Property: Still a Heartfelt Present for Your Financial Future

It’s Christmas Eve and, as such, I’m home in the suburb where I grew up–fresh off a conversation with a few of my oldest friends (since 5th grade and counting) about buying property.

Lea, who lives in Washington, D.C., is toying with the idea of buying a condo. I just refinanced mine in Chicago. Colleen is resigning herself to the fact she will never be able to afford San Francisco property.

We used to talk about boys; now it’s mortgage brokers.

But–despite numerous reports in recent months of the housing market slumping downward for what seems like an endless period–they recognize that property is a good investment. Like any investment, it’s just one that takes time to grow.

And, per Colleen’s request, I’m posting the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas in which Lucy tells Charlie Brown she gets toys and other things she doesn’t want for Christmas.

"I never get what I really want," Lucy says. Charlie Brown asks her what that is. "Real estate," Lucy replies mournfully.

As we close out what has been an undeniably bleak year for the housing industry, take note: There is wisdom in Lucy’s words.

Real estate–despite declining prices, construction and just about everything else–remains the largest investment most Americans will make in their lifetime. It’s one that may take more time to appreciate, true, but it’s still a solid way to grow your money.

It is more imperative than ever that homeowners make smart purchases, that developers carefully plan communities for maximum value and appeal, that mortgage brokers cautiously–and conscientiously–steer homeowners into homes they can afford.

The Fed’s newly suggested lending guidelines are a positive step toward that happening; let’s hope the subprime bailout plan helps the maximum number of homeowners hold on to their largest asset.

But to climb out of the housing slump, we need to turn consumer confidence around (more than one in five homeowners surveyed recently expected their home value to fall next year, according to Reuters. And Bloomberg reported recently that U.S. Homebuilder confidence was at an all-time low.).

We need to motivate the buyers who have the money and the need (like Lea) to buy but are waiting for either further price drops to get a deal or for things to turn around so the market feels less shaky. We need to unload some of that ridiculously large housing inventory.

And we need to wish on a Christmas star–and believe–that housing only feels like it will be down forever. Happy housing days will be here again.

So invest. Retain. Renovate. Reach out if you need help. Refinance.

And, for those of you racing out today to do that last-minute Christmas shopping, may we suggest picking up a condo or split-level ranch for the loved ones on your list? Just a thought…