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Where the Heart Is

Oct
18
2006

No doubt because of previously hidden masochistic tendencies, the husband and I have been house hunting lately in a market that’s just gone through several boom price years. You might be familiar with that kind of market; it’s the one where people at a party talk about how out of control house prices are, because their house has doubled in value in less than four years. Gee.
It’s a lot of fun to look at houses for sale that used to cost just half as much. But at least it’s not just painful – it’s a cultural learning experience too.
The whole house buying process here is obviously different from in the U.S. For one thing, at least in the Valencia area, there’s no central computerized listing. Each agency lists the houses it handles, so you can go to different agencies and websites to get an idea of the overall market, but you never feel like you have a grasp of everything, or almost everything, that’s out there. This, if you are a “maximizer” instead of a “satisficer” when it comes to making decisions, will drive you crazy.
(Those terms are from psychologist Barry Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice,” describing people who want to choose the absolute best whatever, or instead will settle for something that’s good enough. Too much choice is making Americans unhappy, he says. Think 300 kinds of cereal. Necessary? Conducive to more happiness? Not likely.)
There’s also no lock box system, so the home owner is often there when you go see a house. So far the most common reasons we’ve run across for selling are, in no particular order:
1. Couples with kids moving closer to the rest of the family. They usually already live less than 30 minutes away.
2. Older couples moving closer to the grandkids and/or to more convenient living arrangements. The grandkids are also mostly already within a 30-minute drive.
3. Couples divorcing. In the middle of or soon after home renovations. (That one strikes me as universal.)
What the sellers haven’t mentioned, or at least admitted to, is moving on up to a better house and leaving the dump they’re selling behind. We’ve also only heard one person say she was moving to be closer to work.
This is completely unscientific, but I’m sure work reasons are way higher on the list of why U.S. families move. Although people here do move for work opportunities, particularly to big cities Madrid and Barcelona, many Spaniards like to stay closer to their families and roots.
And so does being closer to families make Spaniards happier? I’d guess it depends on the family. But at least they don’t have to sort through a mile-long cereal aisle.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:05 AM | Permalink

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