Real Estate – The “Real” History
Ever pondered the history of real estate and home ownership? Over the course of human history, there have been a lot of changes in our ideas about the places where we lay our heads. A few of the highlights of real estate history:
- All humans were nomads until somewhere between 30,000 and 15,000 BCE. What changed us? Agriculture. By having plants and livestock grow in a predictable, stable place, we were able to settle down and set roots.
- During the next phase, most of the people of the world were renters. A leader, whether a tribal leader, a pharaoh or the head of a feudal family, owned the land and everyone else who lived on it paid for the privilege with a share of their harvest. This would last, for most, until the end of the age of the monarchs.
- The rise of the merchant class during the Renaissance brought with it the idea that people had a right to own the property they lived on.
- In the Colonial Era in America, Spain, France and England all laid claim to portions of North America. Deeds known as Land Warrants that entitled settlers to land here were distributed by land offices. Many were rewarded for military service with a plot of land under an arrangement known as a Bounty Land Warrant.
- There are historians who argue that when Thomas Jefferson wrote the line in the US Constitution about “the pursuit of happiness,” a key concern of that happiness was the right to own property.
- Homeownership became the cornerstone of the “American Dream” in the 50 years after the Civil War. As people left farms to seek their fortunes in the city, people saw owning homes as an increasingly important part in securing prosperity.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was a strong proponent of homeownership and many programs to help more people buy homes came to be under his leadership. He is quoted as saying “A nation of homeowners is unconquerable.”
- Today, roughly two-thirds of all Americans own their homes. The numbers are higher in out in the country where nearly three-quarters of people own the homes they live in and much lower in urban areas where property is more expensive.
- The desire to own homes is not universal. In Germany, despite the high per capita income, only 40% of people are homeowners. It’s not always to your benefit to own, either. Many analysts, for instance, say that someone is better off renting in a place like San Francisco than they are owning a home.
- In the US, homeownership is correlated with a lot of benefits for the community. In places where there are high proportions of owner-occupied houses, children do better in school, property is better maintained and crime rates are lower. Owning a home is even correlated with better levels of health.