Here in Sharon, Connecticut where I rode out the hurricane with three generations of my family, the sky cleared around 1 AM last night , and the storm gave way to an extraordinarily clear starry night. That morphed this morning into the most perfect day possible. This house, which my wife and I renovated painstakingly over a period of almost two years, has become a wonderful gathering place for family and friends at holiday time, in moments of crisis (my niece, her husband, and their baby son came here three days ago from Brooklyn once they heard all the subways were shutting down and there was no food or bottled water left in the stores!), and for re-establishing a sense of connection with people I love and with the world at large. As I cooked for everyone (I love to feed a crowd), I thought about the meaning of creating a home.
Both our apartment in New York and our house in Connecticut have been centers for family activity. It takes a while to make a dwelling place into a home, and for me, owning rather than renting has given me the sense of permanence, of belonging, which has made that transition possible. True, many people rent long term and feel similarly about their homes, but for me owning is an integral part of the home building experience. I would believe in it with or without the mortgage tax deduction, and regardless of whether my home always seemed like a “good investment.”
The question is, investment in what? I have written before in the blogs about my belief that New Yorkers focus too much on the notion of their home as an investment. When I bought the house in Connecticut, at the top of the market back in 2005, I knew I was paying on the high side. And that was before the renovation! Recently, for a refinance, it was appraised for about 2/3 of what I have in it. But so what? Stocks are down too, and I have no plan to sell this in my lifetime because it makes us all happy. What is the value of that?
So, New Yorkers, remember that money is not the value which counts the most. The home in which you can raise a family or entertain friends or give great parties will fill up with memories and associations which enrich your life and fill you with a sense of well being about your history and experiences. Price per square foot is important, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the importance of creating the right backdrop against which your life can unfold.