Real estate in the history of great cultures
Acquiring real estate could be one of humanity’s oldest investments, which is why we go back to the deepest recesses of history to better understand this real estate phenomenon.
Nowadays, if we want a house or land next to the beach to vacation with the family and we have the necessary money, nothing is easier than finding the right one, reaching an agreement with the seller and acquiring it. If the government suddenly passed a law to limit our property rights, we would see it as an attack on our freedom and we would oppose it, as we are used, at least in most of our planet, to consider dominance absolute about our things as an inalienable right, only limited by law in some very specific cases. But it was not always like this.
The sense of ownership is almost as old as humanity itself. Ever since the human being lived in caves (which, by the way, not all did, only those who were lucky enough to find one without inhabiting) he knew how important it was to have a place of his own and he decided to protect it from any type intruder upon finding it. Of course, initially, a territorial limitation known as “hunting territory” was established, belonging to a certain social group, in which no foreign group or individual who wanted to take advantage of the available resources agreed, since these at In general, they were not enough to support more people. Simple question of survival. But also keep in mind that not all places within the cave were the same. From the beginning, there were “lots” better than others and the boss was always at the top. In the future, this division would be called urban planning
Of course, this is not something exclusive to us. In practice most animals develop a similar instinct. They seize a territory and defend it with all their might, either alone or in a group. And primates, with whom we share a common ancestor, are specialists in that, so it is not uncommon for us to have taken that instinct to unsuspected levels.
With the appearance of agriculture things changed. Human groups began to leave nomadism behind to settle definitively somewhere. Agriculture allowed the population increase by providing a larger volume of food, but also forced the group to find better places to develop their new knowledge. This is how the first cities emerged, usually located on the banks of a river, since these, in addition to providing abundant water for crops, allowed the development of irrigation systems, as well as high-speed transport routes, which also boosted commercial development.
Domain of the land
The domain of a territory acquired a great sense of importance, seen as a symbol of power. In the first civilizations land ownership began to be regulated, becoming the basis of the economic structure. As an example, there is the city of Sumeria, considered as the cradle of urban civilization, where the land was monopolized, at least nominally, by the king of the city, not only as a symbol of his divine power, but also as a means of control.
The same occurred in Pharaonic Egypt, where although privately owned land existed, most of it belonged to the monarch. He in turn could grant them as a reward to his officials and / or nobles, who were authorized to inherit it from their children but not to sell or divide it, with the added inconvenience that at any time the pharaoh could take them away. And to increase his power, the sovereign was the exclusive owner of all the stones that were used for the construction of the great temples and palaces, only he could give them away or sell them. In this way, there was almost complete control of real estate in Ancient Egypt, thereby making sure that none of his subjects accumulated too much power to become a problem. Of course, they did not always succeed, as there were weak pharaohs who lost control of the situation. In general, this system prevailed in the great cultures of the East, such as China, Persia or India. However, it would be in Europe where a different model would emerge. The Hellenes (better known as Greeks) had the bad luck of inhabiting a small and rugged peninsula that did not allow the development of great empires such as in Egypt or Mesopotamia, which in turn prevented the emergence of powerful kings.
Greek culture was based on the polis, the city, whose domain area generally stretched just a few kilometers around its defensive walls. This situation caused that the citizens of the polis, regardless of their economic power, generally had the same rights. Of course, there were also slaves, but that was part of the economic system of the time. In the absence of a ruler who monopolized all the land for his own interests, it passed into private hands. The State only reserved a part for the construction of public buildings, but apart from that, the land belonged to those who could buy it.
Incipient real estate market
This possession allowed them to know an important part of the polis, thus achieving that citizens had a greater sense of belonging and a solid social cohesion, which was not the case with the great eastern empires. The strength of the city lay in the loyalty of its citizens. Being landowners, the Hellenes feel free and are ready to fight for their freedom. This is how they managed to defeat the powerful Persian Empire when it decided to conquer them. It is here that, according to all the evidence, what we could call an incipient real estate market emerges.
Meanwhile, Rome went even further. Emerged as a small village in the Lazio region, in the center of the Italic boot, its contacts with the Greek cities of southern Italy (known at the time as Magna Graecia) and with the Etruscan cities that surrounded it, allowed it develop a hellenic-like system.
During its beginnings Rome was ruled by kings, but a popular rebellion deposed the seventh of them, Lucio Tarquino the Superb, and established the Republic. Although at first it was an aristocratic type of government, the truth is that it was based on private land ownership. This became the element of citizen power and, therefore, the worst punishment that could be imposed on one of them was the confiscation of their property and then auction them off at public auction.
This only happened in cases of treason. By the way, it will be in this same city where the first real estate agents appear, in charge of buying and selling real estate among the wealthy Romans.
And since we are talking about this, it is necessary to remember that, as in all previous civilizations, in Rome economic power and social influence were demonstrated with the possession of a good place to live. It was not the same to have a house in the aristocratic Palatine Hill, as in the commoner Trans Tiberis (Trastevere today). The good location was everything and the Romans knew it well.
With the fall of this great Mediterranean Empire, the situation in Europe changed dramatically. Many cities were abandoned, and small rural private estates gave way to large feudal latifundia. All for the sake of security, since there were troops of the feudal lord, which guarded a castle in the fief and provided protection to the surrounding villagers. Of course, in exchange for that, the nobleman became the owner of most of the lands, which gave him great power. The problem was exacerbated when these same nobles and high ecclesiastical dignitaries also became owners of most of the urban estates, which greatly impeded the development of the real estate market. But even so, within those impoverished and unhygienic cities there were lots of land more valuable than others. The power of a good location was still very present.