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Home Is Where the History Is

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As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day next week, thousands of them will flock to places like Mount Vernon, Monticello and Peacefield to learn and understand more about our country’s history and the men and women who shaped its future. The homes of founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were more than shelter; they were places of respite, reflection and inspiration.

“Homeownership is an investment in our future, but it’s also a gateway to our past,” says NAR President Moe Veissi. “The homes of our country’s founders offer insights into their characters and values, and reflect the spirits of their owners, just as our homes do for us today.”

In some ways, historic homeowners bear little resemblance to the homeowners of today. George Washington inherited Mount Vernon when he was 20; only 4 percent of recent home buyers were between the ages of 18-24, according to the 2011 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. John Adams was born in the house that would remain in the Adams family for four generations. Today, fewer than 3 percent of families in this country have received their primary residence as an inheritance, according to a recent Survey of Consumer Finances published by the Federal Reserve Board.

Women’s rights to own property in America’s early days were often based on their relationships with men, so it’s not surprising that many women today view homeownership as its own form of independence, with single women representing more than one-fifth of all home buyers in the current market.

Homeowners across U.S. history do share some common ground, of course. Most of the founding families lived out their lives close to where they were born, and the same is true today. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 60 percent of Americans currently live in the state in which they were born, and NAR research shows that the typical buyer moves only 12 miles from his or her previous residence.

“I am as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello,” said Thomas Jefferson of his home. Although today’s economic environment has postponed homeownership for some, numerous surveys show that most Americans still aspire to homeownership. In the NAR Profile, a full 60 percent of recent first-time home buyers cited the desire to own a home of their own as the primary reason for purchasing a home.

“There’s a reason homeownership is called the American Dream,” says Veissi. “As we celebrate our country’s independence and reflect on its past, REALTORS® remain committed to keeping the dream of homeownership alive for generations of Americans to come.”

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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