For Roxanne Greenberg*, it all came down to the bathtub. It wasn’t just any bathtub, but a Victoria and Albert freestanding soaker tub with sleek lines and a deep basin. It also cost a cool $3,000.
“It’s gorgeous. It’s the nicest tub you’ll see in your lifetime. I thought it would be the pinnacle of my bathroom,” says Greenberg, a 42-year-old writer from northern New Jersey. “And then I realized how stupid I was because the only person who uses that bathtub is my 4-year-old daughter.”
Greenberg was suffering from what could—or perhaps should—be called New Home Syndrome. And it’s been known to afflict freshly minted buyers eager to turn their scruffy abodes into a page torn out of Dwell magazine. For Greenberg, it started when she and her husband, a public school teacher, remodeled their Colonial-style house. For other homeowners, it may start a few hours after their broker hands them the keys.
How Your Dream Home Can Do You In
For many Americans, buying a house is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. And, after a down payment and closing costs, their finances can be in a state of shock. But the siren call of decorating your new home is hard to resist, and it’s a sentiment reinforced by HGTV reality shows, websites like Houzz, and home decorating magazines that imply that the perfect living room is just one overpriced throw pillow away. Enticing as the message may be, furnishing a house to perfection can wreak havoc on a homeowner’s wallet and undercut longer-term financial goals.
“Greenberg’s remodeling aspirations went way over budget—and are still costing her in credit card debt.”
“We always advise our clients that the emergency fund should not be used for anything but an emergency, but of course people might march straight to Bed Bath & Beyond and start spending,” says Ellen Derrick, a certified financial planner™ with LearnVest Planning Services. “If you haven’t saved up for home decor, don’t put your financial security in jeopardy just to impress your friends with your decorating style.”
Cait Slater* and her husband spent a year searching for their first home, a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. When they finally landed one for $100,000 under budget, Slater took that as an opportunity to make her shabby-chic domicile look a little less shabby. In just a few months, she spent $30,000 refinishing the floors, repainting the rooms, and adding a patio to the mossy, overgrown backyard.