Tuesday, January 29, 2008

House Lust, The New American Tradition

More than just incessant cocktail party banter, or water cooler chatter, America's love for all things housing gets some of the blame for the current boom-to-bust cycle

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - Here's a quick quiz that should really hit home.

While on vacation, do you stare in storefront windows at real estate listings?

Are the Web sites Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Propertyshark.com, at the top of your Web browser bookmark list?

Can you name the hosts of TV shows "This Old House" or "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"?

If you are nodding your head "yes" to those questions and others there's a good chance you suffer something called "house lust," a fetish-like preoccupation with everything real estate.

House lust has become as American as apple pie, says Daniel McGinn, a Boston-based national correspondent for Newsweek. He ought to know. He wrote the book on the subject: "House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes" (Random House, $24.95).

McGinn's research indicates house lust gets some of the blame for the last housing boom-to-bust cycle because the distinctly-American addiction caused many buyers to overdose on more house than they could afford. Easy mortgage money made it affordable to carry a monkey on your back.

McGinn says instead of taking the pragmatic roof-over-your-head approach to housing, Americans have become emotional infants about shelter. They envy, scheme over, bellyache about and ogle homes they can't have and probably don't need.

Called a "mania for homes" house lust reached fever pitch during the last boom when supersized trophy homes, second, third and fourth homes, household-disrupting renovations, over bidding, and the fascination with real estate Web sites and TV programming reached "obscene" levels, says McGinn.

Even professionals left tenured careers to rush off and join the army of real estate agents.

McGinn, who explores the seven deadly sins of house lust in his book, conducted research during sleep-overs in models homes, at real estate investment seminars and by obtaining his real estate license in a single weekend.

Is the housing bust creating withdrawal symptoms?

No, says McGinn. The possibility of more house lust euphoria trumps any temporary pain caused by the housing crunch.

Here's what McGinn's research uncovered.

• Bigger is better. McGinn spent time with a couple who traded up in a series of houses that started at 2,000 square feet and ended with a $3 million 9,000 square foot McMansion that includes a men's hangout room and twin dishwashers. The couple says their backyard is still too small.

• Virgin homes. McGinn uncovered the "ick factor" a cultural penchant for shiny, new things. People prefer an unsullied new home's smell rather than living in someone else's grit. The penchant helps fuel new home construction.

• Voyeurism. American's have become both virtual and real life looky-loos gathering intel on line from a growing number of data-based real estate web sites and visiting open house events with no intention to buy.

• Money lust. Too many, real estate is money rather than shelter. It's the dot com stock of the New Millennium. In fact, many refugees from the dot com disaster sought financial shelter in real estate. And many of those speculators now feel like they've had a bad weekend at the crap tables in Sin City.

Disclaimer: The writer of this article also has house lust. His dream home is a real, newly built, masonry, commercial loft, with a California ocean view. Yes an unstable structure built on unstable sand in unstable Earthquake Country. It would have to be an engineering marvel. But he has to have it.

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© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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Anonymous said...

Having done some research into living conditions I have made the decision to move to the US! Apart from the medical care (which having just watched the film Sicko I am slightly concerned about) I have decided that there are more positives then negatives and am therefore very excited about the prospect of moving.
However I am concerned with purchasing a house, are mortgages over there the same as there are here? Do I need a large deposit and having spoke to a few people online I am concerned I wont be able to find a company to give me mortgage broker bonds and if I cant can I buy a house? Also I am familiar with the term surety bond so is a mortgage bond just a guarantee I will pay on time or is it more?

Deadline Newsroom said...

Get schooled on U.S. home loans at, BankRate.com, The Mortgage Professor, The Federal Trade Commission; and others...

Get the latest mortgage news that really hits home from DeadlineNews.Com