Owning a home is an important part of the American dream and an important part of our way of life. Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership. During National Homeownership Month, we raise awareness of homeownership and encourage more Americans to consider the benefits of owning their own home.
Some benefits of home ownership include:
- Home owners provide stability. Owners typically stay in their home 12 years whereas renters stay no more than three years. (U.S. Census American Housing Surveys)
- Home owners create positive environments for families. Children of home owners are 59% more likely to become homeowners. Their children are also 25% more likely to graduate from high school and 116% more likely to graduate from college. ( Boehm & Schlottmann, University of Tennessee)
- Home ownership improves neighborhoods. Owners are 28% more likely to improve their home and 10% more likely to participate in solving local problems. (George Galster, Land Economics and DiPasquale & Glaeser, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies)
- Home owners are more involved in civic affairs, including voting in the last election and knowing their elected officials. (DiPasquale & Glaeser, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies)
- Home ownership builds wealth. The median net worth of most modest-income owners is almost $60,000 compared to less than $10,000 for renters in the same income group. (The Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finance)
- Home ownership provides tax benefits. The typical home owner that pays a $1,000 house payment should realize tax savings that equal about $120 a month.
Even knowing all the benefits of home ownership, all the media coverage of housing bubbles may have you believing that buying a home is too much of a gamble right now. The truth is mortgage rates are going to rise and real estate has historically been a solid investment so you need to determine if home ownership is the right option for you now.
Some questions to help you make that determination include:
How much debt do you have? Before you can take on a huge financial responsibility that a home is — you need to pay down, or off, debts you have. Consider consolidating loans and getting rid of credit cards. Perhaps most importantly, you need to make sure that as you reduce debt, you increase your credit score.
Where will you be living in two to five years? If you are planning on being in an area for a short amount of time (less than 2 years), then renting may be a more financially feasible option for you. Buying (and selling) a home comes with fees and costs associated with closing the deal. Your house may not build enough equity in just 2 years for you to justify paying those fees twice. And if your home does appreciate in value quickly, if you live in the residence for under two years, you will probably not be eligible for a capital gains tax exemption.
What is the market like in your area? In our area (Portland-Vancouver, the Willamette Valley), prices are continuing to rise or experience sligh declines. Inventory is also rising making the market more balanced between sellers and buyers. The areas’ unemployment rates have improved and still have lower prices than other West Coast cities drawing in buyers from outside the area. The market may slow from its historic highs of the last few years but we are not expecting to see in our area the bursting of the housing bubble that is being talked about in national media.