The Next Home Buyers: Ozzie & Harriet

It's an unsettling time to be shopping for a home. Home values have yet to stabilize in three-quarters of U.S. metropolitan areas. Alarm about so-called robo-signing of foreclosure paperwork has raised fundamental questions about who owns a property's title. And, while unlikely, two bipartisan commissions have suggested capping or killing the previously sacrosanct tax deductibility of mortgage interest.

As a result, home shoppers are being forced to accept a more traditional view of a real estate purchase: seeing their new home more as a savings account than as an investment. That represents a switch from how many owners thought during the go-go years of surging home prices and easy money, says Stan Humphries, chief economist of real estate information and listings website Zillow. "It's essentially a forced savings plan, putting aside a percentage of your income into a savings account that is a non-depreciating asset in typical times," he says.

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