Archived Story

Home ownership for the birds

Published 10:35am Thursday, May 8, 2014

I’m beginning to think homeownership is overrated.

My house is in a picturesque setting on the edge of the countryside. It sits high on a hill, surrounded by lush green grounds and many trees. My nearest neighbor is a football field away.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I am in a bitter battle with the creatures that surround my property.

Every evening when I get home, a robin comes roaring out of the lattice under my porch roof. I yell at the bird to stay away, but she doesn’t appear to understand cuss words.

Because every night I pull down the hay and other nesting materials that female robin stuffs up there, and every morning she puts double that amount back.

Of course, the robins are minor considered to some of the other woes of homeownership I have suffered.

A few years ago, just after moving back to this house and kicking off major renovations — I had rented it out for 14 years — my outside lights were temporarily not working.

One night, in the pitch black, I was navigating a path to my back door, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by an angry, grunting creature.

My imagination ran wild. A bear? A wolf? An IRS agent?

I backpedaled to the car and turned on the high beams. It was a buck protecting his territory during rutting season, apparently. He wouldn’t let me pass for 20 minutes.

I have since wired the house, at some expense, with halogen spotlights that turn on when I arrive home.

I hired an excavator, at greater expense, to clear trees and shrubbery from the yard to hopefully push the critters further into the woods.

And I armed myself with a BB gun, a harmless and effective tool for warning critters to leave or receive a little shot to the backside.

But for every challenge I solve, there are hundreds of others.

Clever raccoons defeat almost every method I try to keep them from popping the lid of my garbage can and decorating the yard with its contents.

The fact of the matter is that owning a home in the country — heck, owning a home anywhere — can be a real hassle and a great expense. It is not for everyone.

So maybe it’s not the end of the world that U.S. homeownership, as of the last quarter of 2013, was down to 64.8 percent — the lowest rate in nearly 20 years. Factor in the people close to default and that number is closer to 62 percent.

Compare that to 2004, when homeownership peaked at 69 percent — before the housing collapse of 2008.

The fact is, owning a home is not for everyone. It’s a lot of work and a lot of headaches.

And though it has some upsides — owning a home makes one more aware of the cost of things, such as taxes, which makes one more likely to support lower taxes and more commonsense government programs — it has many downsides.

Consider, according to a Forbes article by Kelly Philips, that some of the world’s struggling economies — Russia, Italy, Greece and Spain — have higher homeownership rates than we do.

Conversely, countries with traditionally strong economies, such as Germany, Switzerland and Japan, have lower homeownership rates than ours.

In any event, I have bigger worries right now than homeownership data.

I have to clean hay out of my lattice before robin eggs are laid or I’ll get dive-bombed every time I enter or exit my house.


Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at

  • mickakers

    Tom Purcell; There is food for thought in your article. I have owned, houses, a condo and a manufactured home (house trailer) which I presently live in. The most freedom was the houses, the least trouble was the condo, the most expensive has been the manufactured home in a retirement community. I recommend the condo for less hassle and expense. When it comes to critters; Have you ever been woke up with an alligator knocking on your front door or having a snake on your enclosed lanai and in your garage? Be thankful for the robin. While hiking in the Rockies (Colorado), I was chased by an elk protecting his harem, I was scared!!! Life is always interesting, appreciate and enjoy it on a daily basis.

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