By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
It took me some years to figure this out: The moment you take something for granted, you’ve lost it. I’ve had to learn this lesson enough times when it comes to the most important things such as health, relationships, jobs, and even homes. I think many people, sadly, had a fresh awakening about taking housing for granted as Hurricane Irene battered much of the East Coast this past weekend.
I am scheduled to ride the Home Ownership Matters Bus for the next two weeks. I left for Connecticut on Friday to attend an event on Saturday. I knew that I was essentially flying to a hurricane to get stuck in it. I kind of liked the idea of having a front row seat for mother nature’s extremes.
Connecticut was declared a state of emergency Saturday morning and alas, they canceled the event. I immediately went into my version of survival mode and headed to the grocery store to stock up on water, batteries, a flashlight, and food. I learned that Pop Tarts were the most in-demand hurricane food and were sold out at both grocery stores I went to. My mother lived through Hurricane Gloria in 1983 and remembered that parts of Connecticut were without power for up to a month. I didn’t know what to expect.
I checked into a hotel, which set up a lounge area for CNN viewing. They put out snacks and left CNN on so we could watch Anderson Cooper getting whipped in 60 mph winds (I still don’t understand how his hair looked perfectly coiffed afterward) and watched as Hurricane Irene made her path up from North Carolina. One man in the elevator said over and over again, he just wanted his house to be OK. He heard that a tree had fallen on it and didn’t know what the damage was. Another was concerned about flooding. Many were hoping that their home would be there when all was said and done.
It’s easy to take a home for granted as it has probably been there to greet you day after day, year after year. It sometimes takes natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or fires to come along until we realize what it means to us. I also think home ownership has been something that we’ve taken for granted. Ron Phipps, 2011 NAR president, spoke to about 50 members this morning about how home ownership has been a part of U.S. history since the Constitution was drafted. For almost 100 years, the mortgage interest deduction (MID) has been included in the tax code. While NAR has tried to educate consumers about how real the threat is — that the MID could be eliminated by lawmakers in Washington — it’s always surprising to me that this is often the first time they’ve heard of this attack on home ownership.
Sadly, home owners in Connecticut weren’t in a position to do anything as they watched Hurricane Irene beat and take apart their homes. But they don’t have to sit and watch Washington take apart home ownership. If I have learned anything on this bus tour, I’ve learned that home ownership can’t be taken for granted. And if we all take it for granted, we’ll lose it. To learn more about NAR’s advocacy, check out our September cover story.