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An essay by Housel penned back in 2016 lays out what he learned from a home purchase that year — one that he says made sense given his growing family’s need for space and stability. But even then, Housel had his doubts. “Twenty years on I suspect it will look like a mediocre financial decision, especially when the opportunity cost of money sunk into the house is accounted. A good rule of thumb is that nothing in need of constant repair and requiring a half-dozen commissioned middlemen will yield superior investing results.”

Housel has a point, especially when you consider a $350,000 home in the U.S. could easily top $800,000 in considerable upfront and total out-of-pocket costs, once you factor in a 20% down payment, higher mortgage rates, property taxes and annual maintenance costs. It’s true that homes in hot markets can be investments — if you’re comfortable living in a near-constant state of sell-readiness.

But do most folks buy homes that way? They make sometimes-emotional decisions to buy because of growing families, proximity to good schools and neighbors, and the space to stretch. Those benefits are real, but they come with significant costs.

What to consider when buying a house

Home buying demands answers to a series of personal questions: Do you have the money? Do you crave urban vibrancy? Suburban tranquility? Rural serenity? Location is pivotal, dictating accessibility to amenities, commute convenience, and community dynamics.

Family dynamics, as in Housel’s case, play a significant role. Family size, future expansion plans, and specific needs like accessibility features or school district quality all shape the ideal property choice.

Mortgage rates wield immense influence, too, over affordability and long-term financial health. Getting favorable rates through diligent research and financial preparation can yield substantial savings over the life of the loan.

Stop overpaying for home insurance

Home insurance is an essential expense – one that can often be pricey. You can lower your monthly recurring expenses by finding a more economical alternative for home insurance.

Officialhomeinsurance can help you do just that. Their online marketplace of vetted home insurance providers allows you to quickly shop around for rates from the country’s top insurance companies, and ensure you’re paying the lowest price possible for your home insurance.

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Is buying a house a good investment?

If you can handle the cost, lifestyle desires may make buying a home a no-brainer. Housel, after all, did exactly that. But he learned a few things along the way, chiefly that the money math doesn’t always math in your favor.

There are other ways, however, to use real estate to your financial advantage.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs), for instance, provide investors with exposure to real estate assets without the direct responsibilities and expenses associated with property ownership. REITs pool capital from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of income-generating properties, offering potential dividends and capital appreciation. This approach affords investors liquidity, diversification, and professional management expertise, albeit with some degree of market risk.

Other strategies for real estate investment include real estate crowdfunding platforms, which enable individuals to invest in specific properties or projects alongside other investors, and rental property ownership, which entails purchasing residential or commercial properties for rental income generation.

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Chris Clark Freelance Contributor

Chris Clark is freelance contributor with MoneyWise, based in Kansas City, Mo. He has written for numerous publications and spent 18 years as a reporter and editor with The Associated Press.

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