Is it OK to ask how much someone paid for their house? In the past, such a question might have been considered gauche, just as much in poor taste as inquiring about someone's salary or the amount in their bank account. But hey, times have changed, particularly in the realm of real estate.
Want proof? Consider a recent survey of more than 500 homeowners nationwide, a firm majority—70%—think it's fine to inquire about a home's purchase price. So if your curiosity is killing you, go ahead and ask; most home buyers won't mind filling you in.
Let's go to the results!
Why home prices are no longer hush-hush
Granted, a home is one of the most expensive purchases most people will make in their lifetime. This might explain why historically people weren't all that comfortable sharing how much they shelled out.
But the reality today is that real estate prices are no longer private. All you need to do is pull up a site, plug in the address—and up pops a home's estimated value, recent purchase price, and more. So if this info is already available online, why bother to act like it's private?
Why millennials are more likely to ask about a home's price
Millennials, it turns out, tend to be more comfortable than older generations inquiring about a home's price. According to a survey, 81% of people aged 25 to 34 were on board with discussing these details. Meanwhile, 49% of homeowners 65 and older felt such a question was kosher.
This makes sense: Millennials grew up in a time when real estate prices were widely available online, whereas folks who grew up before the ubiquity of computers and smartphones had to actually go visit a municipal office to pinpoint that number.
Why location matters, too
In addition to generational differences, our comfort level asking how much a home costs also depends on where you live.
People living in Western states are the most open on this topic, with 77% saying they're fine discussing the price of property they own.
Meanwhile, 68% of people in the Northeast are comfortable talking property prices, followed by 66% of Southerners. Midwesterners are the least comfortable on this front, with 55% saying they'd pop such a question. Some people admit they'd "feel weird" if someone asked how much they spent on their home.
As for why these regional differences exist, some homeowners think it might be due to the volatility of the market they're in.
In New York City, everyone asks each other how much they paid for property; it is a given you'd share. This is up to the fact that prices in the Big Apple have changed so much, local residents feel they should ask just to stay informed.
Yet in Chicago prices have been relatively stable, so people already have a good idea how much homes cost. As a result, there's less of a reason to ask about home prices to get your bearings.
How to ask how much someone paid for a house
Although the majority of people won't mind if you ask how much they paid for a home, if you want to play it safe, you'll want to couch your question carefully.
If you're having a conversation about the home, you can ask less-pointed questions such as, "We're just starting the process of looking for a house; do you know the range of houses in your neighborhood?" That leaves homeowners room to talk in broad terms about the neighborhood or get specific if they're comfortable going there.
It's all about respecting boundaries. We all have our own, and they're not all the same. You want to at least give people the illusion of privacy.
What if the tables are turned and you're the one getting the question? Well, how much you want to reveal is entirely up to you.
You can say something nebulous like "We paid a little bit over asking, but we stayed well within our budget". It isn't rude to skimp on specifics.
Then again, if you're up for sharing exact numbers, go right ahead—it might help some hopeful buyers get a handle on the market that could help them land a home of their own.