Town Home Ownership and the American Dream Debate

This summer, town home owners have been experiencing both the start of a blistering political season and, simultaneously, what the newspaper writers call the ‘summer silly season.’ The politicians have hit the campaign trail in earnest, but in many other realms, folks tend to be on vacation (or wishing they were). The result is that very unimportant stories make the evening news: the silly season. If you saw any of last week’s multiple replays of the baby deer playing with the rabbit on a lawn in Colorado, you know what the deepest part of the silly season gets you: Bambi and Thumper making headlines.

But in the political realm, there’s also been a renewal of the quadrennial discussion about whether the whole American Dream is dead. That means it’s time to discuss the abstract idea and its relationship to the very concrete one: The American Dream, and your local home.

For sure, “The American Dream” means more than simply owning a home in town (despite the fact that those of us in real estate would like to see it included in the definition). The three words in TAD make up one of the few phrases that, even though we all know it means different things to different people, still triggers a degree of reverence. When a politician brings up The American Dream it’s probably because it’s a topic that most listeners will identify with—one that causes people to feel both nostalgic and protective.

“The American Dream” evokes apple pie and Aunt Em; Tom Sawyer and a horse-drawn trolley on Main Street. It’s an American past we all experienced, sort of (we went to Disneyland, after all!). Pollsters tell us that safeguarding future generations’ access to The American Dream is an obligation most Americans accept: in fact, this year’s 60 Minutes-Vanity Fair poll says that to 44% of Americans, giving their kids a better life is its very definition.

At least in the 20th century, to a very great number of people TAD also went hand-in-hand with owning a home of your own. But does it still include home ownership? Wikipedia offers a comprehensive roundup of ideas about TAD, which includes a subsection on Home Ownership (but it also has sections on the American Dream in Britain…and Russia…and even the People’s Republic of China!) It makes you wonder—can the American Dream be in bad shape if it’s so contagious? And if owning a home is no longer a part of it, how come the area’s residential real estate market is bouncing back so vigorously?

The season may be the silly in some newsrooms, but when it comes to listings and showings in this summer’s local home market, these weeks are a most undaffy time of year— and an excellent time to give me a call!

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