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Is owning your home the American dream? Maybe. But before we can argue either way it begs the question: do you really own your home in the first place?

After the Great Recession, we’re all very much aware of the dangers involved with home ownership. But before that, owning a home was widely considered the #1 wealth building tool. Right now I don’t won’t to focus on whether purchasing a home is a good investment or wealth building tool. Nor do I want to focus on the owning vs. renting debate. I want to focus on whether you technically even own your home.

Do you really own your home

What is Ownership?

Owning something means possessing something that no one has the right to take away. If I go to the store and buy a TV, I own it. No one can come and take that TV from me without stealing it. But this just isn’t the case with your home.

There are many legal ways that it can be taken from you. For that reason, I feel the term homeowner is just a manipulation.

The majority of people take out a mortgage to purchase their home. Until that mortgage is paid off, the bank has a claim on your property. If you have $200,000 in debt on something, is it right to claim you own it? Stop paying that mortgage and you’ll see who really owns the property. Yet we put 3-5% down and announce ourselves as homeowners. Seems a little entitled to me. After paying the mortgage off for 15 years, 30 years, or maybe even 50 years due to refinancing, then you finally own it “free and clear.”

Except you don’t.

Because of…

Property Taxes

Regardless whether you purchase your house with 100% cash or take out a mortgage, you still owe property taxes each year. Property taxes are essentially an annual fee on your house. If you have a mortgage, the annual property taxes are often divided into monthly payments and held in escrow by the lender. What do you call a monthly payment to live somewhere?

I call it rent.

What do you call an annual payment to live somewhere. Again, I’d call it rent.

You are always renting your home from the government. If you do not pay your property taxes (or your rent), your home won’t be your home for much longer. The taxing authority will file a tax lien on your property and you could lose it in a tax sale if the delinquent amount is not paid. Unlike most forms of debt, property taxes do not have a payoff amount. You can’t make a lump-sum payment to pay off your property taxes for the rest of your life. They must be paid each and every year. On top of that, the property taxes will most likely go up each year. Just like rents.

Other Liens

There are other types of liens that can be filed on property, such as HOA and water/utility liens. I have seen people who purchased their home entirely with cash only to lose it by not paying their homeowner’s association dues. Not only have I seen it, I have actually purchased these HOA foreclosures at auction. There are also instances of people losing their homes due to water bills. A couple hundred dollar water bill balloons into a several thousand dollar lien after interest, an insurmountable cost for some.

Code Violations

If you truly own something, you should be able to do with it as you please. If I want to take my TV apart to see what it’s like inside or even go Office Space on it and beat the crap out of it, no one is going to say anything to me. Except maybe, “Idiot.” But if part of my house is falling apart or the grass grows too long, I can be cited for a code violation. These violations accrue daily until they are resolved. If you want to make changes to your house, you often need a permit. With so many restrictions about what you can and cannot do with your home, is that indicative of ownership?

Eminent Domain

Even if you follow all the rules and pay all your bills, there are still ways your home can be taken away from you. What if all of a sudden the government decides to build a highway right where your house is located? Or a strip center? Now all of a sudden you may be forced to sell your home… and most likely at under market value so the land can be repurposed. Meanwhile, Samsung is not going to come to you and say, “Hey, we want this TV back. We made a great TV and we’d like it back so we can use some of the pieces in our next model. We’re taking it now.”

What Term is Appropriate?

If you’re not a “homeowner,” what are you?

We established that you are a renter. Always. Unless you live in one of these 18 countries without property taxes. At the same time, you are more than a standard renter as you do have financial interest in the property.


That would be the more accurate term. The title of the property is in your name. But no one wants to use that term. Why would you pay 400k for something you don’t actually own? How could you convince someone to buy something for 400k that they won’t own?

Bottom Line

I work full-time for a house flipping company where my job is purchase houses at auction that were foreclosed on for one of the above reasons. In other words, from “homeowners” who lost their homes.

The term homeowner is a manipulation, but it will never leave our vocabulary because it will be perpetuated by those who make money off of its use. Additionally, we will perpetuate it ourselves. A little white lie we tell ourselves so we feel the pride of “ownership.” It’s a choice-supportive bias.

Purchasing a home can be a great investment or a terrible investment. When making the decision, it is better to focus on the financial costs and benefits in your particular situation. Not a false idea of ownership. Unless your dream is be a titleholder. Because that is, in fact, the title you hold.

17 thoughts on “Do You Really Own Your Home?

  1. Boy, you are the only American who agrees with me on this. I have said it ” I am not buying a house in the US” and my American friends got laughed at me. I wish I am still in contact with them, I would send them this.

    1. Hi Fatimah! Thanks for reading! But just because you don’t fully own something is different than whether or not it is a good investment vehicle. Take stocks, for example. Technically, buying stocks makes you a part owner of the company but for most that ownership stake means nothing. The stocks could still be a great (or terrible) investment. Same with real estate.

