The beach house was a familiar bone of contention for the mid-sixties couple sitting in front of me. For several years, the wife had wanted to purchase a beach house. The husband thought a beach house was a bad investment.
“A bad investment? How can you say that? Beach houses have sky-rocketed in value since we began our search years ago!” the wife reminded her husband at the meeting.
The couple looked at each other, and instead of getting into the same old debate, they turned to me.
“Do you think it’s a good or bad investment?” the husband asked me.
“Well, it depends. Do you view the house as an investment, or do you view it differently?” I replied to them.
They looked startled by the question.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, it’s hard to view a beach house as another investment. I have a beach house and it’s a great way to make memories and be together with my family. The money I spend on the house doesn’t cross through my mind at all. I have memories, and I’m happier with that. I wouldn’t want to sell the house if it tripled in value! I love having the beach house. What are your thoughts about this?”
“Well, our children and grandchildren never have time to slow down and relax. A beach house could bring our family together each summer. What do you think?” she asked, as she turned to her husband.
“I think it would bring our family together, but I would get stuck with the upkeep and cost to maintain the house. I’m getting older and I’m not up to taking care of another home,” the husband replied firmly.
Even though our analysis showed the couple could easily afford the cost of the house, the husband remained unconvinced. He alone, believed that he would bear the burden of maintenance for the new home.
“Well, do you have any other family members that could help out with the maintenance of the beach house?” I asked.
“Yes, we do, I already talked to the kids. They can’t afford their own beach house so they were thrilled at the idea of us getting one. They are willing to pitch in to help maintain the house,” the wife replied.
To keep the momentum going, we drafted a plan together showing everyone’s responsibility in the maintenance of the house.
Three months later the couple closed on the house, and since then we’ve received lots of family photos from the beach. What’s the lesson? By encouraging dialog and openness in financial decisions, we were able to help the couple find a path to bridge their differences, and make an informed, collaborative decision. Today they’re both happier for it.