Saturday, May 31, 2008

Housing Valuation as a Social Construct

I changed the name of the Photo pool from "Home Inspection Nightmares" to "Home Construction Nightmares". I didn't want to confuse this with the This Old House (TOH) website, nor limit it to existing [older] homes -- as a considerable amount of new construction is also equally (if not) more horrific in its poor execution.

A perfect example of the kind of builder incompetence in "new construction" is shown courtesy of a fellow Flickr member: Shutters to Think. [click on the photos for a jaw-dropping close up view.]

Home owners and would-be owners should be aware that just because a house is newer, doesn't mean it has fewer defects or is built to a better nor safer standard than much older homes. Just because a house costs more, doesn't mean it's a better home -- or even a better place to live.
In fact, in many ways, I am convinced now that much of the new housing stock (built by for-profit developers & builders in the last 25 years) is of a lower quality than anything seen in the last 100 years.

I feel the "HOME Construction Nightmare" Flickr photo forum is a good way to prove that thesis. I am working on building the visual evidence of what I have seen the last 15 years: that the quality and visual appeal of homes is in decline (in the USA), because (in part),
the design of houses has been given/taken over by unqualified builders and money grubbing developers at the expense of safety and without any substantive consideration of end-user's long-term needs.

Housing quality and safety will not improve until consumers demand it and place their money where their concerns are. This is one reason why I know the housing bubble had to burst, and why I believe housing is currently as much as 60% over-valued in much of America. It's actually in the nation's (and consumers') long-term interest that the value of housing come down from the present [decade 2000s] irrational levels.

It's a fallacy to equate high cost of housing with quality or safety. And not unlike social issues surrounding race, property values based on LOCATION is a social construct [bias], often not based on economic costs or even true value in any objective, democratic measurable means.

Human valuation of commodities like housing/property, jobs/salaries, objects, time, expertise etc., is a strange, interesting and constantly changing phenomenon. For example, we all know that water is far more valuable than diamonds, yet the retail cost of acquiring small diamonds far exceeds the retail cost of acquiring drinkable water (in most industrial nations). And while that may be an imperfect example, I hope you see my point.

[A few notes about these photos, with thanks to Intangiblearts: Notice the window/shutter problem in the top photo. Also notice the fake applied "brick" on this building facade. There's no drainage for moisture that gets behind the soon-to-be mortar or fake brick-ettes. The doors and windows don't have drip caps and are already rotting and peeling. Lastly, can we all agree this kind of visual foolishness is beneath what our communities deserve?]

How a cheap vinyl-clad (carcinogen laden) house in one suburb is worth $475K while it's worth $225 in another area as close as 50 miles away (allowing for size, amenities, lot size, view, environmental issues, access, etc. all being equal), is nothing more than a sham and a social and economic lie.
We are beginning to see the corrections of a system that recognizes the inequity and the COSTS of such an obvious social [fairness] imbalance.

This is a thesis I'm flushing out.. but I hope you will all begin to consider the questions I'm raising.

More on this issue to come.
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1 comment:

IntangibleArts said...

Thanks for the interest in the photos. And you might find it amusing to know that allegedly that house was sold before its completion. I haven't confirmed the sale, but wouldn't be suprised.

I heard this roughly around the time the top photo was taken. So theoretically, the buyer actually SAW the place. But of course it could've been an investor/buyer (as if banks even grant loans to investors anymore), in which case the potential for evil intent might be pretty severe...