Is Owning a Home Important?

Tammy Newland-Shishido
By Tammy Newland-Shishido

Real estate prices in California make it difficult for first-time buyers to purchase a home. Is homeowning worth the effort? And how do you move from renting a place to owning your dream home?

California is a renter state. Rising prices make it difficult for first-time buyers to purchase a home. Why is owning a home important? I remember my parents telling me that owning a home was the most important thing to do, and I was taught always to set money aside toward a down payment. I felt really grown up and that I had accomplished something special when my husband and I bought our condo when I was twenty years old.

Going from being a renter to being a homeowner made me feel proud, and I felt I had a place that was mine. I met my neighbors and had them over for dinner. We gathered monthly in the courtyard to socialize. It felt like a community inside our condo complex.

After my daughter was born, my husband and I decided it was time to move into a house so that she would have a yard to play in. We saved for a larger down payment to move into a house. This is the journey many of us take and that we tell our clients to take. Buy something small, move up, and then keep moving up.

I ask many of my clients to describe the house they have dreamed about. After listening to them, I say, “Now, you realize that may be your home after about three move-up buys,” because that is the reality. The dream house comes after several moves—or maybe it hasn’t even been achieved yet.

Why is owning a home important? When I ask clients this question, the answers I hear are that they want to build equity, want a stable and safe environment, want to start a family and have something of their own, and want the freedom to choose where to live. My reasons for owning a home were all of the above—and also that homeowners create communities.

My in-laws have been in their home for more than sixty years. They know their neighbors. They raised their kids at the same time. Now, they share stories about their great-grandkids. They have a telephone tree and call each other every morning (because many of them are in their nineties) to make sure they are up. They used to go to dance class and have potlucks together. Owning a home was the most important thing for them.

Many of the families in this West Los Angeles neighborhood bought their homes when they returned after being interned. When the bombs fell on Hawaii, these Japanese Americans were sent to camp. When they were released, they started from scratch; but many saved to buy homes and located in the same area. They created their own community.

My husband’s parents say owning a home is not only the American Dream but also a Human Right.