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House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes

1 rating: 2.0
non-fiction book by Daniel McGinn

A rich narrative that blends social commentary with incisive reporting, House Lust offers an astute, funny, and sometimes disturbing portrait of the behaviors that drove the greatest real estate boom in history—and its eventual bust.    Owning … see full wiki

Author: Daniel McGinn
Genre: Real Estate
Publisher: Broadway Business
Date Published: January 8, 2008
1 review about House Lust: America's Obsession With Our...

America's obsession with ever larger and outlandishly expensive homes has finally caught up with us!

  • Nov 29, 2008
Rating:
+2
In his 2004 book "Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever And How It Changed America" author Steve Gillon refers to a rather surprising observation from Paul Begala, hardly a conservative Republican, who opined that "baby boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self aggrandizing generation in American history."  You will get no argument from me there and I was born in 1951!  You remember the boomers don't you?  These were the disaffected young people who were marching in the streets in the late 1960's.  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to retirement.  Millions of baby boomers have developed a condition that author Daniel McGinn refers to as "House Lust".  And the epidemic is spreading to younger generations as well.
 
What are the symptoms of "House Lust"?  If you are spending more than a few hours each week watching HGTV you are likely coming down with this highly contagious affliction. I hear that shows like "House Hunters", "Designer's Challenge", "Flip This House" and "What You Get For The Money" can be extremely addicting.  Daniel McGinn points to the meteoric rise in the popularity of HGTV over the past decade as a major factor in the real estate craze we have all experienced. Suddenly you realize that you are living in the wrong neighborhood or that your house just doesn't cut it anymore.  Another symptom of "House Lust" is an aversion to anything small, outdated or used.  Many of those in the market for a house today are looking for a home at least 3 or 4 times the size of the houses they grew up in.  They also want homes loaded with just about every amenity imaginable.  Daniel McGinn goes on ad nauseum about the myriad of options available to buyers today.  Have you heard those commercials on the radio explaining how much happier life will be if you install new Corian counter tops in your kitchen?  And then there is the debate about buying a brand new home as opposed to purchasing an existing dwelling and renovating.  You will learn the pros and cons of each of these options.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing I read in "House Lust:  America's Obsession With Our Homes" is the story of Dr. Debi Warner, the "Renovation Psychologist" hailing from the great state of New Hampshire Dr. Warner has evidently carved out a niche for herself assisting embattled couples as they navigate the difficult road of home renovation.  Renovating can be s-o-o-o stressful!  Apparently there is a TV show in the works as well!   In the latter chapters of "House Lust" there is much practical information to he had about other issues surrounding the housing industry.  You will learn why so many individuals take a shot at a career in real estate and why so many of these folks drop out of the business after just a short time.  McGinn also explores the issues surrounding vacation homes and time-shares.  Finally, Dan McGinn examines the pros and cons of investing in real estate. I was quite surprised to learn how many people purchase investment properties they have never seen in states that are hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  Sounds awfully risky to me.

At the end of the day I found "House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes" to be a fairly well-written and pretty informative book.  Yet much of the subject matter greatly disturbs me.  More than once I found myself muttering "What the heck were these people thinking?" when reading about some of the obscene amounts of money that people are willing to spend on building and renovating their homes.  I hate the conspicuous consumption that seems to be in evidence everywhere you turn these days.  And as author Robert Putnam so aptly points out in his seminal book "Bowling Alone" we all pay a price for such self absorption.  Clearly, civic participation is at an all-time low as people withdraw from the public square and retreat into their not so humble abodes.  It would appear that a growing number of us seem perfectly willing to sit back and "let the other guy do it."  As their numbers continue to dwindle, once vibrant civic and religious organizations like the Elks, Knights of Columbus and the American Legion to name but a few are struggling to survive.  Our communities are the big losers because many of the volunteer services that once were provided by these organizations have either totally disappeared or have had to be assumed by the government.  Another extremely disturbing trend is that political parties are finding it more and more difficult to attract talented people to run for political office.

In the final analysis the American constitution guarantees each one of us the "freedom to be foolish".  People who choose to spend outlandish sums on their homes should do so at their own risk.  If things go awry these people have no right to expect the government to bail them out.  Perhaps the painful lessons we are learning today will help to us all to curb our appetites just a bit in the future. "House Lust" is a great way to get up to speed on these fascinating issues.  Recommended. 
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July 20, 2009
I too am one of those addicted to HGTV. But to my defense, I have always been interested in interior design/architecture. :-) We recently purchased a house after living like college students almost 20 years, and I am having so much fun fixing up our fixer upper. Sounds like a good read to keep me checked. Thanks for the review!
 
April 18, 2009
Great review.........I love this topic and do a lot of talking about all the gaudy homes springing up all over town these days. Definitely a sign of the times. I grew up in a flat (which I kind of like now), but sometimes have to pinch myself when I look at how I live now. When we built our home in 1989 it was considered a pretty good size, but nothing compared to what they're building today. I can't believe these mansions....pure lust, all right!
 
April 18, 2009
Yikes! how scary. I'm more a "same ax, twice" sort of person, myself.
 
January 13, 2009
Interesting, I have to say, I am one of those people addicted to those HGTV shows... and I can predict my future: me being addicted to this new huge house trend. I will need to add this to my "need to read" list.
 
November 29, 2008
Another great review! Keep them coming. I think in the old days they used to call the trend being "land poor", in that everything they owned was tied up in the land or house and they were technically poor despite their large properties.
 
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