Wit and wisdom about domestic life from Dispatch columnist Joe Blundo.

Now that the housing bubble has burst, you may be wondering how you will know when it's a good time to buy a house.

If you're talking economically, the answer is - I don't know. Although I will say this: Even in good times, the increase in a house's value, when balanced against the time required to maintain it, works out to a wage of about 3 cents per hour.

But people want to own houses despite that. It's a psychological drive. So let's review the signs that will tell you if you are emotionally ready for home ownership.

You have purchased a couch.
I don't mean something with bad springs you picked up for $20 at a garage sale. I mean a mammoth, brand new sofa.

Such a purchase is a nesting indicator because, as you know, couches are expensive to buy, difficult to lift and nearly impossible to get rid of. Buying a couch means you have serious intention of staying put. Basically, it's a fabric-covered anchor.

Futons don't count, by the way. That's a training couch, for people who aren't ready to commit.

You want a dog.
Not a cat, a dog. Cats don't need yards and fences like dogs do. If you've long been a cat person but suddenly find yourself yearning for a dog, it may actually be real estate that you desire.

Here's a simple test you can perform: Acquire a 150-pound mastiff and bring it home to your studio apartment. If the arrangement doesn't make you happy, it probably means that what you really wanted was a house. Certainly, it's what the mastiff would prefer.

You find yourself acquiring tools.
On the face of it, apartment life is paradise because when something breaks, you just call maintenance.

At some point, though, a tool fixation grips some apartment dwellers. Suddenly, using the heel of your shoe to bang in a nail will no longer suffice. You want a framing hammer. You want a cordless drill. You want a laser level.

What's it all mean? It means you're subconsciously preparing yourself for home ownership, when you will put these items to use in ways that will horrify your spouse and cause you to hire a contractor halfway through the first do-it-yourself project.

Thanksgiving is coming.
For years, you've happily gone to a relative's house to gather 'round the dining room table for a feast. Never once did it occur to you that, instead of just bringing the green bean casserole, you could host Thanksgiving yourself.

Then, late one autumn, i

t does occur to you. You envision yourself as the centerpiece of a Norman-Rockwellian, family-holiday scene. Except you can't reconcile the heart-warming image in your head with the present cramped circumstances.

Rockwell never painted 18 people balancing plates of turkey and mashed potatoes on their knees while seated on windowsills, an umbrella stand and the edge of the bathtub.

No, the hankering to host Thanksgiving dinner means you want a dining room. And an eat-in kitchen. And space for a really big couch where you can seat the excess relatives. And the mastiff.

Joe Blundo's column So to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog at Dispatch.com