Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic:
Growing up, Erin Nelson used to make fun of their dad for spending so much time looking out the window at what the neighbors were up to. “Now I’m that person,” Nelson, a 31-year-old who bought their first house a year ago in Portland, Oregon, told me. “I’m always peeking out the window … That’s like my new TV.” Nelson, who uses they/them pronouns, has realized that as a homeowner, their life is bound up with the people next door in a way it never has been before.
Buying a first house is, for those who can afford it, among the largest financial decisions someone makes in their life, and lately, the process has only gotten more stressful: During the pandemic, home prices have shot up, and shopping for a house has become intimidatingly competitive in many places. But even some winners of the competition have buyer’s remorse. In a recent survey from the real-estate site Zillow, roughly one-third of respondents reported regretting how much work or maintenance their home required, and roughly one-fifth concluded that they had paid too much.
Perhaps forgotten amid the bidding wars and the rush to lock in a mortgage as interest rates rise is the fact that this transaction has a way of changing people as well. In addition to buying an assemblage of wood, glass, and other materials and committing to a host of unfamiliar chores, homeowners are also buying a psychological grab bag of new stressors, time sucks, comforts, perks, and trivial fixations—such as the neighbors’ comings and goings. Homeownership can change your mental time horizon, your conception of your community, and your stakes in a physical place.