I remember that when Rebecca and I were in the first-time home-buying mode, the process began long before we were ready to take the step. In the “dreaming stage,” we would spend hot Arizona summer afternoons walking through open houses. It was so much fun to dream, and we were also defining our wants and our needs. We had a reasonable idea of our budget, and I believe that is what allowed us to manifest almost precisely what we were looking for when we were finally ready to take the plunge. I think we both thought we might live there forever, and it seems a little odd that it wasn’t so many years later that we seized the opportunity to come to California.
My California job had come up quickly, so we needed to rent when we got here. In retrospect, that turned out to be a good thing. We decided to rent at the beach while we sorted out where we would like to live. I saw the beach thing as temporary because we knew what was familiar, and we were looking for that residential home with the big yard in a family-friendly neighborhood. What we hadn’t accounted for was that we were entering a new stage of our lives. Our oldest was in college, and our youngest was joining the Navy. We were kid-less and, oh yeah, the beach was getting into our bloodstreams. I found myself much more interested in spending my Saturday mornings on my bicycle or in my kayak than mowing a lawn and pruning oleanders. And as it turned out, home number two took on the stage of our lives just like home number one did.
This past year has been a different kind of year in real estate. Just ask anyone who has been in the market to purchase a home. For some, desperation has replaced “I would like a little more outdoor space” with “I have to buy something now.” And, even though in the driver’s seat right now, sellers are wary of where they will go if they sell. And many are thinking about the housing crash that followed the real estate frenzy of the early 2000s. (a discussion for another time but those in the know say no “crash” is coming because this is a housing shortage and not about predatory lending.)
Homeownership is still foundational to the American Dream. As we look back over this past year of sheltering in our homes, having a place of our own seems more important than ever. And though the financial aspects of homeownership always exist, today, homeowners rank the non-financial and personal benefits even higher.
Two recent national surveys revealed the reasons homeownership is such an important part of life. The top three personal benefits of homeownership noted by respondents in Unison’s 2021 The State of the American Homeowner are:
These sentiments support the most recent National Housing Survey from Fannie Mae, which shows that the top three reasons Americans value homeownership have nothing to do with money. Those surveyed were given a list of feelings and accomplishments associated with or impacted by where we live. They were then asked, “To achieve this, are you better off owning or better off renting?” Here are the top three points from the list that respondents said homeownership could help them achieve:
Other non-financial advantages of homeownership revealed by the survey include feeling engaged in a community, having flexibility in future decisions, and experiencing less stress.
Though it seems much has changed in the real estate industry this past year, the financial investment in a home is still secondary to the quality of life it can bring.
So we’re back to buying a home can be highly stressful right now. For some, there is an urgency to make that purchase before getting priced out of the market. And while we think that could be the case, we also recommend that our buyers stay the course and resist the temptation to buy out of fear. If you are in the market right now, it may be time to take a breath. Home is an integral part of anyone’s life, and it is still important to pay attention to those things that are most important to you when you buy.
Yes, this is an abnormal market, but there is a shortage of inventory every year until the selling season starts and the sellers come out to play.