As we celebrate Independence Day next week, thousands of us will flock to places like Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Peacefield to learn and understand more about our country’s history and the men and women who shaped its future.
The homes of founding fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were more than shelter; they were places of respite, reflection, and inspiration.
In some ways, historic home owners bear little resemblance to the home owners of today. George Washington inherited Mount Vernon when he was 20; only 4% of recent home buyers were between the ages of 18-24, according to the 2011 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
John Adams was born in the house that would remain in the Adams family for four generations. Today, fewer than 3% of families in this country have received their primary residence as an inheritance, according to a recent Survey of Consumer Finances published by the Federal Reserve Board.
Women’s rights to own property in America’s early days were often based on their relationships with men, so it’s not surprising that many women today view home ownership as its own form of independence, with single women representing more than one-fifth of all home buyers in the current market.
Home owners across U.S. history do share some common ground, of course. Most of the founding families lived out their lives close to where they were born, and the same is true today. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 60% of Americans currently live in the state in which they were born, and NAR research shows that the typical buyer moves only 12 miles from his or her previous residence.
Another thing that hasn’t changed over the centuries is our love for our homes. “I am as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello,” said Thomas Jefferson of his home.
That’s as true today for most home owners as it was for Jefferson in his time.