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Email rant: “It’s not buying a home”

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From my old college roommate JRK:

“As you continue to move on towards full-on personal finance guru status, may I make one request:

Never, ever use the phrase “buying a home.”

I know this has become completely idiomatic in finance (not to mention real estate) jargon, but it’s just smarmy and offensive.

You buy a house. A house is a physical entity which sits on a piece of real estate. You can’t buy a home. Your home is an abstract place. The very notion that you could BUY a home betrays a terribly misguided sense of what it even means, born out of consumer culture run rampant. That, and it’s a piece of business-ese that just bugs me. Like “monetizing upward synergies.” But it’s become so universally used that people take it for granted.

Well, I want to take that word back, one person at a time. I’m now asking you, in your elevated status in the personal finance world, to be the first to help me do this. Believe me, it’s for the greater good.

Seriously though. One of these days I’m going to kill the bastards.

Truer words were never spoken. Also, try to understand how much JRK and I ranted to each other about stupid people.

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  1. A more generic term than “house” was needed; the word “home” was pressed into service. When I say I am going to “buy a home” I do not necessarily mean I am buying a house, it means I am undecided as to whether I want a condo or a townhome, or a duplex, or a single-family dwelling, or even a mobile home. Similarly with “I am a homeowner” — it’s the ownership that is important, not the precise configuration of the building I live in.
    Everyone understands this secondary meaning of the term and it doesn’t confuse anyone into thinking they are actually buying some warm and fuzzy abstraction.
    I guess I could say “I’m going to buy a dwelling” or “I’m a residence-owner” or “I’d like to buy some domicile insurance,” but I think those sound pretty dorky. If this usage of “home” weren’t useful, people wouldn’t be using it. I commend the enthusiasm, however, and wish you luck — I’m afraid you’re going to need it.

  2. This is debating minutiae which you talk about in: “We love to debate minutiae”

    See? You and your friend are guilty of it as well.

  3. Totally agree with you and JRK. In Russian (as well as any other language I suppose) you can’t buy a home too, although 1 word is used for both home and house but everyone understands.