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House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  314 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A rich narrative that blends social commentary with incisive reporting, House Lust offers an astute, funny, and sometimes disturbing portrait of the behaviors that drove the greatest real estate boom in history—and its eventual bust.

Owning a home has long been considered the fulfillment of the American Dream. But in the last decade, as the real estate market boomed, Americ
ebook, 272 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2008)
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Apr 10, 2009 Eric_W rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: current-affairs
Written before the recent collapse in housing prices -- he does address the beginning of the slide -- this book examines in detail the mad lust for housing makeovers and insatiable desire for people to build better and more upscale with concomitant problems. Fueled by TV shows and channels devoted to peering inside the neighbor's house, it's all about size, number of bathrooms, having something visible that is better than the neighbors. Larger homes mean more space to fill up with stuff and risi ...more
I learned a lot reading this book, but could not stand the author's writing style--he thinks he's just so darn clever and funny. I ended up skimming the last half of the book, reading the data and skipping the 'me me me' stuff.
I first heard about this book on the website/blog Hooked on Houses(, and am really glad I did. Dan McGinn is an engaging nonfiction writer, and in this book, he discusses Americans' preoccupation with their homes and the homes of their neighbors. He makes a provocative point that new media tools like and HGTV have allowed Americans to become "voyeurs" into the home-buying power of those we know, thus inciting our curiosity, envy, and other emotions.

A fun book for a
The Joy of Booking
House Lust is a fun, voyeuristic and smart look at the housing industry right before the bubble burst in 2008. The edition of the book I read hinted at the coming fall of house prices, but I don’t think the author was prepared for how badly everything would actually play out.

Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining read. From McMansions to time-shares, from people who wander through property they have no intention of buying to those who buy real estate sight-unseen by email, there’s no denying that Ame
Emily Collins
My lunchtime reading for almost three months I think (ONLY lunchtime mind you, or it would not have taken me nearly this long, as it is a moderately sized book book). House Lust is a non-fiction piece about, as it says, America's obsession with our homes. It goes through the workings of TV shows on channels like HGTV and websites like Zillow where we can check our house's worth (I think that's what that one did). It goes into renting versus owning, and the ups and downs of owning vacation homes ...more
This was a great read, both informative and highly entertaining. I loved McGinn's quirky sense of humor and his ability to poke fun at himself. That's such a plus in non-fiction!

McGinn goes into detail about several aspects of America's obsession with homes: owning large (and I mean LARGE homes), building brand-new homes (enabling the owner to pick out every single item that they want and also to avoid inheriting any of the previous owners' "germs"), the time-and-money-intensive challenge of hav
Boy howdy what a timely book! As the prices of houses plummet and loans are near-impossible to attain, this book makes it crystal clear where it all went wrong. Actually, House Lust author McGinn makes the claim that he will do nothing of the sort in his book. While there is little mention of the current financial mess we are currently mired in, it is oh so clear how we got here.

Greed, pure and simple, is what has driven our economy into a pit. Not just greed from the no-money-down banks but hou
I learned about this book from the blog, Hooked on Houses and I decided to read it because I was curious about the concept of house lust. Writer, Daphne Merkin coined the term "Real Estate Lust" for "a condition whose symptoms include a compulsive scanning of real estate ads and incessant discussion of who paid what for how much, as well as a fascination with size and shape-- down to the number of bedrooms, closets and bathroom windows-- of apartments and houses that belong to people other than ...more
Lust is defined as a passionate desire for something, which just about describes the yearnings of many of the people who appear in this book. Whether it is lust for an addition that costs as much as the original house; a kitchen with an eight-burner stove (I would die before cooking a meal that required eight burners); a McMansion for which the occupants can not afford furnishings because they are so overextended; or an overpriced tract home.

What you cannot see in the above photo is that this ho
Mark Mikula
I enjoyed this book because like most books that I enjoy, it confirmed ideas that were already in my head. Also, the book seemed to have the right author because he admitted to having symptoms of the disease of "House Lust" himself. This gave the book more balance than I originally expected.

