Zillow, a real estate listing and analytics company, recently looked at the “break-even” time horizon for owning a house versus renting in a number of markets across the nation. “Breaking even” means the amount of time it will take for the cost of owning a home to be equal to the cost of renting. The calculus includes the down payment, interest rate, home appreciation, and rising rents.
In Portland, the break-even point is slightly more than two years. This is a little more time than most of the markets, where the break-even point is currently less than two years. Buyers in cities such as Washington, D.C., on the other hand, must wait four and a half years just to break even.
So is buying a good investment? The article cites several experts who question whether it is, but it really depends on who you are and where you are in your life.
Young millennials just starting out may not want to tie themselves down to a house in one location. Mobility is often important to young careers.
Kevin O’Leary, a host on Shark Tank, goes even further and states that housing is a “crappy investment” because of rising interest rates and slower home-price growth. One has to wonder, however, if Mr. O’Leary owns a house, and it is probably a safe bet that he owns at least one, if not multiple houses.
George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok agrees that homeownership is “overrated” as a financial investment, because “it’s not good to have a significant share of your wealth locked into a single asset.” He also states that diversification is better and easier with stocks.
This seems to be an odd way of looking at it, for a couple of reasons. First, part of the way one diversifies one’s wealth is to own real estate, as well as more liquid investments, such as stocks. Second, anyone who’s spent much time riding the sometimes frightening roller coaster that is the stock market feels better if she also has a stake in the less tumultuous real estate market.
Of course, neither the stock market nor the housing market comes with any guarantees, but for my money if you can swing both real estate and other investments, such as the stock market and bonds, then that’s the direction in which to head.