Or maybe just a bad epidemic of Buyer's Remorse. After seeming to embrace the many "joys" of home ownership -- mowing the lawn, retreating to the finished basement to watch football, unclogging blocked toilets -- guys, it seems, are rebelling and giving up the mortgage. Or so The New York Times tells us.
Take one Alan Berks, a playwright. He owned a 3-bedroom house in a Minneapolis suburb and spent a lot of time unhappily rearranging the living room furniture. He got fed up, moved with his wife to Honduras, and then resettled in a Minneapolis rental near shops and restaurants. His conclusion about home ownership? He doesn't see it as a "moral good."
He's not alone. The Times sees a "growing cohort" of guys who are "falling out of love with the holy institution of home ownership."
Given the sub-prime fiasco, foreclosures, and record unemployment, it's not too surprising that anyone - male or female - would rethink owning a home, especially if the incentive for buying is to have an investment rather than simply a place to live, as was the case with countless home buyers during the real estate bubble.
The Times acknowledges that women, too, sometimes wish they weren't saddled with house, yard and picket fence, but this is primarily about the male of the species. Many – but not all – are single or married without kids, and so don't have a burning need to sacrifice a convenient commute and good nightlife for a roomy yard and good schools. (Hmm. Maybe they're dissatisfied with the suburbs more than anything).
A psychology professor tells us in the Times that men rejecting ownership may involve broader questions of manhood (but, isn't that why men have man-caves?) Men face lots of stress, it seems, and compete for status. Home ownership is tied up with those pressures, suggests Florida State University psych professor Roy Baumeister. And it seems many are rethinking the need for a status symbol that requires weekends spent teaching themselves basic plumbing.
Then there's Kirt Greenburg, a 41-year old entrepreneurial "nomad" who owns a 3,300-square foot colonial revival house in Atlanta and ranks among these unhappy home owners. He wants to move to the south of France to start a new business with his partner. Cue the economics professor, who says that a person who is highly mobile "should not be a homeowner because of high transaction costs."
It's hard for me to have too much sympathy for these guys. Even with housing seeming like such a can't-lose investment opportunity in recent years, you have to ask why these guys forgot to consider their dream house as a place to actually live. Why didn't they stop and think about the responsibilities of ownership and whether they really wanted to live in a spacious, distant suburb before signing on the dotted line. Real guys would do that, not whine -- there's no super! it's too big! too quiet! the pool pump filter died! -- like cry babies.
Realtors can only hope that the fairer gender will pick up the slack.