“I’m still in shock,” says 28-year-old Tiffany Simpson, as she looks around at her blooming garden and picture-perfect cottage. Last week she moved into a $107,000 one-bedroom garden apartment, the first instance of home ownership in her family in three generations.

All around the country, the dream of home ownership for young, hardworking Americans is a given. Eventually, the story goes, if you keep your credit clean and make a few compromises in neighborhood or size, you buy a “starter home,” usually a modest two-bedroom single-family house or mobile home.

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