Home Sweet Home

by John Ince, President Charlottesville Country Properties, LTD.

I’ve read a few opinions lately that the age of home ownership has passed, that today’s young people are too transient to make ownership pay, that the responsibility and risk associated with owning real estate is too much of a burden. I disagree. I work almost entirely with retirees or near retirees with a dream of settling down out in the country, enjoying the fruits of their success, choosing Virginia’s Piedmont for the rest of their lives. In most cases these dreams would not have a chance were it not for the substantial equity they’ve accrued by paying their homes off during the first half of their lives. Their home has been a place to raise a family and in the meantime became a golden nest egg to propel them into a comfortable future. First time home buyers are the key to bringing our real estate market back to center. These are my thoughts to them.

It’s true that “Home is where the heart is” It’s where you feel secure, in control of your small slice of the world. Whether that’s a loft apartment in the city or a five bedroom home in the country, whether you own it or rent, it should greet you like an old friend when you cross its threshold.

Unfortunately, those who purchased homes beyond their means within the last five years expecting appreciation to cover their excess gambled and lost. Their house has become a nightmare. It’s shaken our entire economy and affected the lives of millions involved in the housing industry. There is a house in trouble on nearly every block but for the majority of Americans, those who have owned their homes for years or who purchased responsibly in the last decade, their homes are still intact. Lawns are being mowed, shutters painted, payments made, equity accrued the old fashioned way. In fact, thirty percent of American home owners own their homes outright.

When it’s time to settle, to make a home, perhaps a family, home ownership can provide a sense of security, a sense of place and a sense of pride. There is a time in most people’s lives to put down roots, to invest one’s time and fortune into a home, a neighborhood, a town they can call their own. They can paint, finish the basement or add a sunroom. They can plant a tree. It is probably the largest investment they will ever make and should be taken exactly that seriously. It’s much harder to get financing now, as it should be. Those purchasing homes today will not default on their loans. They will be the foundation for a healthy real estate market in the not too distant future where once again home ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream.

Housing affordability and hopefully a wizened public and banking industry will bring this headline- grabbing crisis to a new balance in a year or two. When my nineteen year old son is thirty and looking for his first home, he won’t even recall the travails of the last four years. He may bemoan the fact that prices jumped so much the previous year and wish he hadn’t waited so long. I hope his loan application and the property appraisal are carefully scrutinized, his hard earned down payment hard to part with and his heart filled with excitement at the prospect buying a house and finally having a home.


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