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A growing body of research suggests that spending money on real estate doesn’t necessarily mean investing in contentment. Indeed, the conventional advice to cut back on vacations, restaurant meals and other extras in order to save money for a home may actually be detrimental to felicity. Experts in happiness — an increasingly popular field focused on the scientific understanding of emotional well-being — say that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material goods, whether it be a new car or a bigger apartment.


“People are making so many trade-offs in order to have that home,” said Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies consumerism and happiness. She recently explored the impact of housing on people’s happiness while compiling studies for a new book, “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” which she wrote with Michael Norton, who teaches at the Harvard Business School.

“人们为了买房子付出了太多牺牲,”不列颠哥伦比亚大学(University of British Columbia)的心理学副教授伊丽莎白·杜恩(Elizabeth Dunn)表示。杜恩的研究领域是消费主义与幸福的关系。最近,她与哈佛商学院的迈克尔·诺顿(Michael Norton)合着了一本新书《快乐消费:更加明智的消费科学》(Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending)。为着此书,她在调研时,探讨了住宅对人的幸福感造成的影响。


The recession forced many people to curb their spending habits and re-evaluate their overall lifestyles. But after saving money for years, buyers encouraged by low mortgage rates are re-entering the housing market. They find the pickings slim. In Manhattan, the number of apartments for sale for the second quarter was at a 13-year low, stoking competition and driving up prices.


Now there is research like Dr. Dunn’s, emphasizing that when it comes to your overall happiness, “there are a lot of better things you could be putting your money toward” than real estate.


This isn’t necessarily bad news in a place like New York City, where nearly 70 percent of the housing stock is rentals. And it may offer some solace to frustrated buyers facing bidding wars and all-cash offers they simply can’t top.


“People still view housing as a central component of happiness and a critical aspect of the American dream,” Dr. Dunn said. “But there is little research to support that.”


A 2011 study of about 600 women in Ohio found that homeowners weren’t any happier than renters. The study was conducted by Grace Wong Bucchianeri, then an assistant professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Indeed, homeowners spent less time on leisure activities with friends and reported that they derived some pain from homeownership. What exactly caused that pain wasn’t indicated in the study, but financial experts say that people who make the leap from renting to buying can be caught off guard by the nuts and bolts.

2011年,时任宾夕法尼亚大学(University of Pennsylvania)沃顿商学院(Wharton School)助理教授的格蕾丝·王·布奇艾勒瑞(Grace Wong Bucchianeri)进行了一项研究,她走访了俄亥俄州内大约600名女性后发现,有房族并不比租房客更幸福。事实上,有房族在休闲会友上花的时间更少,他们还表示,买房也给他们造成了一定的痛苦。研究报告中并没有说明造成这种痛苦的确切原因,但是金融专家表示,人们从租房客晋升为有房族以后,可能会被打理家庭的琐事弄得焦头烂额。

“The reality of maintenance and repairs, and being ‘house rich but cash poor,’ can negate much of the perceived happiness people may have had about homeownership,” said Greg McBride, the senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. Even if a low mortgage rate means you spend less each month than you did when renting, upkeep can drain a bank account faster than a leaking water heater.

“买房以后要费一番功夫保养、维护,而且房子是养起来了,钱包却瘪了,人的预期幸福感会大打折扣,”Bankrate.com网站的高级金融分析师格雷格·麦克布莱德(Greg McBride)说。就算按揭利率很低,算起来每个月用来还款的钱还没有租房时交的房租多;但购房者用在房屋保养上的各项支出,也会使他们的银行积蓄流失得比一只漏水的龙头还要快。

What about the pleasure of living in a beautiful house in a coveted neighborhood? In a delightful screed posted in May on Medium.com, an online publishing site, Lindsey M. Green, a publicist for start-up and technology companies, writes about how even a lovely town house in a sought-after neighborhood can be a letdown.

那么要是所住的房子漂亮又舒适,小区环境也得天独厚,是不是就能让人满足了呢?今年5月,在线出版平台Medium.com上登载了一篇欢乐的长文。作者是专为创业公司和科技企业做宣传推广的林赛·M·格林(Lindsey M. Green)。这篇文章告诉我们,为何就算是在一个热门小区里找到一套舒适的联排别墅,住进去之后也可能失望透顶。


Ms. Green moved to New York City in 2003 and sublet what she described as a “cramped, cheap, Far West Village studio.” She moved eight times within Manhattan over the course of nearly 10 years, even as her friends decamped for Brooklyn and sang its praises. “I was happy as could be as the last dinosaur in Manhattan,” she wrote.

格林在2003年搬到纽约市,逃离了她所说的“廉价而拥挤不堪的远西村(Far West Village)工作室”。她在曼哈顿住了将近10年,期间搬过8次家。就算身边的朋友一个个都搬到了布鲁克林,并且大肆赞美搬家后的生活,她也依然不为所动。“作为朋友圈里坚守在曼哈顿的最后一只‘恐龙’,我却乐得自在,”她写道。

In 2011 she moved to a two-bedroom two-bath in South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan with her then-boyfriend, now fiancé, Lockhart Steele, the founder of Curbed.com. But in October 2012, flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy forced them to evacuate. So with all of the hype that Brooklyn was getting, they jumped at a six-month sublet in a newly renovated Cobble Hill town house.

2011年,她同当时的男友、现在的未婚夫——Curbed.com网站创始人洛克哈特·斯蒂尔(Lockhart Steele)把家搬到了曼哈顿下城的南街海港(South Street Seaport,曼哈顿的一处历史街区,毗邻金融区——译注)的一套两室两卫的房子里。可惜好景不长,2012年10月,飓风桑迪(Hurricane Sandy)引发的洪灾迫使他们不得不撤离曼哈顿。就这样,他们来到久负盛名的布鲁克林,满怀期待地搬进了科布尔山(Cobble Hill)的一座翻新的联排别墅里。

“I could feel all the magazine headlines becoming my reality,” she wrote. “All of the ‘Best of New York’ picks in Brooklyn would suddenly make so much sense. I could become one of those people talking about how much better her life was, now that I finally made the move to Brooklyn.”


She hated it. “Moving to Brooklyn, even into a four-story town house on a beautiful block, in a neighborhood everyone loves,” she wrote, “didn’t make our lives better; it made our quality of life worse.” It didn’t matter that she was living in a lovely home — she missed the bustle of Manhattan and the sense of belonging she had felt there. As she put it: “Manhattan — its absurd inconveniences, annoyances, high rents, crowded bars and tourist-packed streets — is my yoga.”


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