Many people are asking if now is a good time to buy real estate, especially those who have lost money and equity in the recent mortgage crisis. Bernice Ross lays out an excellent analysis of how buying for the long term is a hedge against inflation http://www.inman.com/buyers-sellers/columnists/berniceross/breaking-down-buy-vs-rent?page=0%2C1. There are many other important reasons to consider as well, though they aren't as easily quantifiable.
Pride of ownership is key to this discussion. And I don't just mean that when you own, you take better care of your property. That tends to be true, but in a way it's all about self-expression. My home is an extension of me”my accomplishments, my creativity, my style. Whether you have an architect design your home from the ground up to your specifications, you buy a home in a development , you have an historic home that has all the original details preserved, or you buy a starter home that needs a lot of work, you will imprint something about you and your personality on that property, even if it's only on the inside. Home tours and open houses are popular because so many of us love to see what other people have done with their homes.
Pride of ownership is also about civic involvement, security and freedom. As homeowners, we have more of a stake in our communities. If a new commercial development threatens to change the character of our neighborhood, we are much more likely to show up and protest, or vote, or question how it will affect our property values. It even affects how likely we are to pick up litter from the sidewalk. If we feel like the sidewalk is ours, we'll pick up the trash. Otherwise, the city should be doing it.
If you have ever gone door to door for a community issue, the most common response from the non-property owner is Oh, I'm just renting here. Most renters have a temporary feeling about their home”and they should, because the landlord can ask them to move out. Even in a rent-controlled area, there are ways to move a tenant out. If you own your own home, it is yours to keep as long as you make your payments and pay your taxes. That means a great deal to many of us.
At the end of the day, with any rent vs. buy analysis, if you own your home free and clear you have a place to live regardless of its value and if you rent you don't. Many of us are a long way from being mortgage-free, but small steps taken every day move us forward on the path to freedom.