Newmans Own

The President Goes Off-Message

When we wrote this headline , we were just kidding. But now President Obama has gone and pretty much taped an infomercial complete with exhortations to visit his Web site telling people what a good deal they can get if they refinance their mortgage. Low rates! Great service! Millions of satisfied customers! Actually, he didn’t mention anything about great service, but since it’s the federal government, you can count on it.

I’ll let Dana Milbank expound on the political implications of all this. My only point is to note that the president refers to your house as ” your single biggest investment,” which it usually is, unless you’re someone like Bernie Madoff, in which case you’ve got bigger problems (and more houses ).

Obviously the president hasn’t been spending much time lately with real-estate agents and doesn’t realize that this think-of-your-house-as-an-investment line is no longer in the script. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been at an open house and been told to think of it not as an investment but as a place to live —w ell, we’d have enough for a much bigger house. I realize that a house is not only an investment. Like a car or a box of breakfast cereal, it has a value all its own, separate from its monetary worth.

I also realize that it’s the job of realtors to get people to buy houses. And in a declining market, property is not a good investment, at least for the short term. We weren’t in the market a few years go it may not seem like it, but we’ve been looking for only a few months! but I imagine the sales pitch then went something like this: Don’t think of this as a place as where you’re going to live for the rest of your life think of it as investment! And in a few years you can sell and move up.

Of course, neither perspective is entirely wrong. It’s a matter of emphasis. Maybe buyers back in the boom years should have heard more advice like what we’re hearing today. And maybe we ought to listen more when we’re told not to think of a house as an investm… Nah. We should still think of our house as our biggest investment and as a place to live. Because that’s exactly what it is.