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I was just re-reading Catherine MacRae Hockmuth’s excellent piece on her personal decision to become a renter. And I was pretty blown away by the volume (lots) and tenor (highly emotional) of user comments.

Catherine has already addressed some of the comments in a follow-up article. My purpose today is not to address any specific point, but rather to take note of the fact that her article created such a firestorm.

Let’s try a little thought experiment. Imagine if Catherine had written that article in the year 2000. Would anyone have gotten lathered up enough to accuse the author (and, in one case, the entire Voice staff) of immaturity and ignorance? Would they have scornfully written off the author as a new and well-deserving member of the permanent renter underclass?

Would they have commented at all? Would anyone have even read the article?

Back then, the topic of whether to own or rent a home was considered a personal decision, and (with all due respect to my colleague) kind of a boring one. If a given person announced her intention to become a renter, the typical response would rightfully have been, “So?”

Now, the same declaration provokes howls of outrage and condemnation.

Such is the type of thing that takes place near speculative bubble peaks, when markets are driven more by emotion than anything else.

RICH TOSCANO

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