5 Ways To Overcome Emotional Attachment To Buy A New Home
Now that I’m in contract to buy a home with contingencies, I’ve been wrestling with my emotions on whether buying a new home is a good idea. Perhaps you’ve also become emotionally attached to your existing home and are questioning your decision to move as well. Maybe this post will help you move forward.
I am forever grateful to our current home for providing us shelter during the pandemic. Hard times create stronger bonds. We moved into our home on August 3, 2020 after first seeing it listed in mid-April, 2020. The escrow period was two-months long.
The negotiation process was grueling and I also remember feeling conflicted on whether to buy our existing house. But back then, I had a strong catalyst to move to a larger house due to the lockdown. In addition, the ground floor remodel of our old home was taking much longer than I had expected. I refused to be stuck living in a construction zone with a baby and a toddler.
As I scroll through my pictures and videos since 2020, I get nostalgic seeing all the many joyous memories we’ve had in our existing home. From our daughter’s first steps, to the kids sliding into an inflatable pool on our deck, to the room where I finished my first traditionally published book, I’m going to miss our home.
But all good things must come to an end.
How To Break The Emotional Attachment Of A Home To Buy A New One
After I bought our current home in 2020, I wrote a post entitled, Enjoy Your Forever Home For Now. I knew we could live in our current home forever, but deep down I doubted we would.
Based on the 12-year average duration of homeownership in America and my own track record, I felt strongly we’d be moving again before the kids left the house. The high probability of moving is also one of the main reasons why I took out a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage for 2.125% versus a 30-year fixed mortgage for 2.625%.
If you’re emotionally attached to your home and struggling with moving forward to buy a new home, here is some advice.
1) It’s not the home, it’s the people around you
Although we think we are emotionally attached to our homes, it’s actually the people we’re really attached to. The home is just a vessel that provides us a place to live our experiences for 12+ hours during a 24-hour day.
Therefore, so long as the people you love are moving with you to your new home, you won’t be losing that connection. The fear of moving really has to do with the fear of no longer being around the many people you love.
Given it’s the people around you that make life special, it also stands to reason that moving into a fancier home may not give you as much joy as you might expect. This may be especially true if you’re already happy with your existing home.
I struggle with this scenario the most because we’re happy in our existing home. If you’re already happy, then there is downside risk to your happiness if you move.
2) You’ll create new experiences in your new home
Although you may feel sad leaving your existing home, you are almost guaranteed to have new amazing experiences in your new home. Over time, as these good experiences proliferate and turn into new memories, you will miss your old home less and less.
But to have good experiences in your new home, you must have good people living with you. In addition, you must be thorough in reviewing all of the seller’s disclosures and inspecting the home before moving in. Fix known issues beforehand to minimize buyer’s remorse.
Here’s a post on warning signs to look for before buying a home. I highly recommend you go through them all and be as thorough as possible before releasing contingencies. Once you release contingencies, your earnest money deposit is 100% at risk. All you have left really are closing delay tactics.
3) It’s good to spend more of your wealth as you get wealthier.
Most of us will get wealthier over time, especially those who read personal finance sites like this one. Given we want to maximize our lifestyles with the wealth we’ve accumulated, upgrading homes more frequently than the average person is common.
Compare your emotional attachment to your existing home with the emotional attachment to your money. Which one is worse? I say the emotional attachment to your money is worse especially if you never spend it.
At the extreme, you might be a hoarder who never gives and only buys one-ply toilet paper. Despite working long, stressful hours for decades, you would rather continue renting a studio apartment so you can die with millions. In this example, there is clearly a psychological block that needs to be broken when it comes to spending money.
Spending your wealth as you get wealthier is a responsible way to consume. I’ve provided a home buying guide by income and net worth to help people do just that. Since we spend so much time at home, buying a nicer home is the ultimate way to reward yourself for all your years of labor, discipline, and investing.
4) A new adventure to make life more interesting
Instead of lamenting about the things you’ll miss leaving your current home, think about all the exciting new things you’ll experience in your new home. A new home in the same city creates one new level of excitement. A new home in a new city, state, or country creates another level of excitement!
I just realized the sadness of leaving your existing home is similar to sadness of leaving a long-time job. Try to think about new adventures ahead.
Many of us fantasize about living different lives. We imagine what life would be like if we went to this college, took that job, or married the one that got away. Alas, the best most of us can do is live one life and moonlight on the side!
