Our ancestors abandoned the hunter-gatherer lifestyle gradually over a period of fifteen thousand years. It was a transition that affected certain regions more than other but it heralded the advent of home ownership and real estate.
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In the beginning it was fight or flees; those who could defend their claimed land got to stay on it. Eventually we created a system of tribal leaders and those who had tribal approval would handle all land disputes. The shift toward more and more powerful tribal leaders culminated in a pooling of labor along with a CEO of sorts to direct efforts. Eventually hunter-gatherer families that could only support a few laborers turned into agricultural communities that could produce many.
With more people than ever before they were forced to sacrifice familiarity and family values but gained safety in numbers. An army easily repelled any unruly raiders. The people all paid homage to the lord or monarch who claimed ownership of the land in return for the security and stability. This was essentially the first system of rent. As these farming villages developed into cities, the leading families maintained ownership by right of lineage; they ancestors were the strongest and defended their competitors better than anyone else. They became the kings, pharaohs, emperors and the heads of other feudal dynasties.
This system developed into two different systems in most countries: taxes and tenancy. Royal families spread their wealth to their friends. They signed away the titles and deeds to their lands. This allowed them to collect from the earnings produced by the peasants living there. On top of this rent, all the people within a ruler’s realm were usually required to pay a tax. Many other demands were made by ruling leader, such as military service. These requirements were the bane of many as some rulers owned land not by birthright but by military right. Rulers could be overthrown by other rulers, or whoever was strong enough, but the peasants hardly noticed a difference or cared.
One way this benefited the peasants was through trade. They were able to trade with other kingdoms and the general level of wealth increased. This gave rise to the merchant class and specialized laborers, commonly referred to as tradesmen, who were able to make money with their skills instead of their crops. As a result, there were non-agrarian establishments and homes that paid their taxes and rent to the lords and rulers but were purchased, sold and rented among the common people instead of only by those with royal blood. Merchants who made the most money became the first landlords of common blood (no birthright) and benefited from wealth and status. They didn’t technically own the land but the houses on it belonged to them.
The industrial revolution was one of the great equalizers in human history. The effects of industry were neutral all around, but how the affected people depended on application. Using machines for manual labor freed many peasants for different tasks. It allowed some people time for education and training in new, specialized fields of labor that were created by the industrial revolution. Many hand-crafters found that their skills, which were once revered, were more or less obsolete.
Some ambitions individuals had the ability to overcome the class walls and ascend, bringing much of their lower-class ideology with them. This lead to track housing for laborers and products that were marketing towards the lower-class citizens. They owned houses, cars, and other status-worthy appliances.
Mortgages weren’t invented in any one particular place. They existed for a long time as an exclusive loan, given only to nobility. The industrial revolution increased the overall wealth of the world so much that banks were able to open up to common people which were considered high risk. This opened the door for all individuals to own homes and even rent or sell their homes themselves. Over the course of many thousands of years we slowly adapted and evolved our real estate strategy to allow just about anyone to own a home.