International Journal of Housing
Markets and Analysis
Vol. 3 No. 2, 2010
# Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Received 26 August 2009
Revised 1 October 2009
Accepted 30 November 2009
Building a sense of home in
Aubrey R. Fowler III and Clifford A. Lipscomb
Department of Marketing and Economics, Langdale College of Business
Administration, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, USA
Purpose – Much of the research into the development of home within the business literature has looked at
home as a setting or a construct instead of as a process. Additionally, extant research has explored the
process of homebuilding within the context of homeownership, often defining home in terms of a place
that is owned by the individual living in it. However, nearly 30 percent of all housing units in which people
live are rented spaces that are owned by others not living there. The purpose of this paper is to examine
homebuilding as a process that can and often does occur in properties that the individual does not own.
Design/methodology/approach – Using a phenomenological approach, in-depth interviews with
renters lead to the development of a conceptual model of how renters build a sense of ‘‘home.’’
Findings – The paper finds that though ownership does play a part in some individuals’ sense of home,
apartment dwellers often are able to build a ‘‘home’’ within an apartment context.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations of the research include the small sample size; however,
the process resulting from a small size may be used to develop hypotheses for future quantitative research.
Practical implications – The process outlined here may provide apartment communities and managers
with insight into how they may retain tenants.
Originality/value – This paper focuses on an understanding of home that removes the notion of
ownership from its definition, providing insight into how consumers build a sense of home in places they
may not be able to physically alter.
Keywords Housing, Qualitative methods, Consumer behavior, Individual psychology, United States
Paper type Research paper
Conventional wisdom holds that it is better to own a home than any other option
because the home then becomes an investment that affords people a great deal of
flexibility in their future financial options; however, that same conventional wisdom
has helped to bring about the recent housing crisis. Almost nightly on the various news
programs we see that the housing market has taken a direct hit in this economic
downturn, leading to high numbers of house foreclosures, loss of equity, bank closings,
and various US government recovery plans. Yet, despite the recent crisis, driving up
home ownership is still touted as a cure for the nation’s ills, returning individuals to the
safety and comfort of owning their home.
Most marketing practitioners would have us believe that ownership is a requirement
for the creation of home. Presidents and economists rank levels of home ownership as
important markers of how the US economy is progressing. Culturally speaking, home
ownership appears to be intimately tied to one’s achievement of the American Dream.
Social theorists have also echoed this concern with home ownership, examining how
individuals build and adapt home environments to suit their particular needs and
identities. Tognoli (1987, p. 661) includes as one of his six aspects of home the notion of
ownership as it ‘‘signifies less permeable and inviolable boundaries than renting.’’ Others
such as Hayward (1975), Lawrence (1981), and Pynoos et al. (1973) have also examined the
notion of ownership as an integral part of the conceptualization of home.
However, many people continue to be renters, either for economic reasons or for
other reasons such as the need for a temporary home, age and lifestyle concerns, or
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