Change: Do I Love It Or List It?

The Canadian Show “Love It or List It” has been very popular in the Lambert household for many years.  The show, which started in 2015, focuses on a couple struggling with what to do concerning their current house, such as “do we invest in the house” or “do we move to another house?”  The Show revolves around the drama of retrofitting/improving a house while at the same time the stress of looking for a new home.

It is common for one partner to be “all in” regarding staying in the current house, despite the costs and struggles, while the other seeks something different.  One partner argues the current home fails to meet their needs regarding family space, amenities,  or a number of different factors.  At this same time, the other spouse argues on the “value” of the house, including the family’s history there, proximity to the community (schools, friends, etc.). While the home improvement/home search plays out, the show’s two hosts (a designer and a real estate agent) engage in friendly banter about their own success in swaying the couple towards loving it or listing it.

After seeing many houses, the couple finally tour their own home, after the renovations are completed. Then they are presented with the appraisal of their own house. They are asked, after reviewing the appraisals, to either “love it (stay) or list it”? Generally, most people choose to “love it”, despite the best efforts of David Visentin, the person helping the couple evaluate new homes, choosing to stay after designer Hilary Farr has completed the renovations. (And I do enjoy David’s occasional glance into the camera, breaking the fourth wall.)

This reason for most couples to “love it” led me to think why so many people choose to stay, when initially, one of the partners found the house inadequate, pushing for a resolution to their “housing situation”.

My thoughts on why most people stay in their home:

  1. The house serves as a link to a broader community. Most of the couples appear to have been in the house for a significant period of time, meaning they have roots to the community. The familiarity of the neighborhood, the location to various social/recreation opportunities, etc., all suggest the couple would have to reconnect to a new community if they moved. There are costs for breaking these social ties. (I am reminded of the following quote from “Field of Dreams“: This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.)
  2. There are couples who put in the funding for renovations. If they have been paying for the house, the renovations could generate a significant equity. For most people, their home equity can be seen as a “retirement nest egg”.
  3. There maybe the potential for dealing with an angry “Hillary”, who seems upset when someone questions her design efforts, which could create a perception of staying to avoid her displeasure.
  4. The couple, unable to make a decision previous to the arrival of Hillary and David, uses the exercise to determine their housing needs. David questions them concerning their needs/wants, seeking to find the “perfect house”. In many ways, people do not know what they want, but can express what they do not want. Sometimes we need others to help clarify our thoughts.

So, if one was to consider the same process of evaluating any change, one would see that change must be adopted through some matrix of at least one or more things:

  1. trade-off between the known for the unknown,
  2. understanding the value of choices,
  3. seeking the approval of others (either to reinforce identity or avoid conflict), or
  4. learning to communicate one’s wants/needs.

So, the next time you are considering a change, think about what factors are/may influence your decision. The answer may surprise you. (If this is not enough, one could easily add to this list by examining the various cognitive biases listed here. )