Everybody has heard the saying that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” or something similar. The traditional way of understanding the saying is that when you are holding a prize in your hand, you shouldn’t throw it away to find out what’s behind door number two. Our subconscious minds take the saying a little differently though. They say, “A bird in my hand is worth more than the same bird in your hand”. When you own something, it takes on a completely new level of value. You form mental and emotional attachments to your property incomprehensible to everyone else.
I’ve been keeping my eyes open lately for a potential house to purchase. An ongoing theme that I’ve seen so far is that people feel that their homes are worth more than they really are. As a buyer, I look at the home as a piece of land, a structure and a whole bunch of living space. The sellers look at it as a home with memories. A place where they grew up or raised their children. The place where they held parties and had great times. You can’t put a dollar amount on memories but then again, you can’t sell them either so they are worthless to the buyer. When selling your house, you have to be realistic about how much the actual house is really worth and not what it is worth to you.
On a smaller scale, we as human beings are just as bad. There are many things that we would never buy (or never buy again), but if we already own them, we cannot get ourselves to get rid of them. Think about your old comic book collection or clothes that you haven’t worn in years. I thought about this recently when looking at my collection of domain names that I own. There are some domains that I continue to pay $8.99/year for that I would never even think of buying if I didn’t already own them. There are many domains that I own because of an idea I had that I never pursued or because of an old project that is not in existence anymore.
To see the extent of the value gap between owners and potential buyers, watch this video by Dan Ariely, where he speaks about what Duke basketball season ticket holders are willing to sell their tickets for and what non ticket holders are willing to buy them for.
Lucky people get passed the inexplicable emotional attachment to the bird in their hand and think realistically. Unlucky people think that they may make some money off of all the old “stuff” they hoarded for all of these years and continue to pack everything away. The amount that you will make off of the sales and the frustration you go through to sell it are not worth the money you are spending on storing and maintaining your possessions.
Looks like I am going to do some spring cleaning. What are you going to do about those birds in your hand? Let me know in the comments.