Is It Time To Re-think Home Ownership?


 I am reprinting the whole article from Keeping Matters Current,, because I think it is very important to consider this perspective, and I don’t think I can say it better myself:


Time Magazine: As Wrong Today as They Were in 2005

by Steve Harney on September 17, 2010


Time Magazine’s cover story last week was titled Rethinking Homeownership: Why Owning a Home May No Longer Make Economic Sense.

The webpage title for the online version of the article was After Housing Bubble, the Dark Side of Homeowner Dreams.

The actual article title on the internet was The Case Against Homeownership.

It is rather easy to guess the tone of the article with phrases such as no longer make economic sense’, the dark side’ and the case against’. The article was rather negative.

Did Time prove its point? I think not. They attempt to undo decades of research about the benefits of homeownership with one sentence, no research defending their position and a cute little dismissal of the actual research that had already been done.

First, they made a rather bold proclamation:

Evidence that homeownership actually brings other benefits is decidedly mixed.

Mixed? That claim caught my attention. I have read and reported on research which has established the benefits of homeownership. I was genuinely interested in learning of the research done that refutes this argument. Here is Time’s ‘evidence’:

On the surface, the results are often impressive. In 1997 academic economists Richard Green and Michelle White found that children of homeowners stay in school longer than children of renters and that daughters of homeowners are less likely to become teenage mothers. A 1999 study by Denise DiPasquale and Edward Glaeser concluded that homeowners are more likely to vote in elections and be involved in community organizations.

Yet the researchers who conduct such studies often warn about taking the findings too far. Just because two qualities show up at the same time doesn’t mean one is causing the other. DiPasquale and Glaeser, for instance, attribute a big part of their findings to the fact that homeowners move less frequently: they have more time in a community than renters do to get involved.

Is Time using the findings of a study proving the benefits of homeownership to try and disprove that same study? Where are the â€˜mixed’ findings showing homeownership has no benefits? That’s what they claimed to have!

A 2009 study in the journal Real Estate Economics found that kids living in owned homes are less prone to drop out of high school, but whether a family owned a car had an even stronger correlation. Should we give cars the credit? Or should we instead realize that both home and car ownership are probably markers of something else, like a stable family life or living in a nice neighborhood?

Again, they are simply arguing a miniscule point of an extensive research paper that proves the benefits of homeownership. Where is their research, their study, their expert testimony disproving this study’s results? They gave none because there is none.

Time finishes this argument with a condescending note:

There is really only one effect that seems consistently caused by homeownership: owners invest more time and money in the physical upkeep of their homes. They are more likely to make repairs. They are more likely to garden.

Homeownership is not about gardening. It is so much more than that. I find it hard to believe that Time does not realize that.

2005 Cover

The cover of a Time issue in 2005 was titled Home, $weet, Home. In that article, they talked about the financial benefits of homeownership. That article was a much better piece of journalism which tackled both sides of the issue. However, they left the reader feeling as though they would be left out of future financial fortunes if they didn’t buy a home then. They did this with statements like this which appeared in the 2005 article:

You shouldn’t get the impression that you can make six figures in real estate by snapping your fingers. Just ask Max Kaiser. It once took him a whole hour.’

Bottom Line

In 2005, immediately before the housing bubble burst, Time suggested that owning a home might make financial sense. Thay dedicated a cover story to it. Time magazine got it wrong in 2005. Time magazine also got it wrong last week.