Our daughter is in her Freshman College English Class. Interestingly enough, the Assignment was to write about the American Dream, after reading an Essay that pretty well says Americans no longer want to buy homes… especially those who are under 35. She and her brother (who already owns a home) both fit into that age frame.
The professor didn’t know she grew up with a Grandmother who is now a retired Realtor, parents who are both Mortgage Lenders, and a Grandfather who is a retired Mortgage Banker and Appraiser. She knew what “Four and a Door” meant before she was 6.
She was 9 or 10 when she started really paying attention to the conversations we were having with folks buying homes. She grew up with weekend phone calls from folks who wanted to buy a home, looking for mortgage information. She’s heard us discuss situations that were pretty desperate for folks who couldn’t sell their homes, who had to make tough decisions about a short sale or foreclosure.
For her, a “Bad Economic down turn” has been real.
She’s also witnessed the resurgence of calls from First Time Home Buyers. She can tell you pretty clearly what credit score you’ll need to buy a home, and how to build your credit to get there… she’s been in a unique position. And no… she’s not the least bit interested in going into the mortgage business, her passion is Music.
I wasn’t sure how this Essay would turn out, when I first heard about it. Like most parents, I was hoping that she would put forth a perspective I supported. As it turned out, she didn’t do the “paper” I thought she would at all – she did it better.
My take on why more “Young People” are renting right now? My belief is that it’s difficult for them to get jobs, and many are starting new businesses, and going back to school to try and give themselves a “leg up.” Once they get a job, we generally get a call, sometimes before they’ve even started their job, to see if they can buy a house!
The good news is that you don’t need a pile of cash to buy a house in NC. We offer the USDA Home Loan, that requires no down payment. We also have a Grant Program available from the State of North Carolina that provides almost 3% of the 3.5% down payment on a FHA loan – and with a BRAND New Program, the whole down payment can come as a gift.
If you are ready to buy a house, please call us! Steve and Eleanor Thorne 919-649-5058
The American Dream: Alive, and Well
Home is not just simply a place on a map or a particular collection of people, who love your endearingly awkward quarks. Home is a solid foundation of moments and memories that stack together like building blocks to shelter you from the hell-storm we so boldly call life. To have a home, and to share that home with someone else, and to eventually build a home of their own, is for many Americans the ultimate Dream. The American Dream.
Brandon King, the author of “The American Dream: Dead, Alive or on Hold” tries to persuade readers that the American Dream has, unlike pop-culture, grown more modest over time stating that “most people do not strive for a rags-to-riches transition, and instead prefer a stable, middle class lifestyle, one in which they can focus on saving money for the future and having secure employment” (573).
While its clear that the Dream isn’t dead, or even on hold, King doesn’t clearly define the American Dream, but instead gives proof of the methods people are taking in making this dream come true.
Humans, by nature, strive for companionship and in many respects are the most commonly overlooked herding species on the planet. Consider the cell phone, which we so fondly keep on our person at every hour of the day. It allows us to constantly be in contact with other members of the herd no matter where we are. The “herd” is best represented by what today’s Society has named our ‘followers’ on almost every social media platform. These are the people who care so much for us, and our elusively endearing quirks, that they promise to listen to every thought we have while laying restlessly in bed – but only, of course, if its under 140 characters.
The need to be constantly in contact with the people, and pushing to be accepted into the social norm, is perhaps best exemplified by the exploration and acceptance of the Tract Housing by Americans in the early 1930’s. The new subdivision living style allowed Americans to take that collection of people, that contributed to our feeling of acceptance, and keeps them close. This idea of a basic Cookie-cutter neighborhood generated a new approval amongst the American people in what they’re looking for from a home.
Suddenly, the idea of an all American household became widely accepted as a modest, middle class house, precariously placed in the middle of the street, equipped with a white picket fence, well-manicured lawns, a dog and, of course, their close family friends next door. This house, however, is more than just an odd configuration of bedrooms and kitchens, this house now represents home, and thusly the all-American house has become the mascot for the American Dream.
King, throughout his essay, relentlessly presents an argument that is simply irrefutable:
The economy has been in absolute shambles over the last 6 years, and as a result consumer spending has taken a nosedive. Between December of 2007 and June of 2009 America faced what was arguably the worst economic recession since the Great Depression in the early 1900’s, with some economists reporting a loss of “8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment” (The Great Depression).
As a result of the substantial job loss felt across America, Americans quickly became more conscious of their spending habits and scrutinize every penny spent and not saved. King goes on to make the point that with the hesitation of a fragile consumer market, more and more Americans are turning to renting houses instead of buying permanent residence to help lower the cost of living.
