The Danger of Searching For Your Forever Home
The “forever home.” Just another term that seems to have come from the ranks of HGTV stars into our daily lives. Like most of you, I really enjoy HGTV. However, I wish they’d never dropped the term “forever home” into our lexicon.
Why should I have such a hatred toward a simple phrase? In my experience, home buyers who enter the process focused on finding their “forever home” typically have unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointments and have the potential to cause you to choose a home that doesn’t fit your life.
Here’s an example. A young couple with no children and two busy careers decides to buy their first home. At their first consultation, both Mr. and Mrs. buyer spoke of finding their forever home during their search. Although I challenged them on this concept, they had clearly built a detailed, romanticized view of finding exactly the right home for the rest of their lives together.
Now, I can be as romantic as the next person, but let’s step back from the emotions and look at the logic. I’ll list the variables that this couple could face in just the next 10 years of their lives, let alone the 50 after that.
A growing family
Relocation for a career
Returning to school for advanced degrees
Choosing to change career fields after finding a new passion
Unforeseen medical issues
A need to care for a family member
Redistricting of area schools
Catastrophic damage to the home
Changing desires as they mature together and individually
Back to our young couple. We saw several different homes they liked, but they kept coming back to one that was significantly larger than the others. Also, it was in a location and neighborhood that was unlikely to have many other families in the same stage of life as they are. After discussing this in depth, they decided that the “deal” of getting such a large home for the money was too good to pass up and this could be their “forever home.”
In the next 2 years, several things happened. Mr. buyer’s career progressed very well, but it caused him to travel for extended periods of time. Now Mrs. buyer was spending extended time caring for an almost 5000 square foot home by herself. Furthermore, she didn’t have much of a support structure in her neighborhood, because most of the residents were older than her.
As many at their age do, this couple also started planning to grow their family, and Mrs. buyer was soon carrying their first child. At this point, they began to realize that they were not where they wanted to be in their current home. They started exploring options to move to a part of the city where most of their friends are. Unfortunately, even though the market value of their home had increased in the short time they’d owned it, it would still cost them significant money to sell and move. Now, they face the dilemma of paying extra to move to a home and location they truly want to be in or sticking it out longer in an area and home that isn’t quite right.
To me, this illustrates the problem with focusing on a “forever home.” It sets an unrealistic expectation by making a very shaky prediction of your future. Maybe if you’re 55 or older, your children have left, and you’re retiring soon you can choose a place for the rest of your life. However, trying to predict how your home will serve you for the next 40 to 60 years is nearly impossible.
I recommend that when you sit down to plan for your next home, don’t focus on any more than the next 10 years. Realize that no matter your age, your desires and needs will change over time, usually unexpectedly. You will have a much better chance of being happy in that home for the near term than you will guessing what life will be like 30 years from now. Besides, if you like the romantic view of your home, it’s more likely that a decade of memories will make your home special to you more than anything else.