According to Investopedia, “The American dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone.”
For most Americans, this dream or belief spills over into home ownership. For decades in the United States, owning a home has been a hallmark of success, stability, and normalcy. From idealized images of a white picket fence, a tidy exterior with neatly planted shrubs, to highly stylized interiors, the idea of home as a symbol of success and personal refuge, the American dream home has been part of the fabric of the American dream itself.
In June of 2022, The New York Times reported that nearly three-quarters of Americans placed home ownership above career, family, and college as a sign of prosperity. As a culture, we are obsessed with the idea. There are entire media networks devoted to buying, selling, decorating, and styling houses. Data shows that Americans spend between $5200-$9200 annually on “making a house a home.” This cost includes decorations, appliances, repairs, and painting.
We trade our time for money in the form of work in order to send nearly 30% of what we earn to our housing expenses. We sleep at home. We work from home. We maintain our home. In nearly every area of life, our time, purchases, and attention is never far from where we live.
If our identities as Americans are so tied to our homes and the idea of the American dream, how then do we navigate the American dream home in 2023 when home affordability and home ownership feels out of reach for many? Below are three tips to keep in mind.
Get Your House In Order
“Getting your house in order,” is simply another way of saying, arrange your affairs in order to solve your problems. If you are looking to purchase a home, getting your house in order–literally and figuratively is key.
If you have a house to sell, clear it out, clean it up, and make sure it is in fully operational mode. Make small repairs, paint, declutter it, and make it ready to showcase at its best. In many areas, supply is not outpacing demand and homes are still selling at top dollar. If you think you may be listing your home soon, help it stand out among the others.
In addition to getting your physical space in order, consider also getting your financial house in order. With interest rates continuing to rise as well as federal mortgage rules changing, there is no better time to make sure your savings or down payment account is robust, your credit score is at its best, and your pre-qualification or pre-approval is ready to go.
Rethink Your Options and Priorities
Whether the trends of the housing market or the overall economic situation in this current moment have you prolonging your dream to own a home or you are simply waiting for just the right moment to enter the real estate game, now might be a good time to reassess your must-have list for your dream home.
Could you do with a smaller square footage footprint? Does intergenerational living make the most sense? Is your radius outside the city limits able to be widened? How about one less bathroom or bedroom? Can you live with an outdated, but functional kitchen after all? Perhaps settling into a more realistic view of affordability and opportunity is a sign of wisdom in 2023.
Home Is a Place, But Home is Also a Feeling
Finally, as you consider the American dream and the American dream home, keep in mind that the home you have likely has more to offer than you might realize. As you seek to find contentment in waiting for the home of your dreams, focus on what your home does have instead of what it doesn’t.
Make a list of everything you love about your home. Keep your home clean and tidy, taking care of what you have. Stay off of social media where Instagram and Pinterest images stir up your envy. Focus a lot less on how your home looks and focus more on how your home feels. Rearrange your current furniture. Pull out your cozy blankets. Light the good candles. Savor moments with the people you love.