The book covered reasons why Americans become obsessed with purchasing more home than they need and remodeling to improve on property that is already just fine as it is. It came out at an interesting time, ju
Mary Ellen
Interesting! It was really eye-opening and I liked the lengths the author went to in researching the book. He went "undercover" to real estate conferences, followed real estate investors, home sellers and buyers, builders and a family undergoing a major remodel. It did seem repetitive at points, and the author talks a lot about himself but my only real complaint was that the book was clearly conceptualized during the housing boom but not completed until the early recession. Therefore, some parts ...more
Very interesting. As I expected, I felt a little bit guilty reading it and knowing I am prone to some of these "symptoms" (wondering what people are selling houses for, browsing real estate markets in other states where we could get a lot more house for the money, talking and dreaming of remodeling or finishing space) and at the same time gloating a little bit that I don't have it as bad as some (do I dream of granite countertops and 10,000 sq. ft. houses? not really).

So it was an interesting lo
Oct 26, 2013 Koeeoaddi rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: greater fools
I should love this thing -- we've spent the past 3 years bubble-sitting, trawling and waiting for this house mania to end. But this book suffers from a depressing lack of self-awareness and the author's attempts at humor are grating and mostly unsuccessful. In fact, his commiseration with the McMansion set's preoccupation with size, amenities and trendiness makes me want to find an acre somewhere at the butt end of nowhere and live in a one room yurt.

Edited to add: on reflection, I th
This book explored the pshycological and behavioral trends that led to the recent real estate boom and bust. I learned that I could very esaliy develop a full blown case of house lust. I have the minor symtoms (HGTV and Zillow addications as well as Model Home shopping problems). With Derek in school I am unable to truly jump in the game (I have dipped a toe in. I even signed up to try and get my real estate license, but we moved before I could take the test.) This book gave me a look at the the ...more
Jennifer W
While this book focused on people who spend exorbitant amounts of money for houses and properties so vast and numerous they can't even count them ("how many bathrooms do we have? 10? 9 1/2?" etc), there were passages and themes that I recognized in myself as I house hunt. How much can I afford? How much do I need? Why am I looking for a 3 bedroom house when there's only myself and Tom? Can I do renovations? Why am I addicted to watching HGTV?

This book was published in 2008, right as the bubble
I've actually been listening to this as an audio book in bed, before falling asleep -- well, actually, I've fallen asleep during many parts, but don't take that as a judgment on the book. It may have affected my opinion of the overall narrative, given that I rarely every heard the end of a chapter the same day I heard the start.

It's a wry look at the psychology and effects of home ownership inflation. I found it engagingly written, very much suitable for a layperson who has never even glanced at
Mary Liebetrau
I enjoyed the history and theory behind the boom of McMansions. Much of the material came from Montogmery County in Maryland. I have seen some of these homes and am alway amazed at the ability to maintain these huge homes. I think the era of bigger and better homes has ended as we see a trend to smaller sq. footage and intimate spaces. I do wonder what will become of all of the monster homes as our economy struggles with high unemployment. These mansions will also be affected by the new builders ...more
This was a pretty light and interesting, for the most part, read. He only wrote it last summer (2007) but it's already out of date with the recent market change. It's still interesting, though. I like how he doesn't shed those who have house lust in a bad light. I also liked how each chapter described a different way in which one can have house lust. But, that also meant that not every chapter grabbed my attention. Continually renovating, owning and maintaining rental real estate, and acquiring ...more
I think the book started off strong, but got a little weak in the middle before picking up just a tad at the end. In the middle, I almost got depressed because he kept talking about how the housing market was bursting and really just reminds me of how the value of my own house has probably dropped. Good thing I'm not planning on moving.

