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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 28, 2006

Buying home still seen as good investment

By Ken Tarbous
The (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune

Andrea Pemberton-Fowler carries some belongings from her North Brunswick, N.J., home. She recently sold the house for more than twice what she and her husband paid for it.

JOE MCLAUGHLIN | Gannett News Service

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Despite the recent fluctuations in real estate prices nationwide and sale prices that have fallen short of sellers' expectations, homeownership has proved to be a good long-term investment, financial experts agree.

Buying a home is the largest investment most people will ever make, said Shrikant Nadkarni, a certified public accountant, certified financial planner and shareholder at WithumSmith+Brown PC's Somerville, N.J., office.

"Owning a home over a long period of time is generally a good investment idea," Nadkarni said. "It brings financial obligations and forces savings through paying down the mortgage while building equity."

Andrea Pemberton-Fowler, 54, who recently sold her North Brunswick, N.J., home for $349,000 considerably more than the $155,000 she and her late husband bought it for in 1990 has considered the cost of upkeep on the house over the years and its impact on her finances. The youngest of her three children is now in college.

"I guess if I hadn't had the house, I wouldn't have the money that I'm getting now, because I probably would have spent it instead of putting it somewhere. ... With kids there's always something," she said. "But if I had been able to save all the money that I put into the house and invest it, I'm not sure if I would have made out better or not."

People who bought their homes in the 1970s and 1980s and held onto them until the past five years or so made out well, said Bill Hanley, president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Realtors.

"We had this wonderful market over the past few years, and that group of people didn't get hurt." Hanley said. "In the long run across the country, people have not really lost in real estate."

"I think anybody who's buying now should not be looking at a house as an investment," said David Walter, president and chief investment officer of Halberstadt Financial Consultants Inc. in Princeton, N.J. "Look at it as a place to live for the long term, but don't look at it to give you a return the way it did over the last 10 years."

Gloria Zastko, of Gloria Zastko Realtors in North Brunswick, said recent price downturns are nothing new in real estate. But she cautioned people about the more exotic mortgages available, which enable people to buy with no money down or with adjustable rates (ARMs).

"When the housing prices do dip a bit, this is going to be a deadly thing. ... Their monthly payments will go up. It's just too bad that the criteria is not a little more stringent to make sure that these people can afford to continue with these houses. Surely people should buy, but they should be qualified to buy."

Nadkarni said that in today's market, with rising interest rates and softening real estate prices, buying a home to make a short-term profit is certainly not an attractive proposition.

"When purchasing your home and taking on a mortgage, it is important to review your cash flows and factor the tax benefits from the deductions prior to deciding on the home you can afford to own," he said.