On this Independence Day, we hope you are celebrating the land of the free and the home of the brave. Today and everyday, we’re proud to be a part of the finest country on Earth. Today, we toast to the U.S.A. by recounting these nine amazing facts about homes and homeownership in America.
The American Dream: A modern experiment?
The American dream of homeownership did not begin as an achieved ideal of self-sustainability, comfort and security — as it, in part, exists today. No, it actually started out as a way for the rich to get richer. Across the world, royals and land barons signed titles and deeds to their friends and family, who then requested rent from the peasants living on the land.
As America continued to assert its independence and its citizens sought “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the idea of the American Dream came into clearer view. After the Industrial Revolution, the pocketbooks of the working class and middle class grew fatter. They began to purchase property, cars and other comforts.
The American Dream was a term first used in 1931, once the rate of homeownership had started to rise across middle income Americans. More than 75% of Americans didn’t own a home in 1900 — so the dream of the white picket fence is quite new!
Did Jefferson get a vote? And did he vote for himself?
To determine the design for the White House, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson held an open design competition, promising to reward the winning architect with $500. While the final design for the White House is attributed to Irish-American architect James Hoban, President George Washington considered nine total proposals in all. One proposal, submitted anonymously from “A.Z.,” is thought to be a design from Thomas Jefferson himself!
The founding of the largest trade org in the country
The National Association of REALTORS® was founded in 1908 — but at the time it was called The National Association of Real Estate Exchanges. Its purpose? To “unite the real estate men of America with the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence of matters affecting real estate interests”. And yes, real estate agents did simply used to be called “real estate men.” Which brings us to our next fun fact!
A contentious term for more than 100 years
The term “Realtor” was first coined in 1915 by Minneapolis real estate broker Charles N. Chadbourn. After learning that a local man had swindled a widow out of her fortune by misrepresenting himself as a “real estate man”, Chadbourn decided an official term and membership was needed. Chadbourn was also the one to determine the pronunciation: REEL-tor, with an emphasis on the first syllable.
But did he consider feng shui?
The first Realtor to stage a home was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1925. His idea was that by showing a house that was “fully furnished,” buyers may be more likely to purchase the home. (Spoiler alert: He was right.)
When procrastination pays off — and seals your fate in architecture history
Perhaps the most famous home in the U.S. (outside the White House), Fallingwater is rumored to have been designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in just two hours. Wright had sat on the planning for more than a year when his client called and said he was on his way to review the plans. Whether or not that’s true, it is true that Wright designed all the furniture within the home so it can’t be removed. He reportedly wanted to protect the home from being redecorated in future generations.
Photo of Fallingwater’s exterior and interior. Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons (1, 2)
A brand-new home, and a Caddy to boot
Wondering who first started incentivizing buyers to attend their open houses? Agent Howdy Howard offered free Dr. Pepper to all visitors of his 12-day open house back in 1952 — and a free Cadillac to the final buyer! All told, more than 100,000 visitors attended the open house. (Dr. Pepper sponsored the event, so Howard mercifully was not stuck with that hefty soda bill.)
For the rest of us, it’d be the #1 investment. But good for you, Warren
Billionaire Warren Buffet still lives in the modest Omaha home he purchased for $31,500 in 1958. It’s now worth more than $650,000 — or .001% of the “Oracle of Omaha’s” total wealth. Buffett calls it the third best investment he’s ever made.
Take me home, country roads
While the rate of homeownership across the U.S. has dipped slightly due to the Great Recession, nearly 64% of American adults own homes today.
West Virginia has the highest homeownership rate in the nation; more than 75% of West Virginia adults own their residence.