I liked the crazy stories of the ridiculously large houses and the special rooms some of them have, reading through the first 1/3rd of the book right away. But th
I found this book very interesting for the most part, though at times a few chapters seemed to drag on for too long. This guy does what it takes to learn about his subject matter--engaging in such activities as buying rental property over the internet, obtaining a real estate license, and purchasing a time share--all in an attempt to write from experience as well as from observation. From obsessing over square footage, to purchasing second and third vacation homes, to investing in real estate, D ...more
So interesting! If you own a house you will start noticing things about it and about other's houses to the point where it might drive you nuts. :) If you don't own a house, you might lust for one.

The one snag is that this poor dude wrote the book and did all his research at the time that housing was exploding. The book was finally printed just as the downturn started. He did briefly discuss that.

Nevertheless, the book was interesting and enjoyable, but will be wildy outdated in a year or so and
This was entertaining, but I found it pretty repetitive. Some amusing anecdotes about the craziness of the homebuilding and home-renovating phenomenon. It seemed like the author contracted to write the book while the "housing boom" was still in full swing, and then had to do a lot of back-pedaling and explaining along the lines of "in 2007, that trend has slowed down.." etc.
Also, there were a number of bad-editing mistakes that I couldn't get past... "discount train fairs" being one of the most
Aug 20, 2008 Cheri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: marketing types and those who can't stay away from HGTV
Shelves: favorites
A must read for anyone who has ever felt the intense longing associated with a patch of land and a few 2 x 4s.

Surprisingly intelligent look at every aspect of the housing boom (and bust), from McMansions to flipping to HGTV to the realtor craze. The author writes with humor and brings a deep awareness to how basic human drives influence it all.

I almost think it's like a psychology marketing book ... and of course you get to peel back your own psyche and see how you were (are) caught up in hous
I'm loving this book so far - it's interesting to see how what Americans think they "need" in a house has changed through the years. I'll admit to being an HGTV addict too - although I have never personally "lusted" over a 9,000 square foot home! If you enjoy the home makeover shows, HGTV and looking at real estate - you'll enjoy and maybe identify with this book. Will let you know what I think at the end!

I liked this book - interesting considering what the housing market is going through now. T
There were a few interesting parts, but, overall, the book didn't really engage me.
I usually don't read these kinds of books, but this one caught my interest. It is written by a reporter who analyzes what caused the housing market to crash and how our way of life not only affects the kinds of things we want in a house but also the way houses are built and marketed to different demographics. I really quite enjoyed it because it made me take a step back and think about why I live in the house that I do. (It wasn't because of the live actors they paid to act like a family in the ...more
This book is an amazing look at the forces at play that make us less satisfied with what we have. It's not just "marketing," it the culture as a whole. It's almost not acceptable to be content with a modest home.... however, I think that fuel (heating and commuting) costs are going to change this dramatically. I read an article on saying that in 10-20 years, large suburban "McMansions" may very well be multifamily homes to the poor, which might make for some really interesting communitie ...more
Highly entertaining and a little bit shocking--I didn't really think of myself as being someone who lusted after houses, but I fit a lot of these characteristics: I do talk to my neighbors about the reasons that House X in our neighborhood hasn't sold, or whether House Y is priced correctly, and we all know how to get to the city's property records, so it's not like there are any secrets...horrors!

The author's acknowledgments of his own weaknesses when it comes to his home or to the various pitc
This is an entertaining and informative read for anyone who spends time thinking about their home or the homes of others. The author injects a lot of humor, but his tone grated me a bit. He reminded me of a self-important frat boy. The sociologist in me appreciated the explanations for why people get so obsessed with housing and HGTV, and I enjoyed the balance of viewpoints he shared, covering everything from The Not So Big House movement to the birth of the McMansion.

Aug 06, 2008 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
House Lust is an excellent book that explores America's obsession with houses - more specifically the bigger the better. McGinn does a great job of thoroughly exploring the complex issue. He covers everything from the huge size of most new homes, the increse in house flipping, the advent of HGTV and all the home TV shows as well as the housing market from the realtor's side. Overall, a very interesting and well done look at the housing aspect of American culture.
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