I was asked on Quora What do economists think about buying vs renting a house?</span></u></a> Here’s my answer:

Housing is overrated as a financial investment. First, it’s not good to have a significant share of your wealth locked into a single asset. Diversification is better and it’s easier to diversify with stocks. Second, unless you are renting the basement, houses don’t pay dividends. Stocks do. You can hope that your house will accumulate in value but don’t count on it. Indeed, you should expect that as an investment your house will appreciate less </i>than does the stock market. You didn’t expect to get a great investment and</i> a place to live in the meantime did you? TANSTAAFL.

Another problem with houses is that home ownership locks people to location making it harder to move for jobs. The problem is especially severe because no one likes to sell at a “loss” even when it is rational to do so. So when jobs disappear and home prices fall instead of moving, people hold on for too long just hoping that things will get better. It’s troubling that both across states in the United States and across countries higher home ownership predicts higher unemployment rates. See Does High Home-Ownership Impair the Labor Market?</span></u></a></span>