A house is, with 100-percent certainty, an investment.
An investment is the outlay of money (i.e., a home down payment), usually for income or profit. Buying a home allows you to save on the monthly cash outflow you’d spend renting a comparable property. Instead, you’ll have a somewhat fixed, long-term housing cost thanks to your fixed mortgage payment until you pay it off, and then you’ll have no mortgage payment at all. You’ll also benefit through appreciation in your home’s value, possible tax advantages, mortgage amortization on the loan and not being burdened with housing costs in retirement.
Of course, while buying a home is an investment, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good investment. Avoid short-term real estate ownership, fixer-uppers, properties that are much more expensive to own than a comparable property would be to rent, and properties in poorly run homeowners associations.
The most important consideration when buying a home is your ownership time frame. Basically, the longer you own it, the better an investment it will be for you. The optimal holding period for most real estate purchases, whether it’s your personal home or a rental property, is your entire life.
Many homes do not have the best investment rates of return, and some, like fancy prize properties, should generally be avoided. However, two important aspects of investing in a personal residence do add value to your wealth picture (although, unfortunately, that value cannot be calculated):
- A monthly mortgage payment requires you to do something most Americans find challenging: Saving the money they earn.
- Individuals who retire with a paid-off home (or rental properties) are more likely to live a comfortable retirement than people who must pay rent or a big mortgage payment each month after they retire.
For those two reasons alone, most personal residences are a good investment, provided you hold them long-term. However, you must be sure to buy a home with a mortgage you can comfortably afford on your income, or that you can rent out later in life to a tenant who can pay the mortgage for you.
If you stick to those guidelines, you’re likely to reap the rewards of your real estate ownership.