Do Housing Bubbles Engender Happiness?
Andrews Oswald and Stephen Wu looked at happiness rankings combined with the criteria that people say make a place ideal, things like lower taxes, playing on acres of accessible public land, short commuting times. They found -- and I so hope no one dished out a million dollars of hard earned money for this eureka -- that the happiest people live in states with higher qualities of life.
Guess which state scored highest? Louisiana, home to Dixieland music, Cajun food, seedy politicians. (Disclaimer here: Part of the four-year survey took place pre-Katrina.)
Next shocker: Hawaii. I would have never dreamed that people would want to live happily ever after in paradise. Rounding out the top five states after those were Florida, home of the nation's third highest foreclosure rate; Tennessee, and Arizona, home of presidential candidate Senator John McCain and the nation's second highest foreclosure rate (1 in 33).
Tennessee? An article I caught in Kiplinger's Personal Finance solved the mystery: Over the past year, prices dropped 15% across the U.S. and rose in only two cities: Clarksville, Tenn. (up 1%), and Johnson City, Tenn. (2%), reflecting demand for homes by an influx of retirees to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Despite all their glorious sunshine, California came in at 46. Last time I looked, California had some of the most beautiful scenery in the world -- beaches, mountains, thousands of acres of public land to roam, and yes, a high foreclosure rate. Here's a taste of why New York's rating, 50, is in the toilet: Residents accuse their state government of being corrupt, self-dealing and too quick to increase taxes, a tirade that had one lifelong resident threatening to flee "this stinkin' state."
That even shocked the researchers. Here's what they deduced: when certain states get popular, more people move there, the place gets crowded, the housing prices go up, and then it's a non-fulfilling prophecy. So the quality of life goes down, everyone grumbles and leaves.
Maybe that's the best time to buy real estate in paradise.