Archive for August 9, 2007

Snooping to Find the Value of Someone Else’s Home

My husband and I purchased our primary residence in August of 2001. My husband, (then boyfriend), and I purchased the house together, five days after my 24th birthday. It was a defining moment in our lives. There is nothing better than painting the walls, and moving the furniture, and realizing that one day you will own this house. The feeling was so incredible that we bought a second home in 2005.

My husband and I purchased our home just before the housing boom took over the nation. In 2001, we paid $260,000. At the time I told everyone I knew just how much we paid. I was young and excited, but more importantly proud that my boyfriend and I were able to purchase a home of our own. (Even though we only paid 12% of the home’s value at closing.) I noticed in return that no one ever mentioned how much they paid for their home. When a few coworkers moved the cost of their new home was never mentioned. In fact, my grandmother was the only one who discussed the price she paid and that was because the number sounded so ridiculously low in comparison to today’s prices. A few years later, when the housing market skyrocketed, people began to discuss the estimated value of their homes, but still the purchase price was never offered in conversation. It seems home prices are as taboo as salaries.

I mentioned this phenomenon to my mom the other day and she told me something that had never occurred to me. She told me her coworkers search the SDAT, (State Department of Assessments and Taxation), records to find out just how much people paid for their homes. Whenever they meet someone new they visit the Maryland SDAT site, type in the address of their new found friend, and discover the price they paid for their home. When I told her that seemed like an odd thing to do, she mentioned that she knows other people, outside of work, who do this too.

Is this a matter of keeping up with Joneses? You can’t know if you’re comparable to the Joneses unless you know what they paid for their home? Are people assuming other factors about you from the price you paid? For example, do you think the price of one’s home is indicative of the salary they earn? It seems a bit like snooping to me. I’m not certain I like the idea of searching through state records to get the scoop on the finances of my friends and family.

If you know people who do this or do this yourself please leave a comment on my blog. (You can comment anonymously.) I would love to hear what pleasure or value you receive in knowing the price someone else paid for their home.

August 9, 2007 at 1:30 PM 13 comments


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