Tough Economic Times & Sticking By Our Homes

Jay_Johnson_d2s2.jpgJay Johnson -- We are hearing a lot of words in the news like bailout, billions of dollars, mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcy, and the worst word of all . . . depression.

I promise that this won't be a doom-and-gloom column, however. D2S has always taken the editorial position that a house, condo, or co-op is more than an investment. It is the place where families live, memories are made, and the American dream realized. We have not been fans of the buy-and-flip approach to homes, fueled by attractive mortgage packages and soaring real estate values. We've seen too many popular TV shows glorifying the flip. The only thing we like about the new downturn (and downturn is too gentle a word to describe our new global economy), is that it's forcing us to see our homes as safe havens, the heart of our personal lives, and much more than financial investments.

If you're fortunate enough to keep your home and mortgage -- unlike many, many Americans who have recently and increasingly lost theirs -- then you might be facing the prospect of holding onto your home for a lot longer than you originally anticipated. You may not be so keen to know what you could sell your house for, knowing that this is not a wonderful time to sell. There are high-end, luxury homes that will always sell well and there is good activity (or so we've heard) at that higher end of the market. We toast the high end and pray that its good fortune expands to all segments of the housing market and to all family income brackets.

In June of this year, the American Psychological Association released a report showing that the top cause of anxiety for Americans is money fears. With recent events, this anxiety is red hot, fueled by fear and concern over the world's current state of economic insecurity. I want to say, however, as simple as this may sound, that "this too shall pass." Bad cycles and bear markets always alternate with good cycles and bull markets. If families can tough this out, there is room for hope and optimism. We strongly believe that it's important to stay focused and get busy around the house to keep your mind free of worry. Projects help you achieve some great new results around the house. Improving your living space, whether it's tackling an inexpensive weekend do-it-yourself project or hiring a decorator to freshen up the kitchen, will pay off in immediate gratification and good energy, the perfect antidote to anxiety.

Homeowners in Action

I wanted to share some videos with you that show families who have turned their attention to their homes and have completed or are in the process of undertaking home improvement, remodeling, or renovation projects. It's the ultimate kind of "nesting," or hunkering down in the home where you currently live, without any aspirations to sell quickly and buy a house with greener grass. In today's economy, if you can have the good fortune to stay put where you are with some modicum of security, then you might consider undertaking one or more home design projects that will add value to your home when real estate values eventually escalate. But more important, the psychology behind nesting is all about feeling optimistic, and it starts with making changes in your home to make it as close to your Dream House as possible.

I encourage you to check out our Design2Share YouTube Design2Share video channel and our new Blinkx Design2Share video channel and 5min Design2Share Studio. We showcase over 600 videos about architecture, design, and everyday life in these D2S channels.

Click on the links below to watch our Design2Share featured videos:

Country House Indoor Vignettes shows off a great do-it-yourself kitchen floor refinishing idea that looks fantastic. You can follow this technique with the wood floors in any room or hallway in your home. The video is one of my favorites because it shows off the Connecticut homeowners' display of their own artwork, some antiques that they've had in the family, and sprucing up their fireplace mantel using found objects like nests, rocks, and pine cones.

Bathroom Remodeling is a short video tour of a Minnesota homeowner's work on her bathroom. She took a dismal 1970s mess and took some of her favorite slate tiles and brought them into the floor (in small-scale size tiles) and the shower area (larger-scale tiles), and freshened up the vanity area with a new vessel sink and an original cabinet design. I like the freshness of the new vanity and encourage you to get inspired to add something handmade and creative into your next remodeling job. Don't think that you're restricted to using only showroom or catalog items. Use local craftspeople to fashion something special to fit your space and needs.

Kitchen & Bedroom Renovation in MA is a look at a homeowners' Victorian house remodeling job. They demolished an outdated kitchen on the first floor level, a mudroom that wasn't working, a small back stoop, and a second-floor screened sleeping porch with a sagging floor. They replaced it with a great new eat-in kitchen design and a center-island cooking/eating area that will allow for conversations during meal prep and serving. There's also a dedicated mudroom, an efficient laundry area, a butler's pantry and wet bar, and a downstairs powder room. A small bedroom and the upstairs sleeping porch is being turned into a master suite with a bath, walk-in closet, and a spacious new bedroom. It's still a work in process, but this is a more ambitious undertaking. The homeowners' goal is to add the essentials they felt they needed in order to make them happy about staying put in their current home. We celebrate this spirit.

Autumn View from Victorian Porch is a little extra to help us all celebrate the lovely fall weather in many parts of the country. I shot the changing leaves from the porch of the house featured in the previous video. Enjoy!

Photo credits: AMC Construction, Knowsey Neighbors

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