In a nutshell, I focus on two primary areas vis-a-vis the rent vs. buy dilemma. One, location trumps all, even if it means I cannot buy or must delay buying. And two, when I buy, it's all about growth and income, which, interestingly, is the same criteria I have for a majority of my stock selections.
An amazing number of my friends moved out of cities like San Francisco, partly for public school-related reasons, but, largely, to be able to buy a home. They buy it as shelter. They might buy it as an investment. But they buy it in an environment they absolutely do not prefer. It's an age-old phenomenon, leaving the city for the less expensive property of the suburbs.
I never understood the mindset: Giving up a lifestyle and atmosphere you love just so you can own a home. I would happily rent for the rest of my life to live in the type of environment and climate I prefer.
I cringe every time I watch
and the couple settles for a less desirable neighborhood solely because they want to become or remain homeowners.
Over the weekend, a Bay Area couple chose a cookie-cutter property in sleepy Brisbane, a suburb near San Francisco, because they could not afford anything even halfway decent in the city. Generally speaking, I think people in that type of situation end up regretting their decision on some level.
When we discuss the buy-rent conundrum, we tend to boil it down to a debate over numbers and the supposed superiority of being an owner as opposed to a renter. While that apparent cornerstone of the runaway American dream took a hit after the housing crash and economic crisis of 2008, it's still part of our collective ethos. However, not everybody bought in to it pre-crash, and I reckon fewer will after the crash.
Quality of life and experience, it's one factor that does not come up enough, particularly among us slugs who cannot pay cash wherever and for whatever we choose. Too few people frame real estate as a growth and income investment.
If all parties involved -- bankers, real estate agents, buyers -- considered the decision to buy or rent more critically, we might not have fallen quite so haplessly into the aforementioned crisis.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.