Deciding whether to buy a house -- and when -- ranks as one of the most important decisions your family will ever make. To make the best decision, you should investigate a wide range of options. Parents need to recognize that traditional strategies for home ownership no longer apply, says Barbara Steinmetz, a Burlingame, CA-based certified financial planner.
Consider the big picture: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership is at an all-time high: 68% of Americans, compared to 64% in 1990. (Since many people can't -- or won't -- ever buy a home, every percentage-point increase is huge to economists.) It may seem surprising, given the number of people who've lost their jobs in recent years, but home buying has been proceeding at a frantic pace. The cause: historically low interest rates. Yet purchasing a home, especially in a seller's market, is still a challenging process. So let these new rules guide you.