This message hit my Inbox at 10:10pm last Sunday night:
Subject: Home Ownership for All? No!
“I was surprised that this article appeared in the same newspaper that publishes your advertising section. I think that it represents a much more balanced philosophy of housing choices than those espoused by the NAHB and the GNIAR.
A major contributor to the ongoing housing/mortgage/foreclosure fiasco was the push to allow unqualified applicants to (temporarily) become homeowners. Comments?"
Then there was a link to Marni Jameson’s "At Home" column that was published in "The Times" Home and Garden section on October 17th – “Home Ownership as American Dream? Maybe Not”
I immediately replied asking the sender for the opportunity to discuss the subject further. While I was waiting for a response (which never came) I kept going back to the message and re-reading it.
First of all, having majored in both journalism and public relations, I wanted to learn more about this person’s definition of a much more balanced philosophy of housing choices.
The way I see it there are two choices - you can rent or you can buy – but either way you need a roof over your head.
Jameson, who has been a renter for a few years due to personal circumstances that have divided her household, has a “hankering to buy a home again” and sought advice from Patrick Bet-David, a financial services advisor who has worked with thousands of clients who have suffered mortgage pain.
After laying out a few of his home-buying rules – don’t buy unless you have 12 months of house payments saved, don’t buy if you’re not going to be in the area for 10 years, don’t buy if you’re a newlywed, don’t buy too much house and don’t buy a house to keep up with your friends – he explains that his message is not don’t buy a home.
“My message is the American dream is not home ownership, The American dream is freedom.”
Jameson wants both.
“While I like having the flexibility of not being tied to a house,” she explains, “being a tenant just isn’t the same as owning. I want to paint my way, add built-ins and moldings, put up window treatments, plant a garden, have a dog, get to know the neighbors, nest.”
Having been both tenant and owner, I agree.
In their book "Chasing the American Dream: New Perspectives on Affordable Homeownership" which was published in 2007 and discusses the economic, social, political, architectural and cultural effects of homeownership programs at a time when homeownership was at an all-time high, authors William M. Rohe and Harry L. Watson set the stage by citing the following in their introduction:
“The value of homeownership is deeply ingrained in American public culture. From early laws requiring landownership for the right to vote, to nineteenth-century homestead legislation, to contemporary real estate brochures, the ownership of a home has long been presented as a crucial part of the 'stake in society' expected of full fledged members of American communities.”
While members of both the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) have an obvious stake in homeownership, it’s important to remember that these people are also living in our communities. Over the last decade I have had the great opportunity to work closely with many people affiliated with the local entities of these organizations – the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® (GNIAR) and the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana (HBA) – and have seen firsthand their commitment as both a group and individuals to making northwest Indiana a great place to call home.
That’s what I think homeownership is all about, and I think that’s why it remains the American dream.
While the last several years have shaken things up in the housing industry – Jameson calls it “the spend, extend, pretend era” – homeownership is still the best option for keeping a roof over your head in my opinion. Even Bet-David is taking the plunge and buying a home for his family in Texas.
Even though I think his home-buying rules are too restrictive – you simply need to be realistic about your financial situation when various scenarios are being presented during the home buying process – following his advice would most certainly have saved a good number of people a great deal of heartache.
Let me know if you have a homeownership story to share, and as always, to submit real estate news, community connections and special event/model information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.