Are We Still Dreaming About Homeownership?

As featured in Inman News

Have you ever taken for granted something important to you?  For example, you may have had an old yet reliable car.  You can recall that it was nothing fancy.  That car carted you, your family and friends to every job, game, match, event, and class that you all had on your agenda without a sputter.  Sadly, the shiny, seemingly “mint condition" vehicle with the enviable new car smell allows you to travel in style but this is the first time you have ever had to call roadside assistance from being stalled on the side of the highway.  While waiting, you longingly remember “old faithful” and may even wish it were still around to ensure your destination was reached.

The classic saying appropriate here goes, "you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry”.  Or, an updated version of this may be, "you don’t miss your iPhone until the screen is cracked beyond repair”.  In both cases, we often do not miss the vital and ingrained aspects of our lives until they are gone.

Most likely it was unintentional.  Nevertheless, it was something in which you did not realize its special status and finite nature.  For you it may not be a now defunct gadget or vehicle.  Perhaps it was a special relationship with a friend, family member or teacher/mentor, who is no longer available or here.  That relationship or object, at its best, was good to and for you.  It improved your quality of life. And, thereby, positively impacted all that you did and everyone with whom you came into contact, expanding and transferring your bliss and well-being to others.

What’s another neglected asset?  Take a look at this number to see if you can guess:

14,374,184 Total Mortgage Applications

That seems like a large number until you realize it is only about 4.4% of the US population according to 2016 census data.  At such a dismal rate, I hope you can see the truth in the following findings:

“The fall in home ownership continues amid 'housing recovery’.” 

"These are the best of times for real estate but overall it is investors not middle America who are winning from it."


We know it matters because we are the professionals of this industry, whether as salespeople, mortgage lenders, attorneys, appraisers, insurance agents, and the like. But have we begun to take for granted that homeownership is still the American Dream?

Mark Alston of Skyway RealtyAlston and Associates Mortgage Company, and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers Public Affairs Chairman, poignantly shared the above information at this year's National Association of Real Estate Brokers Las Vegas conference. Furthermore, Alston expressed the following sentiments and narratives that some of us real estate professionals do not want to admit but pervade many of our communities:

“Home ownership just isn’t that important”

What are our indicators? Entrepreneurship (i.e. “I’m building my empire”), celebrity-ship (i.e. “I am famous ya’ll”) and consumerism (i.e. “I always have to have the latest ________ [insert expensive luxury good] aka keeping up with the Jones/Kardashians”) have quietly seeped in to replace about what many American’s dream about and aspire to have and to become.

Secondly, “home ownership is out of reach”. 

Alston mentioned that recent mortgage approval rates reflect:

63.86% White

62.64% Asian

53.88% Hispanic

45.38% Black

For each of these demographics, if we were using an elementary school grading scale (where an “A” is 90-100 and so forth) America overall is failing at achieving homeownership, with at best a "D" for Whites and Asians, an "E" for Latinos, and a dreary "F" for African-Americans. And just like in grade school, failure may spark a sense of unattainability, withdrawal, and apathy. You may remember hating the class that you could never do well in and unfortunately it is apparent that such attitudes permeate American homeownership.

What’s all this mean?

We as real estate practitioners likely do not openly focus enough on the importance of homeownership. We exclaim verbally and post socially why we love our favorite restaurants, sports team (*cough* Go Blue! *cough*), luxury brands and other objects of our affection. Yet, often we are mum on WHY homeownership matters, such as its wealth creation and generational transferral power. 

Quite simply we are taking our love affair with real estate for granted. We know it is important but we may have settled into a comfort zone where we do not say it or demonstrate it. But saying and showing is important in American culture. Don’t believe me? Then just wait until next Valentine’s Day to see how sideways and withdrawn people get when those expressions are neglected. We must truly get back to our first career love and advocate for why homeownership matters.

As a real estate trainer and coach, this is truthfully the main underlying reason I see sales success evade so many. We post about new listings in a stale, pragmatic, abbreviated way instead of new real estate opportunities for wealth building. We market properties instead of marketing dreams and futures. We show houses instead of truly being a matchmaker and conduit of investment opportunities.

Let’s start today and "change the narrative”, which was an actionable phrase repeated at this exhilarating Last Vegas broker conference.   Yakira Prise, a top producing agent with PalmerHouse Realty, is a shining example of changing the narrative with her #YouTooCanLiveTheDream social posts, which are the main contributors to her success and inspiration to her community.  Please read what she wrote and notice her stance in saying, "Selling pretty houses is one thing... But ensuring my clients make smart lifelong and beneficial financial decisions is the home run in the ball game!"  

See what I mean?

And make no mistake, our advocacy for the importance of homeownership must extend to our lawmakers. “Without significant federal intervention and policy change, home ownership will continue to decline, especially in communities of color”, stated Alston.

What can you begin doing today to instill the value of homeownership in your messaging to positively influence your sphere and community? Sound off below!

And feel free to give me a shout on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ or by visiting LearnWithLee.Realtor.  And, be sure to tell the real estate agents you know to get a copy of the 5-star rated workbook, Plan to Win, to transform their real estate sales game plan.  Here's to your success!
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