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Published: Thursday, 9/16/2004

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Housing continues to be a solid investment, largely unaffected by the

volatile movements of today s stock market.

The sharp changes in the financial markets over the last couple of years underscore the stability of residential real estate as a safe choice for consumers. Homeownership should be approached as a long-term investment, providing both equity accumulation and tax benefits over time.

According to information gathered by the National Association of REALTORS, the median existing home price increased a little over 4 percent last year, while Freddie Mac said home values increased 7 percent in 2001. In the same time frame, stock indexes finished in negative territory.

However, it is worth noting that the true return on a home investment should not be based simply on home appreciation, but also the amount leveraged. Homebuyers typically use their own money to cover only 5 to 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, yet the home appreciation they realize is based on the total value. In other words, homeownership is a leveraged buy-in.

In addition, homebuyers receive tax benefits for their investments, in the form of deductions allowed for mortgage interest and property taxes.

This leveraging of borrowed funds gives housing a return far in excess of the market s appreciation.

The 1998 State of the Nation s Housing report from Harvard

University s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows a dramatic increase in the rate of return on housing the longer it is held. For instance, the housing survey shows that the typical homeowner who experiences an annual home appreciation rate of 5 percent and who made a down payment of 10 percent will generally receive a 94 percent return after owning the home only three years.

After owning five years, the rate of return increases to 225 percent; after 10 years, the rate of return jumps to 623 percent. For those making a 20 percent down payment and experiencing the same amount of home appreciation, the rate of return is lower, but still very respectable: after owning three years, the average rate of return is 46 percent; after the five years, 110 percent; and after 10 years, 305 percent.

In comparing changes in stock prices to changes in housing prices, it should be noted that while the stock market has experienced wide swings in value over the past 20 years, home values overall have continued to rise steadily. Between 1976 and 1997, before the more recent period of wild stock market variations, the Standard & Poor s 500 Composite Stock Price Index (S&P 500), a widely accepted measure of the performance of the U.S. stock market, recorded an annual average growth rate of 11.7 percent.

At the same time, the resale value of homes rose at an annual average rate of 5.7 percent. However, during four of those years, the S&P 500 posted a decrease in overall stock prices; while housing prices in general increased consistently. In fact, during that time period, the variance in stock returns was more than 13 times that of the variance in home appreciation at the national level.

Housing is not a quick-in, quick-out investment. However, wh e n

purchased for the long term, housing is one of the safest investments a consumer can make. In addition to

the savings accumulated through a buildup of equity and the tax advantages, a home provides shelter.

Absolutely no other investment provides this benefit.

In short, owning a home makes sense--and cents! To learn more about the value associated with homeownership call upon a real estate professional with the Toledo Board of Realtors.



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