First Person: Expanding the Meaning of Shelter

“Make yourself at home.”

As long as any of us can recall, we’ve expressed some form of that old saying to put visitors at ease – to help them feel comfortable in their surroundings. I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the notion of home and what it means in the context of our temporary reality.

At no time in modern history has the importance of the place we call home been more pronounced than it is today. 

As human beings, we require three essentials to sustain us: food, clothing and shelter. For many of us, these are the very basics that we take for granted—things that are just constantly part of our daily routine. We awake, we nourish our body with food and water, and we step out the door of the place we call home to take on the world.

Until we can’t. Like today.

Home might be the house or condo you own, the apartment you rent, or a dorm room at school. For some, it’s any shelter you can find. We must understand that for many, this is not guaranteed.

Most of us are extremely fortunate; and as we contend with these challenging times the importance of the place we call home becomes even more significant. Home is where we are being advised to hunker down to protect our species, our families, and our futures. Home is the place where we have control, and where we can find sanctuary from the uncertainty of what’s happening in the world outside.  

The way many of us define home will be forever changed by this pandemic. If you’re a homeowner, you’ve placed your hard-earned money into this safe haven; and for many of you right now, that investment might just be a saving grace for your life, your health, and the well-being of those in your families and their financial future. As economic uncertainty swirls around jobs, as entire industries are disrupted, and as financial markets face unprecedented volatility, our homes will be what pulls us out to brighter days.  

Consider that currently in the United States, homeowners hold $6.3 trillion in equity that can be tapped.

That equity represents a source of funds that will pull many businesses, jobs, families and individuals out of the depths of this unforeseen and unimaginable event. While real estate decisions might have been what caused our last financial crisis in this country, I believe it will serve as the salvation from this one. 

There’s no telling how the broader economy will respond in coming weeks and months – and any economist who claims to know what’s around the corner should be approached with caution. But we can be confident that the desire for home ownership in this country will continue.

As we’ve been reminded of in recent weeks, “There’s no place like home.” Our home is our foundation. It’s the refuge where we are protecting ourselves. More than ever, we all should be eternally grateful to have a place to call home.

Brandon Wells is president of the Group Real Estate Inc.  Visit to take video tours of homes and learn how we are still helping customers buy and sell real estate during the stay-at-home orders resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.