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What White Elephant?


A friend acquainted me with the term white elephant. He used it to describe a house that was far superior to the other houses in the area. This house could never be appraised for what it was worth because none of the surrounding houses supported its inflated value. Although this house was more expensive than its neighboring properties, this could not be shown on paper.

I’m sure you’ve seen these houses in your area. You know they’re a lot better than the other houses, you just know it, and more than your gut tells you this: just look at how much more living area is under-air, look at the three lots it sits on and the detached, and air-conditioned Rec Room that not only has a better roof than your house, but is also twice as big as your house. Look at the wrought-iron insignia on the automatic gate, the golf course in the backyard, the four-car garage. This house is a palace compared to the rest of the area.

To this, the appropriate response is: No, it’s a white elephant.

This house may have cost more to build than every other house around here, but, in this case, that doesn’t means it’s worth more. The truth is, this house cannot be sold for what it’s truly worth. It is more of a burden than a relief, more of a liability than an asset, at least within this neighborhood. If you could pick it up and move it to an affluent area with similar compounds, then this house would be worth more. As it is, it only cost more to build.

Here’s an interesting morsel: Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called Hills Like White Elephants in which he describes an unborn child as a white elephant.

March 24, 2010 11:09 am

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