Today, after posting the latest "Current Market Conditions" report, and reading back through a couple of days of comments posted on this blog, I realized that I — and many, many others — have become obsessed with the ‘economics’ of real estate and the dynamics of ‘the market’ and may have lost sight of the forest for the trees. Namely, that most people, myself included, buy homes to live in, use and enjoy, and that they’re far more than just bricks and mortar stock certificates.
Readers of this blog know that I’m in the process of buying a small coop in the Bronx. It going to be a second home, just in the reverse direction of many of your second homes. Given the market uncertainties of the past few months, more than once I’ve questioned my decision to buy now. Its the same question I’m sure many potential buyers of second homes up here ask, especially since its essentially a discretionary purchase. After all, when I want to or need to be in the city, I do have other options that don’t involve having my own place. I can continue borrowing friends’ apartments when they’re available or staying in hotels when they’re not. I can make arrangements for friends to take my dog when I overnight in the city, or drop her off at a boarding facility. Frankly, I could make forays into the city work forever without having my own place.
But I want my own place. I can’t be spontaneous and just hop in when I have a free day or two. Sure, I’ve made last minute trips, but sometimes I can’t get it all arranged. I want the convenience and freedom that comes with having my own place, so I can go in on a whim or stay over an extra day. And its easier if I have my own stuff there, too. I can’t tell you how many little pocket umbrellas I now own because I’ve had to pick another one up when I’m in the city. And then there’s the dog food and the dog bed and the dog treats and all the adapters for my cell phone, MP player and laptop … oh, I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
The closing on my coop has gotten delayed until early March. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few breaks in my schedule, and I thought about how great it would be to load the dog in the car and head to the city. But I don’t have my place yet, and other arrangements just couldn’t fall into place. I’m sure its the same with many second home people up here. You can cobble together country getaways borrowing houses, being houseguests and staying at B&Bs. But its not the same as having your own place.
If someone were to say to me, "David, there is a 60% chance that prices for coops in the Bronx will decline by 10% over the next six months," my reply would be, "I don’t care. I don’t want to wait six months." The bottom line for me is that I want a place. To use. This is a lifestyle decision, not an investment one. Even if someone predicted a 20% decline from this point, I’d probably still do it. Now 50% – that would cause me pause. But if there’s an economic catastrophe that would lead to that kind of drop, I have a lot more to worry about in my life. (I know that last statement is going to generate a flurry of comments about an impending real estate Armageddon, but the point of this post is to reconnect with the idea of buying a house as a home, and a second home in particular for its lifestyle advantages.)