it for five years, and then sell it while it still looks contemporary.
- selling costs: it’s very costly to sell a home in most markets so you must account for these costs in your total cost of ownership analysis.
- socioeconomic ability: not everyone in every country has the luxury or ability to move so frequently, so consider the ability to move a luxury.
Your 42-year-old self.