No matter how rich you get, you can only live in one home at a time. Being able to live only one timeline is an equalizer between the rich and poor. Hence, if you’re just a regular middle-class person looking to spice things up, buying a new home is a way to keep things fresh.
Self-Discovery Therapy Session
One of the things I discovered about myself during this latest home-buying process is why I’m so open to moving every 2-4 years and my wife is not. Besides the pain of packing, my wife grew up in the same home from elementary school through sophomore year in high school. She experienced home stability.
I, on the other hand, moved around every 2-4 years for 14 years due to my parents’ work for the U.S. Foreign Service. Every move was hard because I had to leave my friends behind. But every move also provided a new and exciting adventure! I was forced to make new friends, get to know a new culture, and get acclimated to a new environment.
I’ve lived in San Francisco since 2001. From 2001 – 2012 I was able to scratch my itch for adventure by regularly going on business trips to Asia for work. From 2012-2017, I continued to fulfill my adventurous spirit by traveling to Europe and Asia each year with my wife.
However, since 2017, we haven’t flown anywhere together because we decided to vacation locally until our daughter turns five at the end of 2024.
As a result, I scratched my itch for adventure by buying a fixer in 2019. Remodeling it was a 2.5-year ordeal. A year later, we bought our existing home and rented out the fixer. With the lack of desire to relocate to a new country, I figure buying a nicer home is a reasonable compromise.
5) You can always rent out your current home
One of the ways to hedge against the regret of buying a new home is by renting out your existing home, if you can afford to. If you decide your new home is not for you, you can always sell or rent it out, and return to your previous home once the tenant’s lease is up.
For the millions of homeowners who locked in a low mortgage rate during the pandemic, renting out their home and buying a new home makes economic sense. From an emotional attachment standpoint, however, renting out the current home they enjoy makes even more sense.
Our Decision To Rent Out Our Old Home As A Hedge
When we bought a fixer in 2014 we had lived in our previous home for 10 years. We had grown emotionally attached to our previous home in The Marina district because it was the home we thought we’d raise our children in. However, work got in the way and our biology didn’t cooperate, so it ended up being just the two of us in a 2,070 sqft home.
The fixer we bought was 1,720 sqft with one less bedroom in Golden Gate Heights. We thought it was the perfect-sized home for a couple to live out our days. However, because we were emotionally attached to our old home, I decided to rent it out for three years just in case a baby did come and we regretted moving to a smaller home.
After one year, we no longer missed our old home and our old neighborhood. It was refreshing to explore new hikes and eat at new restaurants in our new neighborhood. When our son finally arrived in 2017, we had zero emotional attachment to our old home in The Marina. A quieter neighborhood suited us better for our new stage in life.
In 2017, we sold The Marina rental and reinvested the proceeds in 100% passive income investments. Given we can earn up to $250,000 / $500,000 tax-free if you’ve lived in your rental for two out of the past five years, we felt we made the right emotional and economic decision.
Be Free From All Attachment
Buddhism teaches us that desire is the cause of all suffering (dukkha). To reach enlightenment, we must let go of our desires.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t break our greedy habits, so we continuously desire bigger homes, more money, more status, and more everything. The best most of us can hope for us to find some balance in our lives.
Although it’s somewhat disturbing to be emotionally attached to our existing home, I’m more disturbed about why I can’t be more satisfied with what I have. Seriously, why move if we’re already happy? For me, the answer lies in consumption smoothing and trying to maximize the return on my previous efforts to work, save, and invest.
I’ve talked to plenty of people who’ve bought nicer homes before who say they are no happier after moving. In fact, some became less happy due to the increased maintenance headaches that tend to come along with more expensive homes.
So in a twisted way, I embrace being free from emotional attachment as a way of moving on from my existing home. If we do end up buying this new home, I’ve promised my wife we won’t move for at least eight years. We did so before when we didn’t have kids in our Marina home. We can do so again until our daughter finishes middle school.
Since we plan to live in San Francisco for another eight years, I’m mainly looking for a new adventure with my family. The pandemic gave most investors an unexpected financial windfall. I plan to take full advantage by buying a nicer home.
Reader Questions And Suggestions
Do you have emotional attachment to your home? If so, how were you able to get over your attachment to buy a new home? Have you ever found yourself satisfied with what you have only to seek out more? Why do we do this? And how do we overcome this cycle of desire?
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