By Heino Molls

A person who is 16-years-old can decide for themselves where they want to live. They can rent an apartment. They can get a job and pay taxes. At 16, a person can drive a car. They can also buy a car and take on all the responsibilities that come with that such as insurance and liability. If driving that car results in criminal activity, that 16-year-old can be sentenced as an adult. A person can, at 16, join Canada’s armed forces as a cadet and then at 17, they can be sent overseas and carry a weapon for their country in war.

But they can’t buy a house.

If it was possible for a 16-year-old to buy a house today, I doubt that it would be unusual. When was the last time that you looked at or thought about the average 16-year-old? They have changed from what they were in my time.

In general, a 16-year-old today is far more mature than our lot was. Okay, for me, that was a long, long time ago, maybe not so much for you. I think things have changed dramatically in the last 10 years alone.

We live in a sobering world. At 16, young people are thinking about university marks, careers and choosing their profession. They are exposed to world affairs like never before. Many of them believe they are the ones who will be saddled with the task of cleaning up the pollution and the debt of our shameless and selfish society, morally and financially. And you know what? They are getting ready for the task.

When I was 16, I am ashamed to say, I did not know much about the government or the cost of living. I had worked on a paper route but I did not know what a mortgage was. I had no concept of taxes. I had no idea what a real estate agent did or why anyone should consider buying a house.

A 16-year-old today attends civics classes and learns about the government.  Many know more about our government than the average 40-year-old. It is likely that most 16-year-olds can name our prime minister, their provincial premier and the mayor of their municipality. It is not likely that most 40-year-olds in Canada can name all three heads of state, let alone know that there are three levels of government.

Many 16-year-olds today will create a mock stock market portfolio as part of their school curriculum. It will be based on real stocks in the market. They will be guided by an instructor who will explain the fundamentals of financial investments including risk factors and theories used by financial consultants and experts.

These are things that I did not come close to learning about. Now, young people learn these things and embrace them with enthusiasm. Apathy and indifference to education, which ruled the day in my time, are no longer qualities that a high school peer group considers to be cool. High marks and academic achievements used to be the realm of people we called nerds. Not anymore. Striving for good marks is considered normal and getting them is applauded by everyone.

Should 16-year-olds be allowed to buy a house? You bet they should. They know more and they are wiser, more disciplined and more considerate of financial commitments than my generation ever was, probably more than yours as well. Canadian law states that you must be 18 to sign a contract, so a 16-year-old cannot enter into an agreement to buy a house. It is time to revisit this law and make some exceptions, just like the laws to drive a car. Is it a not a kind of contract to get a driver’s license? Wouldn’t you call serving your country in the military a legal agreement? All of that takes maturity.

We live in a regulated world today. If you want to drive a car you need to take a course to get your licence. If you want to work in a reputable restaurant, you need to get your “food handlers” certificate before you are hired. If you want to be in the real estate business you have to take a course to get your licence. And on it goes; teachers, lawyers, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers.

So how about a course on buying a house? If you graduate and you have the resources, you get to buy a house. Even if you are 16-years-old.

Heino Molls has been the Publisher of REM, Real Estate Magazine (formerly Real Estate Marketing), since 1989. Previous to REM, he worked as an executive at the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), and at the Toronto Star. Contact Heino by email or call 416-425-3504 x2.


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