Is Home Ownership Still Part of the American Dream

by Sean Bryant on September 14, 2012

Each and everyday people around the country take a step back and think about their dreams and hopes. Whether it’s the dream of becoming a professional athlete or a doctor, everyone has one. We all have a different view on what the true “American Dream” is to us. Most people say it is to have a good job, to own a house and have 2.5 kids. For me, owning a home was indeed part of my big picture dream.

Right after my wife and I were married, 5 years ago, we called a real estate agent and started searching for the first home of our dreams. We found one soon after, but didn’t realize that it was going to be one of the biggest mistakes we had made to that point in our lives. About a year after our purchase, the economy began to deteriorate and housing prices started tumbling in one of the biggest declines in decades. Before we knew it, we had lost nearly $25,000 worth of equity in our home and we were wondering what had gone wrong. There were many days that I asked myself why I had found it so important to own a home. Had I not had that dream we wouldn’t have been in the situation that we were in.

In the beginning of 2010, both my wife and I decided that we were not completely happy living in Chicago anymore and we decided that we wanted to move to Denver. We listed our home for sale with the hopes of being able to break even. A year went by and we still hadn’t sold, so we decided that instead of sitting on our hands for the next couple of years we would move anyways and rent it. Becoming landlords was never part of my dream, but had quickly become a reality.

So here we are today and we are still own our condominium in Chicago, but are also renters in Denver. I can honestly say that just because of the bad luck we were dealt, my idea of being a home owner is still part of my American dream.

A recent study by Integra Realty Resources stated that even today, three out of four people still aspire to own a home (maybe it’s because of all the incentives) and consider it a life goal of theirs. No matter what happens to you in life, your dreams are always alive. If you are feeling down and out you just need to find the strength to pick yourself back up and push on.

Do you still considering owning a home part of your American dream?

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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  • Aaron

    Sean – your story sounds similar to ours. We needed to move out of the home I purchased before I got married to another part of town – but also knew we’d be losing if we sold. So, we decided to rent. It’s def had its ups and downs – but probably better than if we were to have sold a few years ago. I think it’s important to be out of debt before you take on the mortgage and also know that renting isnt a terrible option – esp in today’s environment.

    • Yeah it was a sucky situation. I would much rather hold onto it for a couple more years and get some money back than possibly have to pay money to the bank to sell it.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Sean, sounds similar to our story as well. Thankfully we live in Omaha and the market here took a downturn to some extent, but was largely sheltered from massive losses.
    That said, I would say that owning a home is still part of my dream, but I now hold that a little more loosely. One thing the recession has taught me is to not be wed to how things used to be and open my eyes up to seeing what possibilities are out there.

  • MakintheBacon$

    I still believe that home ownership is part of the American or in my case Canadian dream. However, with rising prices and the possibility of higher interest rates Canada, it is a dream that will take longer to achieve. The rules in terms of borrowing have also become more strict in regards to the amortization period being shortened from 30 years to 25 years, if you have less than 20% of a down payment. In all honesty, 10-15% percent of a house price can also be a lot as well. And of course, I still want to have savings for retirement.

    • Slackerjo

      I have given up the idea of buying in Ottawa (and Gatineau) as a condo in Cracktown is at least $100K with $300-$400 condo fees on top of the mortgage, utilities, water, parking, maintenance. I’ll just rent and invest another way.

  • I still consider it to be part of my dream. When we bought our home we didn’t think of it as an investment. We thought about if it was worth the amount of money (regardless of the appraised value) we were going to pay to purchase it. In the end it was the home we wanted to start our lifes together in so we ended up buying it. I don’t think I could ever go back to renting again as I love to have options with changing things in and around the home.

  • I bought a townhome about a year ago and it is nice to know that one day I will own it (because until it is paid off the bank owns it in my eyes…) Is it still part of the dream? I think so, but people should follow their own dreams, not one America has scripted for you.

  • If by American Dream you mean the one creditors fabricated to make me believe that material objects and ownership will make me a happier person then by all means – Home ownership is part of my American Dream.

  • Owing a home has never been a particular goal of mine, it just happened when it happened. I’ve owned 3 homes and each time they sold for a nice profit, even after considering the amount of money I put into landscaping and such.

    I think it is cool that you own a condo in Chicago that you rent out. Many people want to be landlords.

    When my husband and I met we each owned a townhouse. We then bought a new house together and sold our townhouses. We did consider renting them, but we didn’t investigate it enough. We since kick ourselves for not renting them, especially his, because it instantly increased in re-sale value by over 100K. Oh well.

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