He then quotes “a recent study which shows a decrease in ownership from 69% in 2005 to 66.5% in 2010 and an increase in renter households of 1.1 million” (574). While his definition is arguable, King is suggesting throughout his paper that more and more people are renting, instead of buying houses, and letting go of the fancy cars that once lined our driveways, to accept a more modest form of the American Dream; one in which the definition of our success is someone with a frugal pocket.
There is absolutely no denying that in the face of this economic turmoil Americans have become cautious consumers to save for the uncertain future, and its only logical that this trend would be reflected in the housing market, too. The fundamental flaw in Kings argument is not that the American people aren’t turning to renting more houses, but rather that he’s trying to measure a mans success by the value of a dollar and the size of their house.
It is important to note that King, and many Americans, are also accepting the physical house as a representation for the American Dream. Understandably, many people see the statistics proving that more and more people are turning to renting instead of buying and make the correlation that the American Dream, which was once roughly accepted as owning a house, is dying.
King uses this same logic to support his ultimate argument by redefining the American Dream into an utterly economic venture by stating that the new American dream was simply “the potential to work for an honest, and secure way of life and save for the future” (574).
To simplify this definition: Americans are trying to make more money now so that they can have more things in the future. King chooses to compare the American Dream to a monetary equivalent, utterly denouncing the moral standing behind the American Dream and tying the average American to a terribly materialistic sense of self worth and accomplishment.
He is trying to convince us that the American dream has done the opposite of his Rags-to-riches theory, and has grown more modest over the years to a more plain and frugal one.
I think its important in this moment to redefine the American dream and remind ourselves that the American Dream isn’t about owning a house, its about having a home.
By suggesting the American Dream is nothing more than an economic venture, King is limiting the average American’s definition of success to a crude materialistic sense of accomplishment. Being successful, most crucially in the American Dream, isn’t about making enough money to buy a house or saving enough to retire comfortably to a 2 bedroom flat in Florida.
The American Dream is about the relationships formed, the memories made, simply put, it’s about the lives that exist between the walls of those houses. The basic fundamental difference between my definition and Kings definition is simple: King bases the American Dream around the concept of owning a house, where as I am defining the American Dream as every persons right to have a home.
Kings argument, although it doesn’t define the American Dream very well, does have a definitive place and incredible validity in the more broad argument against the claims that the American Dream is dying. By choosing a more monetarily based argument, King neglects to acknowledge that the driving force behind the apprehensive attitude towards spending.
He misses, and more importantly, the subtle switch from home owning to renting is because Americans are willing to give up their houses if it means they can keep their homes. Saving for the future, a key argument in King’s essay, is absolutely a common undertone in America today because the stability of our future, especially our economy, is so uncertain.
More and more people are accepting the fragile nature of the economy and giving up many of their previous luxuries, like their nice cars and spare bedrooms, for the ability and comfort of knowing that they can keep their family’s together under one roof, no matter the size of that roof. They’re trying to make it easy for their children to go to college and write really crappy English papers, so that they can get a degree in something they’re passionate about instead of something that was formally accepted as “practical”. Most importantly, so their dreams can stay alive and thriving.
The American Dream hasn’t changed, or grown more modest over the years, it has always functioned under one goal: finding a home of your own. In the face of this economic and political unrest, if anything, the motivation of the American Dream is more important than ever.
It’s a goal to work towards for some, and a prize worth working to keep, for others.
To have a home, though, is not as simple as it seems. Home is an incredibly abstract idea that can’t always be tacked down to one definition. Home is more than just a place. It’s a feeling.
It’s a warm memory, a friendly smile or a lover’s arm. Home is where you feel happiest, or where you feel safe, or where you feel most accepted. Home is many things that I couldn’t possibly try to give an absolute definition for because home is different for everyone.
To the entrepreneur of a small mom-and-pop shop, home is in their craft. To the newly naturalized citizen, home is simply the land of opportunity. To the soldier on his first flight back, home is the group of people waiting to run into his arms on the other side of the gate. No matter what home is, though, one thing stands true: home is in America. Home is in the land of equal opportunity where every person is born with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (US 1776).
The idea of having a home is the core foundation of The American Dream. It is the pursuit of finding a home, a place where you are accepted and loved beyond reason. Yes, Americans are looking to save money in any way possible, but the driving force behind the need to be more modest, is because Americans aren’t concerned with the need to buy new cars and houses with three spare bedrooms. The push for a more modest way of living is a desperate attempt by many Americans to make sure that the tree in the back yard has a swing on it, and the scribbled measuring chart that grossly exaggerates how much we grew doesn’t get painted over.
The American Dream isn’t about the house we grew up in; it’s about the home that raised us.
King, Brandon. “The American Dream: Dead, Alive or on Hold.” They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 2 Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. New York: Norton, 2012. Print. [572-579.]
“The Great Recession.” State of Working America. Economic Policy Institute, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014. <http://stateofworkingamerica.org/great-recession/>.2nd Edition. Eds. Gerald Graff, Cathy