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Baby Boomers and Their Unloved Houses

I love this article.  It covers so much of what interests me, at the intersection of culture and real estate.  Where people want to live; urban vs suburban; how people want to live; experiences vs things; generational change; what stays the same; investing in the city vs the suburbs.  I have a number of clients who are telling me that their houses aren’t selling.  Hmm…

I grew up in a house in a suburb outside of New Orleans.  On the surface, I didn’t have any interest in replicating that experience.   Though the freedom of riding my bike in the neighborhood, running around with my neighbors, unsupervised time, all was amazing.

Sadly it doesn’t matter where I live now, I would be parenting in a far different way than people do today.  That in and of itself seems worthy of a longer discussion.  Does it make the suburbs better?  Worse?  The same?

I do know that the kids who grew up in the city seem to be driven to what they didn’t have growing up, aka a house with a backyard.

So sometimes this is about the inevitable swing of the pendulum, 60-70 year cycle and return to cities.  What once was, that changed in post-war America, was the move to the burbs.  Now, younger Americans would rather squeeze into rental apartments than to pursue the “American Dream,” if that dream means doing that ex-urb move.

hollywood set? Or proper home?

Infrastructure, in the way of commuter trains, is abysmal today. People want to have life outside their doors rather than a brutal commute.

At the same time, so much of our lives are lived inside, and the convenience of living anywhere has risen manyfold.  Why WOULDN’T people want to live in the suburbs?  Can’t people work from home more often?  Hasn’t Zoom saved our lives from in-person meetings to a large degree?

Shifting gears- Is there something true about the “authenticity” of living in a city?  Is it less real to live in the suburbs?  I have clients who tell me the things they hate about the suburbs.  And I have other friends who tell me that the best suburbs are those places where there was an intentionality of the move to that particular place.

That may be saying the same thing in two different ways.  That is, if the move to the burbs was simply a have to in order to go to a “good school” and in a town where the house prices were reasonable, then it was a practical decision first, town second.  And perhaps there is the “safety school” aspect of the decision, really an overall plan B, when the people may have wanted to stay in Manhattan or Brooklyn but couldn’t afford to.

The alternative was the true desire to move into a house, for someone who could afford to stay or go.  It’s that optionality that intrigues me.

What I’m writing, on some level, seems incredibly snotty, as it’s showing up on the computer screen, but in the end, there’s this- I spent most of my time talking about my work: Helping people discover what is next for them.  And home becomes a expression of who the person is.  If the decision, then, is made just on dollars, cents, and other items that check boxes, then it isn’t about how a house expresses who they are.  It could just be about what works. And qualitatively, that’s a different energy.  Spread that out over years and generations, it could create towns that give off different energy.

I may come back and read this post, and note that it makes absolutely no sense.  I often waver between feeling that just about any place, really, was at some point a creation.  Over enough time, it becomes imbued with meaning.  And perhaps the meaning that places are imbued with is entirely unique to each person.  I don’t think that’s true, either, as so many people agree on how a particular place feels.  I sit with a lot of ambivalence, which seems natural since I have chosen to make my life in a city and am tasked with selling the merits of the city.  Not that it’s that hard a sell, though!  I could be accused of “talking my book,” in the sense that I want apartments to sell, and sell well.

In the the end, those “checklist” items that I am making fun of earlier in this post come back to haunt me.  What I mean is that higher taxes, school zones, access to playgrounds, all of the same things that people look for when they “settle” for a particular town in the suburbs- they are also playing a pretty large role in purchasing decisions here.  I like to think that the energy vortex that Manhattan sits on top of will keep drawing people here to do what they feel compelled to do.  That magnetism, that pull, that intentionality, is the big difference maker.   -Scott