Buying real estate? Think long term

Despite rosy economic reports, key issues could impact purchase

Not long ago, buying a home was the best investment you could make. Not only did it provide a place to live, but it provided instant wealth for many homeowners through rapid home-price appreciation. Renting seemed risky. If you didn't own a home, you'd miss out on equity buildup that would bankroll a move to a bigger, better home. In this market, the realistic way to look at a home is a place you want to live. Buying a home doesn't guarantee that you'll make a big return on your investment. You might if you stay long enough. Over the long term, home-price appreciation usually outpaces the inflation rate. However, this varies from one locale to the next. HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Today, many homeowners who want to move to a bigger or smaller home are choosing to rent for a while rather than buy. The pressure of rampant appreciation is nonexistent in most places. Even though interest rates are low, they're expected to stay low. So buyers trading homes have the luxury of renting unt...