      1. Sorry to be 2 years late in responding. If your still out there. Most people are sick and tired of property taxes. There is something that most people fail to understand. Property tax is based on the value of property by computing obligations of the United States (federal reserve notes) which is FRAUD and a FELONY under United States Code. Because it is illegal and fraud this now extends into numerous other felony violations under United States Code,, such as Mail Fraud by having used the mail sending an illegal tax notice, unlawful conversion, attempting to embezzle funds of the United States, etc, etc..
        Is the County’s intent to force you into committing fraud against the United States by forcing you into paying an unlawful computed tax based on an obligation of the United States?

    1. That’s exactly what I’m getting at — what really counts as ownership? Even when you pay off your mortgage, you still have to make periodic payments to live there (i.e. property taxes). What’s another word for periodic payments to live somewhere? Rent.

      You may have financial interest in the property, but the government always has a superior claim to yours.

      1. Did…did you just equate property tax to rent?

        And you are part of a budget website?

        That’s scary. I hope not a lot of people listen to you.

      2. Most houses sits on unclaimed land. Why not claim the land. Now it becomes private land. Thus private property. Now the home sits on private property. Patent

  2. I am out of my home, foreclosed! However I do know I was told I could keep it if I paid the total…EXCEPT: they could not give me title. And I know the reason. My home ownership was written in a different County.
    The house is in Orange County. The Title was in a different county! So whom ever they sold it to. cannot have a “clear title”…either. So how do I find out HOW to examine the title etc.

      1. Except you really do own it. And Michael is wrong.

        He doesn’t seem to understand ownership entirely (thinking it’s just something that can’t be taken from you). Which is kinda scary from a budget website

  3. Yes, you own your home. Even with a mortgage. The house is yours, you just have a bank loan that is backed by the value of the house.

    Ownership isn’t just about it not being able to be taken away from you. It’s about being able to sell it, change it, and form it to your liking. Can you rip up the carpeting, tear down a wall and install a new bathroom on a rental? No, you can’t. Because it’s not yours.

    Can you do that in a home you just bought? Yes, because it’s yours. You own it.

  4. One more comment
    Correct me if I am wrong but a home is improvement on land. The improvement thus real estate is being taxed. Most land at one time was under a Patent. Most homes sit now on unclaimed land. Can we claim it? The big problem is, we sign a mortgage and give our consent. Done deal you consented. You also consented whether you know it or not to accept the counties protection and accept their political jurisdiction. Did you not register to vote and receive their drivers license. Did you not at one time also tell them you were a U.S. Citizen, a fiction whether you know it or not. We were tricked without any real disclosures.
    Consider the possibility of a confrontation with your tax assessor and maybe the state of state secretary of state. 31 USC 3124 REMOVED TAXING POWERS OF EVERY STATE IN THE UNION Property tax is based on the value of the property by COMPUTING obligations of the United States (federal reserve notes) which is fraud and a felony under United States Code.
    18 USC 8 makes it very clear that federal reserve notes are obligations of the United States Code.
    What will you do??

    1. @Richard H – sounds like the sovereign citizen argument. While there are valid points and arguments in the sovereign citizen ideology, it rarely gets anywhere in Court. You’ll lose every time no matter how well you argue your case or how many facts you use to back up every point made. Some States hit their residents with property taxes on cars and ATV’s, not just their homes/land. Want to claim land as yours? Build and train a militia and go to war with the government.

  5. Sorry, but Michael is 100% correct, and I back him up all the way. No one owns their homes. Ownership is 100% yours and can never be taken away by any means. So called homeowners nowadays are the biggest renters. You have that never-ending annual rental fee you are forced to pay to obtain that title for that dream home that you just paid the bank off to own for nothing lol because you will never own it lol. I know so many people who say their property taxes is more than their mortgage like 200 or more( what a shame). Investors are the people to make good buying homes and flipping them, but for permanent residence, you just screwed yourself. I am critical thinker, I analyze everything. Right now, I have a house in Puerto Rico while I live in the US; I can truly say I own that home, I pay nothing on it, my home is sitting there no taxes etc. See that is ownership, no one can take it from me. It is not worth buying a hoe in the US unless you are an investor. Best option is to rent because you can leave whenever you want, not obligated to anything just pay your rent, and thats it. Buying a home you are obligated to everything (repairs, maintenance etc and.that never-ending rental fee). Stop paying that property tax, and see what happens, you will get a notice in the mail from the county treasury office then you will see who the true owner is lol. Many say OH you can build equity in your home then sell it…..Ya hmm think about it, so all the money you gave to the Government to live at the home for years is actually reducing your equity lol so sell the home then you may get lucky, and get 1/2 back of the rental fee you been paying after you have paid the bank loan off lol how is that equity. Now if you own like me in PR then yes is full equity because it cost me nothing to obtain my title. I told you I analyze everything. So….why do we have to pay property taxes? They say is to cover fire/police departments, roads, schools, park, recreations etc. I am bit confused. So where the money going to that we pay in tolls, license bureaus, taxes we pay when we shop in stores, order online, get hair/nails done etc? The US is soo rich, have too much money in their hands. Why do they want so much money, and still take more? We are the only Country that has no medical for all. This is how greedy, selfish the US is. Medical should be provided to us. I say use some of property taxes to cover. There are ways to get rid off property taxes, they just not attempting to figure it out because they use to people paying for everything, and getting rich from us. I can think of one “Free Market,” but they won’t do that lol they are too greedy.

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