People-centered take on middle-class Americans’ fascination with their homes, what drives it and how it is manifested.
Newsweek writer McGinn explored his subject by traveling across the country to profile homeowners of opulent mansions in upscale Potomac, Md.; dwellers in Manhattan micro-apartments; buyers and sellers of brand-new homes in booming Las Vegas; remodelers of existing homes in suburban Newton, Mass.; and owners of second homes in Naples, Fla. He also checked out the real-estate shows that abound on television and the websites that make it easy to discover just how much a particular property is worth, a pastime for both those in the market and those on the sidelines. The author examines why people soured on the stock market by the dot-com meltdown turned to investing in real estate, citing such factors as easy financing, leverage, potential cash flow, the tangibility of the asset—and the herd instinct. After McGinn attended a seminar promising sure-fire ways to make money in real estate, he got into the game himself, buying sight-unseen a somewhat dubious rental property in Pocatello, Idaho. To understand the realtors’ trade (not as lucrative as it might seem), he went to real-estate school and earned an agent’s license. While the peak of the recent housing boom has definitely passed, McGinn insists that it has permanently changed the way Americans think about their houses. The book does not offer much analysis of economic or sociological factors, but its peripatetic author captures the pride and the anguish of those whose stories he tells.
A highly readable pastiche of anecdotes that constitutes a snapshot album of 21st-century American life.