Home values are down, but values of homes are up


It breaks my heart to see another sticker signaling foreclosure slapped on someone’s front door. Tragically, those bright bursts of garish orange bloomed more prominently than dandelions this year.

Every single day, we read of foreclosures rising as beleaguered homeowners struggle to keep a roof over their heads, or get their heads out from under houses they can ill afford.

I truly think it is the first time that my generation — saved from any real recollection of want, need, or dire straits other than that shared by our parents (gas lines) and grandparents (bread lines) has felt the collective fear of the wolf at the door.

Surely our plight is not quite that of Depression-era Dust Bowl refugees and yet, we feel that clutch of panic — and fear of the unknown — nonetheless. And yet …

Thrifty trend

If there is anything good to come of this economy it is surely that thrift is a hot new trend and frugality is back in fashion. Not long ago to not buy, buy, buy, and spend, spend, spend was akin to admitting you were a terrorist.

Remember that first post Sept. 11 holiday season? It was practically a patriot’s duty to spend, spend, spend. Only Tickle Me Elmo and cashmere wraps could save us.

Now the rise, and fall, of the “American Dream” has been swift, strong, and hard. The media tells us daily how bad things really are.

We are told that credit lines are drying up and our houses — once a prime source or renewable (financed) income for many — are no longer the fountains of cash they once were. Home values are falling. Everyone says so.

These dwindling numbers are part and parcel — if not the cause — of an economy melting down faster than a chocolate bar on a hot dashboard. Me, I think we’ve got our definitions all wrong.

House vs. home

My best friend puts it best, pointing out that endless ads saying “home for sale” are blatantly false advertising. What is for sale is a “house” — sticks and stones and other solid things.

Only the people inside it can make a “home” — and people (and families) are be made of much stronger stuff.

Thus, the one thing I take issue with in this time of need is the notion that home values are falling. I disagree. Perhaps for the first time since the “housing boom” began “home values” are rising again.

Finally, we see our homes not as investments, big square-ish piggy banks, or a quick source of cash for boats, cars, big screen TV’s, or the next big ‘flip’ — but rather as havens again.

Within our means

A place to live within our means even if that means we forego wants for needs. If home is where the heart is thenmaybe we shouldn’t put our hearts on the line to finance vacations and new furniture?

I know that rather than lamenting what my home doesn’t have (and in a 100+ year old home the list is long and varied — no great room, no master suite and no central air just to name a few), I am going to focus on what it does.

My family. My memories. Friends close by. Big enough rooms, a kitchen that feeds us, hot running water and enough room for two dogs, one cat, one wonderful husband, one work-in-progress writer, and two beautiful kids.

Our home is not only a place to hang our hats, but also to hold our laughter, memories, and tears. If the media is to be believed, it’s worth a lot less than it was last year.

Me, I disagree.

Real home values

I think good old-fashioned home values are rising. In truth, thrift, grace, compassion, and living below your means probably never really went out of style. We just lost track of them for a while.

We’ve come around to the realization that maybe it’s not what we hang on the walls or put on the floors or even how many bedrooms and half baths that make a “home.” It’s the people — and the love — that you bring put inside that really add value and make a house a home.

No appraisal can put a price on that. That value comes from the heart.

So your “house” might be worth less,but your “home” might just turn out to be priceless.

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