Remodeling as therapy

Numbers, trends, tangible data—these are what form the basis of all our major financial and business decisions. Or so we would like to think. But despite our best attempts to be purely rational and in control of our emotions and impulses

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Kris Frieswick has some intriguing insights about the role of emotions in people’s (frequently misguided) decisions to renovate their homes. People are willing to blow an enormous amount of time, money, and energy renovating their homes—often in extravagant and haphazard fashion—as a way of running away from their problems.

This can manifest itself in what Freiswick calls the “Winchester Effect,” after the infamous case of Sarah Winchester. Her husband created the famous gun manufacturer, and after his death she went quite mad and started constantly expanding and rebuilding the family home until it became a modern labyrinth.

More contemporary examples include competitive building projects to keep up with the snooty neighbors, remodeling room after room in slapdash fashion out of a sense of boredom, and restoring old homes in an attempt to save your marriage. Frieswick analyses all these situations and more with cutting wit to draw this simple lesson: When faced with the vicissitudes of life, it often feels easier to take on some big project like redoing the kitchen instead of facing your problems head on.

This is not to say that renovation is necessarily frivolous or an elaborate and expensive alternative to therapy. Far from it. Carefully planned and considered home renovations can be great for your quality of life and equity, of course. But Freiswick’s piece is a useful corrective. This is especially true at a time when renovations have gotten much more expensive.

Due to high demand brought on by the pandemic as well as the increasingly threatening specter of supply-chain problems, the cost of remodeling homes has spiked, with the cost of nearly all renovation products going up sharply from 2019 to 2020. So let the buyer, as always, beware and maybe do some introspection before knocking out any of the walls.

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