Gone to Texas: Home Ownership and the American Dream

32440401_400x400As a rule, I tend to read a lot of history because it helps level the emotional extremes of the 24-hour news cycle.

For example, as utterly useless our current crop of politicians – perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you should tell Senator Ted Crux the shutdown isn’t a game – it doesn’t take too much effort to find other equally useless versions of Congress, sessions where political backbiting and infighting was more important than actually doing the work of the people.

It’s also in history that the notion of home ownership as a function of government policy goes by the wayside. History also debunks the notion that it was the work of the National Association of REALTORS and real estate agents nationwide – a group as easy to herd as kittens, by the way – that duped the public into believing that it wanted personal home ownership.

In fact, even the bubble and decline we experienced a half-decade ago, aren’t unique occurrences. From H.W. Brand’s Lone Star Nation:

Such a series of events produced the Panic of 1819, with prices plunging, debtors defaulting, mortgage holders foreclosing and thousands of families losing their land. The effect was most dramatic in the West, where the entire economy was premised on rising – not falling – prices for land. …

The growth of the population … had pushed the promised land farther west, to the American territories of the upper Louisiana Purchase – and, as things developed, to the Spanish territory of Texas.

It was the American notion of expansion, of ownership of land, that led Andrew Jackson to slice Florida away from Spain and that caused President Polk to instigate the Mexican-American war to claim the Southwest. (Though I still argue the Gadsden Purchase, which brought Tucson into the US, should be reversed.)

The idea of ownership stems from an English system under which few held title to land; most worked land held by others and had no opportunity for improving their lot in life save by the grace of those who did own land. Ownership of land even once a requirement to vote here in the United States, though that was reversed early in the country’s history.

One of the reasons I went into real estate after years in the stock brokerage world is the idea that I’m not selling anything to anyone that they don’t already want. I’m not attempting to force people to purchase something they don’t need. Rather, I help facilitate the purchase they already have decided to make.

While the government can ease the way toward ownership, in and of itself it’s not the government that plants the desire to own one’s own home in the breast of the American public. It’s already there, furthered in part by the notion that with ownership comes the key to a better life.

That doesn’t always happen to be the case. It wasn’t in 1819. Or 1857. Or 1893. Or 1929. Or 2006-2008.

Yet through the trials and panics and depressions and recessions and the bubbles, the basic concept remains.

We are a people for whom home ownership matters. No one had to tell us that.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.