As Realtors rally in Washington D.C. this week to lobby Congress to help protect the American Dream, I started to think that the American Dream has become an overused industry slogan that sounds a little gimmicky.
Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson who downplayed the “ownership of property” language suggested by George Mason?
In my opinion, the American Dream is really about an individuals ability to pursue happiness, and not just about buying a home.
I am lucky enough to be a successful Realtor in my town of Vienna Virginia and have helped plenty of people buy and sell homes over the past 21 years. And having that experience has helped me understand that owning a home is, for most people, a key piece of their plan to pursue happiness on their own terms. Yes, I own my home and it brings me happiness (and stress).
There is one question that I always have to ask clients that reveals their honest opinion of what I do, and the fact they can never imagine doing what I do every day.
“Are you an active/inactive licensed real estate agent?”
The response is often a nervous laugh like, “not in a million years”.
The pursuit of happiness is actually a very complex, individual goal, and owning a home can be a big part of that picture for many Americans. Our local and national economy depend in large part on people owning real estate and paying taxes on those homes. And like anything worthy of your hard work, getting to own a home has always been hard for average folks.
I will never forget the story that my father told me one night after some guests left our house. My father let me know that one of the guests, an older gentleman named Henry, wasn’t one of my father’s favorite people. This came as a shock to me because it wasn’t my father’s personality to say negative things about people. It was that night that I learned that Henry had worked downtown for a bank in the 1950’s when my father was getting established with his medical practice. My father was on a promising track back then after completing Medical School, serving in the United States Navy during the Korean War, marrying a prominent Rhode Islander, joining a golf/tennis/hunt club, having a daughter and now wanting to buy a home.
Henry was the mortgage guy back then who took my father’s loan application in 1956 with the intent to fund the purchase a $19,500 home. “Sorry,” Henry said to him… “the bank has rejected your mortgage application.”
Luckily another bank gave him a loan to buy that home, but he never forgot that experience with Henry even after thirty years.
Today’s home buyers have to jump through many hoops to buy a home, only to find out that owning the home becomes a full time job in itself. Trips to Home Depot, upgrading this or that, and calling a local contractor to fix almost anything that needs attention. Honestly, some people are crummy home owners and bought it because… well, that’s what you are supposed to do, right?
For me, home ownership is enjoyable and a part of my pursuit of my happiness. My American Dream wasn’t to own my own home, far from it, and it shouldn’t be what we all strive to achieve. You shouldn’t feel unfulfilled if you decided to buy a boat to live on, live with your aging parents, travel around in a Winnebago or rent an apartment. It’s okay if it works for you.
What Realtors should remind Congress when they convene en mass , is that home ownership is an essential part of their local economy as well as the national economy.