November 20, 2009 3:02PM

Homeownership Myths

In a recent Washington Post op‐​ed, Professor Joseph Gyourko, chair of the Wharton School’s Real Estate Department, lists what he sees as the five biggest myths about homeownership. Given the central role of federal housing policy, particularly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in our recent financial crisis, it is worth following Professor Gyourko’s suggestion and question whether a national policy of ownership, all the time for everyone, really makes sense.

Professor Gyourko’s five myths:

1. Housing is a great long‐​term investment.

2. The homebuyer tax credit makes buying a house more affordable.

3. Homeowners are better citizens.

4. It’s safe to buy a house with a very low downpayment.

5. Owning is always cheaper than renting.

You’ll have to read the op‐​ed to see his explanations. An important qualification on his analysis is that in many cases what can be good for the buyer, such as putting no money down, may not be good for the economy if it results in additional foreclosures.