Posted by: Kevin | April 27, 2007

Wants vs. Needs

I’m selling my house in New York State.  If all goes well, my family will walk away from this home with enough money to put a sizable down payment on a comfortable home in South Carolina, and still have something to spare.  It’s a unique opportunity to put my family on sound financial footing for years to come without sacrificing quality of life.  Now the trick is not to screw it up.

We got a nice example of how to screw it up when we visited some relatives living in the Charlotte, NC area.  They recently moved from Orlando where they had the good fortune of timing the market well and cashing out nicely on their home.  In addition, they got the proceeds from the sale of their parent’s home in Connecticut.  They also got the parents and so they set about building a home that could accommodate the four of them; husband, wife and elderly parents.

For their new home, they wanted it all and got it.  They wanted a big house, so they built a home with over 4000 sq ft.  They wanted a walkout basement apartment for their elderly parents so they bought a double lot on a hill to accommodate it.  They wanted to build on Lake Norman (apparently it’s the prestigious area to build around Charlotte) so that’s where they built.  They literally spared no expense to give themselves what they wanted with their new home.  And now they hate it.

Remember those elderly parents?  They both have frequent doctor’s appointments.  By choosing to live in the boondocks, they now have an hour drive to get to those appointments.  There aren’t any senior activities nearby either.  So those elderly parents sit around all day being needy. 

There’s more to it.  The double lot on a hill that they had to have, is a bitch to take care of, and the husband recently had hip replacement surgery.  The elderly mom, living in the basement walkout apartment, is mobility impaired and can’t access the rest of the house without assistance.  She can’t even get to the driveway herself because of the path is too steep.  The rest of the house, with more than 3000 square feet, only has 2 bedrooms.  Granted they don’t have kids, but a 3000+ sq foot house with only 2 bedrooms is unheard of. 

In every decision that came down to a choice between what they wanted and what they needed, they choose what they wanted.  Is it any wonder they’re miserable?  The interesting thing is that they are completely blind to the fact that it was their own decisions that landed them a state of misery. 

So with that lesson learned, my wife and I identified what we really needed.  We need good schools, an active, safe neighborhood and a somewhat larger home.  We don’t need a McMansion or a ton of land.  I’d rather live near a vibrant town center anyway.  So we’re still looking for our next home, but I can be reasonably sure that we ever we end up, we won’t be miserable.

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