There are numerous media sources reporting the advantages and disadvantages of homeownership. Every expert (from international money managers who have hundreds of billions of dollars of assets under management to local and national real estate experts) has chimed in on the subject. The bottom line is that the percentage of folks that own a home is going down.
This is largely because the amount of Echo-Boomers, adults from the ages of 18-34, are either still living at home or are renting. I write this blog post not for the hopes that those individuals will enter the world of homeownership (I am confident that they will when the time is right), but to give readers a real life experience of the value of homeownership. And it is certainly not monetary.
I grew up in a middle-class family. Both of my parents worked and were lucky enough to have steady employment for most of their careers. My father worked within the same industry for almost 30 years and retired at the age of 62 with my mother doing so as well. They purchased a simple home back in 1972 for about $35,000. At that time, their mortgage payment with taxes and insurance was about 40% of their take home pay. Needless to say, with all other household expenses, they were barely making ends meet. Their decision to buy a home was not made from the expectation of home appreciation and whether or not it was a good investment. No, they did not even remotely think of those points when closing on their home! Instead, their goal was to raise a family in a home which they could call their own. It would be a permanent place that their child could call home...a home in which they could have family gatherings for holidays such as Christmas and Christmas Eve which were always hosted by my mother and father. A home that when my parents came home from a long day at work they could walk into and relax. For a moment, they could feel like a burden was lifted off their shoulders and all the day’s work actually meant something. They were building a foundation of memories!
I was born in 1974. I was lucky enough to have parents that had started to build the foundation that was the basis of memories that will last a lifetime. I can remember playing basketball and baseball in the driveway with my father and wrestling with my dogs on the front lawn. I remember waiting and looking out the window anxiously for all of my relatives to show up for the holidays. I remember the aroma of Christmas cookies and pies permeating the house. I remember all of my cousins and neighborhood friends retreating to the basement playroom during holidays where we would spend hours talking and playing with toys. We were establishing memories and friendships that carry on to this day.
During the Summer, my father’s love for fishing and the ocean brought us to a campground on the shores of Cape Cod. My mother worked in the public school system which afforded her the summers off from work. From the time I was 7 years old, on the last day of the school year, we packed the car and headed off to the trailer for 3 months of beach going, fishing, and camping. My mother and I would stay down the Cape for the summer and my father would make the journey every weekend to join us. Again, I am blessed to have such great parents that allowed this to happen. In 1984, my parents, along with some campsite comrades, decided to purchase land and build a summer home for their respective families. The choice was a tough one. Both families knew it would be financially testing to complete such a task. However, in the long run, they felt it was the right decision. A permanent summer home where their families could congregate, host visitors, and relax from the week-long grind was worth the financial sacrifice. Again, this decision was not made in the hopes of financial gain; it was made for the good of their family.
I remember the construction of the home as if it were yesterday...from the pouring of the foundation, to the framing, to the day my father and I made our first overnight stay. We slept in cots in front of the fireplace that my father and his best friend built. The house was not finished but we were so anxious to stay in the house that we did so without plumbing or light fixtures. We had a blast! Those memories will last me a lifetime.
Unfortunately, after a battle with cancer my father passed away on April 28, 2010 at the age of 69. A month earlier, my daughter, his first grandchild was born. Tragically, my daughter will never have the privilege to meet my father and my best friend. But while sitting on the Cape house deck in the very chair my father always relaxed in, watching my wife and mother play with Riley in her wading pool, I came to realize something. So many of us look at homeownership through “monetary glasses”. When one is buying a house as a primary or secondary residence and is hoping to stay a while, homeownership is not about the monetary/price appreciation aspect of purchasing the home. It is about building a foundation of memories for you and your loved ones. I count my blessings that my parents thought this way. It is because of their wise decisions, that the foundation they built will be enjoyed for generations to come.