Will Buying Your Dream Home Make You Happier? It’s Complicated
A case of keeping up with the Joneses.
Updated Oct 10, 2018 5:09 PM
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If you’re anything like us, you covet a particular house in the neighborhood. It’s likely not too far from your own home—something a quick drive or walk away—and there’s a good chance it’s larger than the one you already live in. Maybe it has a more substantial front yard or a wraparound porch. Maybe it has an additional story. For Lady Bird, the titular character in Greta Gerwig’s 2017 movie, the house is big and blue. For you, it might be a stately brick mansion or a sprawling, Spanish-style home.
You imprint your hopes and dreams on this house—how your life would be different if only you lived there—but according to a new report, the home that you’ve long dreamed about might not actually make you as content as you think it will. As The Atlantic reports, suburban houses have been steadily increasing in size since the 1970s, but homeowner satisfaction remains precisely the same as it was back then. Living in a bigger place, it seems, isn’t always the key to a happier life.
It’s a common case of keeping up with the Joneses, especially for those who live in more grandiose neighborhoods. According to a paper published in a journal by the London School of Economics, homeowners who live in already-spacious houses experience dissatisfaction with their houses when their neighbors renovate their homes to be even bigger. By contrast, those who live in neighborhoods with more modestly sized homes are less affected by what’s going on next door.
An easy antidote to this sense of competition is to focus less on the size of your home and more on the pieces that make it special. If you love entertaining, you don’t need a palatial kitchen, just that custom dining table with enough space for close friends. An extra guest room or two might make your home seem fancy, but a sectional sofa that brings whole family together can be just as nice. A rambling, green front lawn may be the ultimate status symbol, but wouldn’t you prefer your cozy yard complete with furniture that makes cookouts more comfortable?
A bigger house can make you happier if things are feeling really cramped in your current home—but a mansion isn’t going to maintain your joy forever. After all, it’s what’s inside that really counts.
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