When I think back on the first home my parents bought in 1955 I’m impressed that they accomplished it. They had just emigrated here in 1951 and somehow managed to secure jobs and buy a house (shown above.) Did they even get a mortgage back then?
I can’t tell you the details of their purchase because I don’t know them (except for the price which was $15,000), but I know that this scenario still happens today. Yes, it’s harder, more time-consuming, and exponentially more expensive, but buying a home is still considered the American dream. And whether born here or a new resident, people strive mightily to have their own “patch of grass.”
Buying a home has changed in more ways than lending practices or prices. In general, modern real estate as it’s practiced today really got going after World War II but has been most documented since the 1960s. From 1966 to 1982 the home ownership rate rose slightly, peaked then dropped until 1986 when it started rising again in 1994.
From 1994 until the real estate crash of 2008 (the good old days) is the period when people understood that a home could be more than just a place to live - it could be an investment. Buy low, wait a few years, sell higher. And so it went for over a decade until something bad happened. The snake whipped around and bit its own tail.
Slowly at first but then like a snowball home prices tumbled to unimaginable lows. Many who used their homes as cash cows or over-mortgaged themselves now faced short selling or foreclosure. Suddenly the American Dream tasted somewhat bitter.
Nationally, housing has been slowly recovering and is currently at the 2007 level. Locally, that’s not the case. North Shore housing saw an increase in sales in 2017, but since then sales have been steadily declining.
The North Shore, the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois have all seen population declines as residents flee high taxes and corruption. Property taxes have recently been reassessed with the majority of homeowners seeing higher assessments. This is akin to a boxer taking a gut punch - it hurts but we’ll deal with it. Not fatal or bout ending but many have decided to call it quits here.
Not everybody will own their own homes - many by choice and others by circumstance. But aside from owning a home, a place to call home needn’t always be owned. The same sense of self-worth, pride, and security can be found in a rental - after all, it’s still your home. With homelessness across the country at record levels, I hope we can all appreciate that we even have a place to live.
A home may not be the investment that it was a few decades ago, but a place to call your own will always be the gold standard. There are some very smart people who make the case that owning is not beneficial - but I'm not buying it. No pun intended.
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Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate agent since 1998 practicing in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.
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