The Light: Celebrating the American Home | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

The Light: Celebrating the American Home

As we celebrate our country this weekend, we consider and appreciate our role in helping our clients create and finance highly desirable and inspirational places to live. Now, perhaps more than ever, the home is playing an important part in the realization of the American Dream.

The concept of American Dream has evolved over time:

  • In 1931, James Truslow Adams coined the phrase, encapsulating the idea that each person would have the opportunity to reach the goals of which he or she was “innately capable.”
  • In 1944, FDR evolved Adams’ concept by proposing the Economic Bill of Rights, which included “the right of every family to a decent home.”
  • Many subsequent leaders have reinforced home ownership and quality, affordable rental housing as part of realizing the American Dream.
  • Today’s societal debates highlight that the American Dream has not yet been fully realized by many.

Here we broadly characterize buyers as first-time, move-up, and move-down. Each of these buyers has fundamental needs as well as aspirations for their homes that include some features they can afford and others they may or may not be able to. Our graphic below captures some of today’s fundamental needs and aspirations for each buyer group.

Certain fundamentals represent the basic tenets of housing for each life stage, especially safety and security. New homes today must include work-from-home spaces, great laundry rooms, full guest bathrooms, and connections to the outdoors.

  • For first-time buyers or renters, interior spaces are increasingly dual purpose (sliders that create niches for unique uses), while outdoor spaces such as side yards or front porches can be small but must be functional enough to temporarily escape the indoors.
  • For the move-up buyer, defined rooms that reduce noise from multiple, concurrent activities are essential.
  • The move-down buyers seek low maintenance, first floor primary suites, storage spaces, and universal design that provide the opportunity to adjust the home to age in place.

Aspirational items evolve the fundamental concept of quality housing to the concept of luxury that is often associated with the American Dream today.   

  • Aspirational first-time buyers want more than just quality housing. Expand balconies and usable patios as much as possible for this group and emphasize clean air, natural light, and easy-to-maintain materials. Add efficient storage spaces for bicycles or other recreational gear to differentiate small homes from competitors.
  • Move-up buyers leading more hectic lives (possibly with multiple generations in the home) aspire to drop zones for neatness and cleanliness, 3-car garages (more storage) and multigenerational options as they balance having older children return home and possibly aging parents join the home.
  • Move-down buyers aspire to have guest rooms for visitors, flex spaces that can be used as an in-home office or hobby rooms, and great entertainment spaces including transitional indoor/outdoor spaces like covered patios. And of course, move-down buyers love anything that helps them spoil their pets.

As we approach our nation’s birthday, we think about what home means to us. And while the philosophies behind such words can spur debate, we believe home means a place where each person feels safe and secure in whatever form that takes, whether as an owner or a renter. Never has this seemed more important.

Happy Fourth!


Ken Perlman If you have any questions, please contact Ken Perlman, Managing Principal, at (858) 281-7214 or by email.
Lesley Deutch If you have any questions, please contact Lesley Deutch, Managing Principal, at (561) 998-5814 or by email.