Is Homeownership the Best Long-Term Investment?

Despite declining values, most Americans still desire a home of their own.

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Most adults (81 percent) agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make, according a Pew Research Center survey of 2,142 adults released this month. But confidence in homeownership as a path to prosperity is declining. The number of people who strongly agree that homeownership is the best investment a person can make has declined from 49 percent in 1991 to 37 percent in 2011.

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Most homeowners are happy with their choice. Some 76 percent of homeowners agree that they would buy their present house again, despite the fact that 47 percent say their house is now worth less than it was in December 2007. Less than a quarter (24 percent) of renters rent by choice. Most people who rent apartments say they rent as a result of life circumstances (75 percent) and would like to buy a house at some point in the future (81 percent).

Despite falling home prices, young people continue to be priced out of the housing market. Most Americans (66 percent) say that homeownership is unaffordable for young adults in their 20s and 30s. Only 15 percent of people under 30 own a home. The rest rent (46 percent), live with their parents (27 percent), or reside in a college dorm (6 percent). However, a majority of people 30 and over (70 percent) say they own their own home.

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Adults age 65 and older and those who have lived in their current home for over 30 years are the most confident about the investment value of homeownership, typically because they have paid off their mortgage. Younger and newer homeowners are more skeptical about whether housing will prove to be a solid long-term investment, the telephone survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found. Some 57 percent of the survey respondents own a home, 30 percent are renters, and the rest have other living arrangements.

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Homeownership and being able to live comfortably in retirement were both rated as important long-term financial goals by 80 percent of the survey respondents. Other common long-term financial objectives include paying for their children’s college education (73 percent) and leaving an inheritance to children (53 percent).

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