Opinion: Reframing the American Dream of homeownership


As we celebrate Independence Day this year, it’s natural to reflect on the American Dream of homeownership. This dream, however, seems to be facing challenges. Fewer real estate transactions are occurring, and many are questioning why. 

Is it due to interest rate volatility, low consumer demand, or a reluctance to sell homes due to the lock-in effect? While the demand and the dream persist, their attainability is, increasingly, under scrutiny. 

As Gen-Z enters the housing market, many say they’ve given up on buying a home. Some blame millennials and some blame boomers, while others say that, in fact, boomers are the ones who faced the toughest headwinds when entering the housing market. There’s a lot of finger-pointing and very few solutions.

This article explores these issues and underscores the role of real estate and mortgage professionals in guiding clients through these turbulent times.

Current market challenges

The real estate market is currently characterized by a complex interplay of factors:

  • Interest Rate Volatility: Fluctuating interest rates have made it difficult for potential buyers to predict the cost of financing a home.
  • Low Consumer Demand: Economic uncertainty and high living costs have dampened consumer enthusiasm.
  • Reluctance to Sell: Many homeowners are hesitant to sell, either waiting for better market conditions or uncertain about finding a new home themselves.

Despite these challenges, the dream of homeownership remains alive. The question is whether it is becoming less attainable or merely obscured by market noise and confusion.

The role of real estate and mortgage professionals

In times like these, the role of real estate agents, brokerage owners and lenders becomes even more critical. Our duty is to enable and inform clients, helping them navigate the complexities of the current market. We’ve weathered difficult markets before, and history shows that the market will eventually pick up, regardless of interest rates or other factors.

Consumer sentiment and market perception

Consumer confidence is currently low due to the high cost of living and perceived barriers to homeownership. However, this doesn’t mean the dream is out of reach. As industry professionals, we have a responsibility to foster belief in the possibility of homeownership. 

This is not about selling a fantasy but about highlighting realistic paths to achieving this goal, even if the process has changed. It may mean drilling down and familiarizing yourself, and your potential clients, with the ins and outs of credit repair, loan pre-qualification and pre-approval, and even basic personal finance and budgeting. It’s not beneath us to do this work; it’s a vital part of helping inspire a renewed belief and commitment to the positive potential of homeownership.

Shaping the narrative

The messaging we put out as professionals significantly impacts consumer perceptions. Too much talk about market disruptions, commission lawsuits, changing forms, and exclusive buyer-broker agreements can overwhelm potential buyers. They begin to perceive homeownership as an insurmountable financial burden, especially with the common misconception that they need a 20 percent down payment plus the potential for additional, out-of-pocket commission costs.

It’s crucial to reframe our communication to emphasize that homeownership is still attainable. Yes, prices are higher, but this also means homes are valuable long-term investments. Historically, interest rates are not as extreme as they seem, and with proper guidance, potential buyers can still find manageable financing options with lower down payments, down payment assistance and the potential for seller concessions to help cover agent commissions and closing costs.

Embracing change

The future of the real estate market is inevitably different from the past. Change is constant, and as professionals, we must adapt. By embracing new ways of thinking and running our businesses, we can help clients achieve their dreams.

My friend, Rene Rodriguez says that, “leaders, managers, agents, and loan officers need to lead by offering new narratives of opportunity that see through the irrational fear and move us all towards progress.

It’s likely that many will have a mental roadblock, preventing them from entertaining anything other than what they have known before. This “new narrative” may be met with hesitancy, skepticism, or resentment. Rene offers the following advice, “There are two sides to the narrative conundrum. One side is that of the leader proposing the narrative. The other is the one receiving the narrative. Some people find themselves with a mental block of old stories and narratives playing out in their brains. They project those onto current markets which may make them assume the worst. This whole process begins with self-awareness and opening one self up to the possibility that there may be new ways of looking at things. Listen to the words and the narratives that come from those who are more successful than us. Those who are doing well and difficult markets , speak differently than those who are performing. Sometimes it’s that easy.

Just as children once dreamt of owning homes, today’s aspirations may include different symbols of success, like a Cybertruck. However, the underlying desire for stability and investment in the future remains the same. It’s up to us to tap into that desire and show consumers that it is still meaningful, attainable and worthwhile.

This Independence Day, let’s renew our commitment to the American Dream of homeownership. By reworking our messaging and embracing change, we can help clients navigate the current market and realize their dreams. 

Homeownership remains a worthy and achievable goal, providing long-term benefits and a sense of the independence we celebrate this July 4th. As real estate and mortgage professionals, we have the power to make this dream a reality for many.

Troy Palmquist is the Director of Growth for eXP California.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the editor responsible for this piece: [email protected]



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