How to Write Your Vision of Home
Your "Vision of Home" statement is not simply a vision of a house or even of several houses, but a statement describing the desired state of your life after you buy your home -- all elements of your life, including where, how and how much you live, work, play, rest, etc. Doing some soul-searching at this point can have a huge impact on the endgame, which is a combination of (a) success at the enterprise of buying a home, and (b) wellness (financially and otherwise) throughout your career as a homeowner (which lasts way longer than the buying process itself).
Why You Need a Vision of Home
Before you've even started house hunting, you have already made a commitment. The Vision will help you maintain this commitment, through all the drudgery and detail work involved in getting your home. The idea is to paint such a vivid picture of the life you want that it excites you to action and keeps your commitment, energy and enthusiasm levels high -- from start to finish.
Fully engaging in and completing this exercise during the house hunt will place you in an incredible position of power when it comes to communicating your needs and wants to your team of professionals, and staying on track throughout your process. In fact, depending on how specific your Vision statement is, you might be able to pull from it a subset of points to describe the place you're looking for to your agent. Having a written Vision will also help keep you accountable to yourself throughout (and long after) the process of buying a home, helping you make decisions about how much to spend and, in turn, how much house to buy, that are consistent with your lifestyle needs and preferences.
Finally, this Vision thing, used properly, can be a big-time stress manager even after you've found the house you want. I joke with my clients that the day everyone signs the purchase contract is the last day any of the parties are happy with the price. The seller calls their agent that night stressed that they took too little, and the buyer is remorseful that they paid too much! If, no, when you experience buyer's remorse, you'll have your Vision of Home there as a concrete reminder of what you wanted before you got mired in the detail of getting it. If the place you're in contract to buy (and the terms of the purchase contract) places you well on your path to your Vision -- you're good to go. If not, you still have time to reexamine the decision making that led you there before your deposit money is forfeited, giving you the opportunity to back out of the contract at little or no cost if you feel your compromises have been too extreme.
How to Draft Your Vision of Home
There are definitely elements which must be covered, but the form of this document can be totally driven by your style; a one-page list of bullet points works for one house hunter, while another might want to journal an epic 10 page narrative. Whatever works! You just need to get started. Here's how.
Think of your life as a little ecology, or pattern of interaction between an organism (i.e., you) and your environment (i.e., the people, places and things that populate your life). Every element is inextricably intertwined with every other element. To get a visual, think of those junior-high school food chain charts -- if one fungus in the remote reaches of the Himalayas dies off, the price of Vanity Fair magazine goes up, through some intricate relationship involving the sun and herbivores in South America. Similarly, if you tweak one element of your Vision, the rest will change. For example, let's say that right now you are single, no kids, and are able to support your lifestyle working as a freelance graphic designer, and you have a vision of continuing to be able to do that. So you don't have to go work for a firm, you might incorporate the following elements into your Vision:
- Generating X number of additional projects per month, and working the extra hours to complete them (or implementing a referral generating system or otherwise increasing your profitability);
- Keeping your mortgage payment under X number of dollars a month (vs. the Y number of dollars you could afford if you went to work for a firm);
- Living in a smaller condo, a TIC (tenancy in common) or having a roommate or tenant;
- Working mornings in your functional home office area, then walking to your favorite Wi-Fi coffee spot or library, in the afternoons;
- Having a preference for homes with CAT-5 wiring, DSL availability and updated electrical systems (to protect your equipment from sparks and surges);
- Living within driving distance of your parents or friends or favorite social haunts, so you don't have to spend a lot to visit;
- Walking to your yoga studio on Wednesday afternoons and driving a few minutes to Whole Foods to pick up lots of ready-to-eat stuff every other week;
- Meeting your book club at your favorite downtown bookstore, a short drive away;
- Pulling your car into a secure garage after you get home from visiting your parents, the rock climbing gym and your book club -- I think you get the idea.
If you had changed your work, you can imagine how things would change -- preferred locations would be driven more by your workplace than your leisure activities. If you had children, things would shift again -- bigger space and income needs, maybe more cooking and more demands for your kitchen and eating areas, probably less time to walk to yoga, etc. Widen your thoughts beyond just the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need to things about your house -- and your lifestyle -- that don't come immediately to mind. Craft a vision of your lifestyle, and from that we'll back into the specs of your house in a manner that is much more likely to see you happy a year or two down the road.
Now, if you have a need to share your Vision with someone, and there is no one in your life you can count on to support it, you need to trade up. Start flushing as many toxic people out of your life as possible and simply maintain your commitment and intention. Soon enough, your energy will attract similarly positively oriented people into your life.
An Eco-Friendly Vision
Like your favorite foods, your vision of home should be:
- Organic -- it should grow naturally out of and be consistent with your personal values, life philosophy, life plan;
- Holistic -- it must take account of all areas of your life; and
- Sustainable -- you include a savings and emergency resource strategy which will allow it, and you, to survive a job change, a couple of months without work, a car breakdown, etc.
Insight: Your Vision Is Your Baby
In three ways, you must treat your Vision like a newborn child.
- Nourish It -- Put yourself in a place and atmosphere that promotes creativity, and make sure you have a lovely notebook and comfortable pen, or your laptop, or whatever materials will be the most inviting to your thoughts. If you like, seclude yourself at home with music (they say baroque is the best for writing, but I like the hype and braggadocio in hip hop) or TV background noise or silence. Or maybe you prefer to work with some human bustle in the background; your kids or the patrons at your neighborhood coffee shop will be glad to oblige. Some of my clients have had delightful Vision-writing experiences in a group, retreat-like setting with like-minded pals.
- Focus on It -- Right now, decide when you are going to devote time to the care and feeding of your Vision, and set the time in your calendar or log it in your PDA. Without doing so, this whole project can quickly go from an absolute must to just another good idea that never actually happened.
- Protect It -- Protect your Vision from opposing forces -- from without and within. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you authorized to share your Vision, or even the fact that you plan to document it, with anyone who will be anything other than supportive. Throughout the ages they've been known variously as naysayers, malcontents, or haters, but you already know who they are in your life. Keep your Vision away from them.