Lifestyle creep can ruin home buying plans

Lifestyle Creep and priorities - house keys and dollar cash floating around gift bags and credit card

Lifestyle creep was a new phrase to me not long ago, but I understood the meaning right away: giving oneself a lifestyle upgrade with pay increases or milestones achieved.

What does lifestyle creep look like?

When life improves, particularly if more money is coming in, a somewhat natural inclination may be to spend a little more of it on oneself and splurges – things not previously affordable. Here are a few examples:

  • just got a new job
    • buy a new wardrobe, maybe even designer items “because I deserve it”
  • graduated from school, university, or graduate program
    • take an expensive vacation, maybe lasting all summer, to celebrate
  • just got engaged, married, or grew the family
    • buy or lease a new (or new to you) expensive vehicle
    • move to a much larger rental home

More meals out, more Uber Eats, a new car or new rental digs can all feel like well deserved rewards with the better income, combined households, or achievements made. But do they address your long term goals, or put those goals more out of reach?

What we want now versus what we want most

Lifestyle creep can be a threat to hitting long term, important goals which take cash. Whether the big plan is to pay off student loans, save for a down payment on a first or move-up home, or save for a loved one’s higher education, cash is king. If that cash is spent on little indulgences on a regular basis, it can erode the ability to do what is wanted the most.

Buying and selling real estate vs. lifestyle

Real Estate is Far More Than LifestyleThere are real estate marketing trends that Silicon Valley home buyers and home sellers are exposed to from realty professionals trying to win new clients, and perhaps many of these consumers do not realize the shifts in the marketing messages when they happen.  One such trend that we are seeing now is to try to focus consumers’ attention on “lifestyle”. The hope of this movement is to sell you on the idea that you’re not just buying (or selling) real estate, but a whole way of life.   To that end, a lot of energy and attention go toward the benefits of living in particular communities.

It’s all well and good to appreciate community events, great schools, beautiful parks, or whatever the neighborhood has to offer.

But at the end of the day, you aren’t buying lifestyle.  You aren’t purchasing the free concerts (they could disappear).  You aren’t buying the “walking distance” to the neighborhood grocery store (it could close).  And you certainly aren’t buying the nifty shops a half mile away (they could get seedy over the next 20 years and).

You’re buying or selling real estate, a house, a condominium, a townhouse.  In most cases, that means you are selling or purchasing land with some sort of housing on top of it (and if not buying it directly, as with a condo, you’re buying a percentage of it).  There are real estate contracts to be navigated, with very important ramifications resulting from the many, many choices made within it.  There’s a gauntlet of disclosures to complete and digest, a minefield of hints about property condition which should not be treated lightly for either buyer (who could get a lemon) or seller (who could get a lawsuit).  The neighborhood needs to be analyzed too, but not for the fun stuff that “lifestyle selling” peddles.   San Jose area home buyers will want to know if there are problem neighbors (most communities have at least one) and what issues do they bring – honking, screaming, garbage cans out all week?  Or are their brief visits from other people to that home’s doorstep at all hours of the day or night?  Is the property in a natural hazard zone? (more…)