Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is Now the Time to Buy? Homeownership Re-examined

Marietta Rodriguez
By Marietta Rodriguez
director, National
Programs & Lending
The boom and bust of the housing industry in recent years has fueled doubt about the value of homeownership and caused many to re-examine the long-held belief that homeownership is a viable path to a stable and successful financial future.

In a recent report, our network member, Homewise, makes a strong argument that homeownership is still a smart choice, and that current market conditions offer an unprecedented opportunity for Americans to advance to economic ladder. According to their research, the typical homeowner purchasing a $200,000 home today, will amass nearly $500,000 dollars more than a renter over a 30 year period. Homeownership also provides important non-economic benefits, like stability and security, which are important for personal happiness, child development and family unity.

At NeighborWorks America, we support homeownership as a goal for many families. Homeowners typically stay longer in one location and contribute to lasting neighborhood improvements which support higher property values. Homeownership also builds both confidence and long term wealth for families of all backgrounds. For many low- and moderate-income homeowners, a house is their primary financial investment, which is critical when they need to take out loans for their children’s education or to start businesses.  Currently, interest rates are at historic lows and there is far more affordable inventory on the market, even in high priced markets like Santa Fe, New Mexico, making this an ideal time to buy for those who are ready.

However, for the benefits of homeownership to be fully realized, the purchase must be sustainable and must be a good fit for the personal and financial needs of the buyer. The buyer’s stage of life must also be considered. For example, younger buyers must weigh the financial advantages of homeownership against the risks of needing to quickly relocate to pursue a job opportunity.

To help individuals understand which option is right for them, NeighborWorks America has dedicated substantial resources to training a network of HUD-certified counseling agencies and to establishing a network of NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers throughout the country. Every day the NeighborWorks Network members provide people across this country with services ranging from financial education to individualized homeownership counseling in preparation for making an informed homeownership decision. The homeownership counselors help customers decide what next steps are best for them and their long term happiness and prosperity  sometimes this is a new house and sometimes it is finding an affordable rental or repairing credit.

My hope is that the economic crisis will leave us understanding the importance of a middle ground for homeownership. It is neither a fast track to wealth that some imagined during the boom years nor is it the folly its critics claimed after the foreclosure crisis had begun. Homeownership is an individual choice that when pursued with eyes wide open and focused on personal and financial goals could be the basis of a great future.

To read Homewise’s recent reports on homeownership, click here.
To find a homeownership counselor, visit www.nw.org