Think back to the 1950's. Okay, well, if you're like me you weren't born yet, so at least try and imagine what is was like when our parents parents were purchasing their first home. The thought of selling it in 10, 20, or even 50 years, and then making a profit didn't even enter their minds. No, they were buying this new home to start a family, make memories, and to grow old in. Today, the idea of home-buying has changed drastically. The definition of "The American Dream" is not what it once was. But in today's housing market where prices keep falling and buyers are afraid that their home purchase will lose value the way a new car does when you drive it off the lot, has changed the way Americans view their homes.
The reason I decided to write this blog entry is because recently my wife, Anne, and I went to visit my grandmother, Tanya, in Rochester, NY. She has lived in the the same house for over 50 years. She and my grandfather Hyam Plutzik who is no longer with us, were newlyweds when they purchased the 3BR/2 bathroom, California style Ranch home for $17,300. Back then, it was a hefty amount. The California Ranch was the cutting edge of homes in the 1950's. It was new construction, and my grandmother is still, to this day, the very first owner.
My mother and her brothers and sisters grew up in that house, and the memories are abundant. The memories almost seem to run right in front of your face like in a movie when someone is telling a story of the past and you can see the characters, almost as if they are ghosts. My grandmother tells wonderful stories of my mother playing baseball in the yard with the other children on the street (the yards all intersected with one another, which made it perfect for nine innings of our Country's past time). Or, when the family dog gave birth to 14 puppies and my uncle Jonathan (who was a boy at the time) would come home from school and walk the pups around the basement like a marching band. Or, when my grandfather would wake up at 4am on Saturday to take my mother fishing (my mom was a bit of a tomboy), but she cherished that time with her father.
My grandmother told me that if she sold her house today she would most likely get $150,000 for it if she was lucky. But the thing is, she doesn't care. She cannot put a price tag on the love she has for this home. She is 92 years old (or young, I should say), and refuses to leave until she has to. She could sell it for what she paid for it 50 years back and it would be perfectly alright with her. She has lived in it, and it served more than its purpose. That's what a house is for.
Today, it's a very different mind set. The average newlyweds starting a family will live in a home for seven years. They will fix it up in hopes of a big profit when they go to sell. In today's market, that may not be possible. My mother, Roberta Baldwin, who is now one of the most successful real estate agents in Northern New Jersey with 16 years in the biz, said something very interesting when she was featured on ABC's "Nightline" the other night. She said that...
"We have to go back to the old idea of why you owned a home, for the pleasure and the love of that experience and all of the memories you are going to create, and the friends your going to make, and the happiness your family will have ."
That was what the American dream was to people at that time, like my grandmother & grandfather. While we don't want home buyers to lose money on their homes, the sentimental aspect might have to come back into play...just until things get better. And hey, maybe it will cause us to make memories for a little longer than average seven years we'll be living in the house.