Searching for the “right feeling”: Sense of place and the social architecture of middle-class homebuying choices

Guy Shani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The literature on residential and homebuying choices is still dominated by economic models of decision-making. Despite growing critique of these models, attempts to provide socially grounded accounts of homebuying have yet to investigate the social foundations of evaluative and choice-making practices at the intra-personal level. This study addressed the gaps in the literature theoretically and empirically by studying the processes and practices by which middle-class homebuyers search for and choose a place to live. It applied a modified Bourdieusian framework, underscoring the roles of the habitus and reflexivity in choice-making, to the study of middle-class homebuyers in two Israeli cities. The findings demonstrate that middle-class homebuyers’ “sense of place”—that is, the reactions of their habitus to the socio-physical environment—is at the heart of their residential choice-making. Interviewees centralized their experiences and sensations in their choice-making, actively using their sense of place to guide their mapping of urban space, evaluation of residential options, and their final decision. These evaluative and choice-making practices operated as a “social-sorting” mechanism, directing homebuyers to locations more aligned with their class habitus. The findings and analysis provide a sociological alternative to economic and behavioral models of residential choice-making, with lessons for those with wider scholarly interests in consumers’ choices in everyday life and their relationship with social patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-710
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Bourdieu
  • Residential choices
  • decision-making
  • homebuying
  • middle class
  • urban sociology


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