It’s hard to read the headlines and not conclude that becoming a homeowner is a terrible idea…as with stocks and the weather, it is dangerous to assume any certainty in the housing market. And by wallowing too much in the misery of others, people looking for a new place to live run the risk of thinking every home purchase will end in regret, at least financially. Many still could, if they buy in hard-hit areas where prices could fall further. But a mortgage is still a form of long-term forced savings, after all. This is more important than ever, since fewer people have access to generous pensions than they did during the last big housing slump. A 401(k) or similar plan is no bargain, either, with its erratic returns and employer matches that come and go as the economic winds shift. Social Security is also likely to be less generous, and Medicare will probably cost more. Besides, owning a home isn’t just about what shows up on a net worth statement — something that bears repeating after all the “investing” that people thought they were doing when buying homes over the last 10 or 15 years. Many of these more qualitative factors, from living free of a landlord’s whim to having access to a good school district or retirement community, haven’t changed and probably never will. It is possible, as a homeowner, to make very little money but still buy plenty of happiness. So before you swear off real estate, reconsider a few of the basics.
By Ron Lieber, August 27, 2010 NYT

Link to article