Owning a house not always the American dream, studies show

July 12, 2013 03:00PM

Investing in real estate may not translate into happiness, according to a growing body of research, the New York Times reported.

People are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than material goods, experts in happiness say, which means foregoing that vacation or cutting restaurant meals in order to buy property may be a step in the wrong direction when it comes to contentedness.

“People still view housing as a central component of happiness and a critical aspect of the American dream,” Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, told the Times. “But there is little research to support that.”

A study of about 600 women in Ohio in 2011 even found that homeowners weren’t any happier than renters. Homeowners spent less time on leisure and found themselves facing the reality of maintenance and repairs, the findings showed.

Part of the problem could be that home buyers have inflated expectations of homeownership, thinking that buying real estate is an end-goal, when many people would probably be happier moving occasionally, the Times said. Buyers also end up making a number of trade-offs by the time they actually close a transaction for a home.

“Things give us more joy when they are first acquired than over time, as we adapt to them,” Ravi Dhar, a psychology professor at Yale University, told the Times. But many buyers will continue to pay a mortgage for years, long after that joy has faded. [NYT]Julie Strickland