A growing body of research suggests that spending money on real estate doesn’t necessarily mean investing in contentment. Indeed, the conventional advice to cut back on vacations, restaurant meals and other extras in order to save money for a home may actually be detrimental to felicity. Experts in happiness — an increasingly popular field focused on the scientific understanding of emotional well-being — say that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material goods, whether it be a new car or a bigger apartment.
“People are making so many trade-offs in order to have that home,” said Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies consumerism and happiness. She recently explored the impact of housing on people’s happiness while compiling studies for a new book, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” which she wrote with Michael Norton, who teaches at the Harvard Business School.
The recession forced many people to curb their spending habits and re-evaluate their overall lifestyles. But after saving money for years, buyers encouraged by low mortgage rates are re-entering the housing market. They find the pickings slim. In Manhattan, the number of apartments for sale for the second quarter was at a 13-year low, stoking competition and driving up prices.
Now there is research like Dr. Dunn’s, emphasizing that when it comes to your overall happiness, “there are a lot of better things you could be putting your money toward” than real estate.