Money Studies Articles and Resources

Getting Personal About Housing

By Lois Vitt

We all like to believe that we make decisions about moving and renting, buying and selling, strictly on the basis of reasonable housing needs and realistic financial data. The truth is that human psychology plays a huge part in such decisions. Fulfilling housing needs is urgent, but housing dreams and values also guide our choices. The more you understand your personal needs and values related to housing, the better will be the quality of your decisions.

Specifically, your inner concepts about autonomy and control, security, identity and spirituality strongly influence your housing decisions. Consider the urgency you feel about each of those areas. Needs are felt urgently; values are experienced as ideals, dreams and desires. Only you can decipher and communicate the degree of importance each has for you, and doing so can save you from costly and disastrous decisions about moving, buying, selling, downsizing, renting or relocating.

Autonomy and control are part of the American psyche, contributing to the character that has made homeownership a key to the American Dream. You want freedom to shape your long-range goals, to set your own priorities and commitments, to feel in charge of your own personal history. Your home can help you achieve these things. How important are autonomy and control in your life right now?

Feeling secure in your home is a basic need that takes precedence over everything else. You want your home to give you freedom from danger and anxiety. Real security is a feeling that you will survive whatever you encounter; such a feeling has its own rewards. If one of your urgent needs is for security in housing, you should pursue that quality even if the stakes are high.

Home captures all aspects of our personal and social identity . It nurtures the inner life that encompasses the "real you" known only to yourself, the "you" you allow others to see, and the "you" you believe others see. Identity is central to your inner life. Hopefully your home captures the essence of who you really are. What does your current home, or the housing you are considering, say about you?

Ideally, your home represents an inner connection to the sacred in life. Spirituality is subjective, intangible and multidimensional. It suggests purpose and meaning in life, principles by which to live, and the need to transcend everyday material or sensory experience. Home is a powerful representation of this spirituality. Do not ignore this aspect of your personal needs and wants as you make housing decisions.

Carefully reflect on the inner characteristics described above. Are you seeing your housing through someone else's eyes or deferring to someone else's expectations? Have recent events stirred unusually stressful responses that make it unwise for you to commit to long-range housing decisions at this time? The more you know about your personal housing needs and wants, and the greater objectivity with which you address them, the more healthful and promising your housing decisions will be.