In This Chapter
Deciding whether to rent or buy
Finding the best properties to purchase
Understanding how to figure market value
For most people, buying a home in which to live is their first, best, and only real estate investment. Homes may require a lot of financial feeding, but over the course of your life, owning a home (instead of renting) can make and save you money. Although the pile of mortgage debt seems daunting in the years just after your purchase, someday your home may be among your biggest assets. (And, yes, real estate is still a good investment despite its recent declines in the late 2000s in many areas. Like stocks, real estate does well over the long term but doesn't go continuously higher. Smart investors take advantage of down periods as times to buy at lower prices just like they do when their favorite retail stores are having a sale.)
Even though your home consumes a lot of dough (mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and so on) while you own it, it can help you accomplish important financial goals, such as:
Retiring: By the time you hit your 50s and 60s, the size of your monthly mortgage payment, relative to your income and assets, should start to look small or nonexistent. Relatively low housing costs can help you afford to retire or cut back from full-time work. Some people are choosing to sell their homes and buy less-costly ones or to rent the homes out and use some or all of the cash to live on in retirement. ...