A New York City real estate broker confided this to Marjorie Garber who recounts the conversation in her book, Sex and Real Estate, (Anchor Books, New York: 2000). The broker also refers to clients who experience emotional rawness during real estate transactions, especially when selling a home is exacerbated by another personal crisis, such as a divorce. The broker reveals that he often acts as a counselor as well as a salesman to stressed clients. I have listened to many other brokers with similar stories about their clients.
Issues related to housing, the environment, privacy, and place are among major topics of interest to environmental psychologists. (See the "Current Trends in Environmental Psychology" article, by Gary W. Evans, which you can find at http://www.ucm.es/info/Psyap/iaap/evans.htm.) Collaborative projects that cut across cultures study crowding and noise, restorative environments, alternative work and living environments, transportation impacts, women and housing, and childcare facilities. Conceptual topics of interest in housing psychology include the concepts of place and home. How do places acquire meaning to people, how are they related to their decisions, preferences, and even to emotional reactions and well being? What does the concept of place (or home) mean across generations or across cultures?
Behavioral economics is the combination of psychology and economics that investigates what happens in markets in which some of the agents display human limitations and complications. See Sendhil Mul-lainathan's and Richard Thaler's, "Behavioral Economics," which is a working paper (September, 2000) and is located at http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=245828. Because saving to buy a home, obtaining a mortgage to finance a home, and many other activities related to socio-financial interactions about one's home require both complex calculations and social psychological elements, behavioral factors are essential elements of any complete descriptive economic theory.
My doctoral dissertation research, "Homeownership, Well-Being, Class, and Politics: Perceptions of American Homeowners and Renters," was completed and published by The Institute for Socio Financial Studies (Middleburg, VA) in 1993. In this paper, I examine the social psychological dimensions of housing and the "get ahead" theories inherent in the American Dream. GSS survey data for the years 1985 through 1991 are used to detect the differences in the perceptions of homeowners and renters using a quality of life (QOL) approach that measures subjective well-being. A sub-jective social class measure tests for feelings of being "middle class" and various measures are used to determine whether homeowners are more "conservative" than renters. The conceptualization of new housing theory emerges from the research and is presented to provide a reframed and expanded way of looking at the social psychology of housing and homeownership.
The case studies in this book are based on interviews I conducted on my analyses of qualitative data collected by other researchers and on the experiences of clients or workshop participants.
One man who is about 50 years old and who participated in a half-day workshop suddenly began to weep uncontrollably and had to leave the room. Later, he told me he had not allowed himself to grieve over the loss of his wife who passed away two years earlier. The exercises in the workshop loosened memories he had suppressed "far too long," he said.
The conventional wisdom about homeownership and increased well-being is supported by research results reported in "Homeownership, Well-Being, Class, and Politics." Homeowners experience significantly higher feelings of family satisfaction than renters; they are more satisfied with leisure time activities; and they are more satisfied than renters with their financial condition. Homeowners, in general, feel significantly happier than renters. The belief that homeownership enhances feelings of social status is also supported. Homeowners see themselves as "middle class" people more often than renters do, signifying their feelings of enhanced social status.