Real Estate Lessons in Movies: House of Sand and Fog (2003)

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A home is so much more than just the place you live. It can be a symbol of hope for what's to come. Or it can be the holder of all the experiences and memories you've had with loved ones. Both of these powerful situations are exemplified in Vadim Perelman's House of Sand and Fog. Based on the book of the same name by Andre Dubus III, the film follows two characters – Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) and Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley) whose lives suddenly become irrevocably intertwined. Kathy has just been evicted from the home that has been in her family for decades and Behrani has scooped it up at a third of what it's worth before Kathy can fight the government to get it back. As Behrani's wife becomes attached to their new home and Kathy enlists the help of a volatile police officer named Lester (Ron Eldard), the conflict intensifies to a dangerous degree.

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Kathy and Behrani wind up locked in a fierce battle for the house and throughout the film this face-off showcases what a profound role a building can play in our lives. Both of them feel strongly that it is their rightful home and refuse to let it go. Behrani can't let go of the house because of what it represents for the future of his family while Kathy can't say goodbye to the home her late father worked so hard to leave to her and her brother.

Stunning in many ways

The film isn't just beautiful in terms of how well it captures people's intense attachment to their homes. It is also a visually stunning film – capturing many gorgeous views and using clever and engaging shots to progress the story. In addition, the performances in it are all stunning as well. So much so that both Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo (in the role of his wife, Nadi) were nominated for Academy Awards for the film. And we can always expect great things from Academy Award winner, Connelly. The performances are so honest and passionate, you can't help but feel for the characters on both sides of this complicated fight.

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Tough lessons to be learned

It should be said that this is not an "easy viewing" film by any means. The characters have many ruthless moments as they fight for the building they wish to call home which makes it a very intense and often upsetting film to watch. That being said, it is absolutely worth it to see this powerful story be told -- you just have to be ready and in the right mood for it. And if you ever need a break from the intensity of what the characters are going through, you can take a few moments to think about what their experiences can teach us about how to live our own lives and the power of our own homes. That's what we did, and here are a few reminders we garnered.

1. Be diligent about your payments

The amount of tears shed and fighting words used in this film make it clear there is absolutely nothing positive about losing your home -- particularly when it could have been prevented. Kathy doesn't want to be perceived as needing from her mother or brother so she chooses not to tell them she is under financial duress which means they can't step in and help. And because she is dealing with a lot emotionally she also can't bring herself to open her mail where she would have discovered the precarious position her house was in. Because of all this she loses her house and the ensuing drama begins.

This serves as a very important warning -- paying your bills on time isn't something that can just be waved off, no matter what you're going through, as the consequences can be very serious. No one wants to end up in the upsetting situation Kathy is put in, so pay your bills on time, or if that becomes challenging, immediately seek out resources and/or trusted advice so you can protect yourself and your home before it's too late. And if it becomes necessary for you to move into a more affordable place you'll be able to do so in an organized and manageable fashion unlike what Kathy was faced with

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2. Don't let your dreams sweep you too far away
from reality

We all dream about our futures -- and that's a wonderful and important thing to do. But it's also important not to let our dreams sweep us too far off course. Behrani and Kathy want so badly for the space in question to be their home they will stop at almost nothing to accomplish that goal. A little bit of dreaming is normal, but losing touch with reality can quickly become dangerous. Going after what you want regardless of the costs to you, your family and those around you won't lead anywhere good. So if you're searching for a new home, be sure to check in with your loved ones and others affected by your decisions to you can be sure you're taking the emotions and wellbeing of others into account. You will eventually find a new house that is right for you, but you can't replace those people that are important to you or undo any wrongs you do to them.

3. Remember what matters

When you're looking to buy or sell a home, it can feel so all-consuming that it seems like it's the only thing that matters. But ultimately, it isn't where you live that truly matters -- it's the people you're with. The dramatic way in which everything unfolds in House of Sand and Fog showcases the fact that although we may put a huge amount of value on the building we live in, what really matters is what's inside – the people we love and the memories we create together. And that connection can happen anywhere.

So whether you're having trouble with the concept of downsizing or it's letting go of the cozy space you've grown so attached to for something bigger, try to keep in mind that what matters most is you have the opportunity to create more experiences and memories with your beloved friends and family – no matter where you end up. Don't let your life become consumed by the prospect of saying goodbye to your current home as the characters of House of Sand and Fog do. Instead, take the time to reminisce and savour all the memories you've created there and then get excited about finding and moving into a new home that will help you take on this new stage of your life.

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More than just a house

A house may technically just be a collection of building tools but as House of Sand and Fog demonstrates, when it becomes a home, it can have a very powerful influence over you. The prospect of saying goodbye to a home can cause all kinds of turmoil. Sometimes people sell a house because it doesn't make financial sense to hold onto it anymore. Other times it's in order to move onto something bigger and better. But whatever the reason, saying goodbye to a place you have lived in for an extended period of time is never easy. But when it does come time to move and to say goodbye to the place you've called home, focus on what truly matters -- the happy life you can have with your loved ones wherever you end up.

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