Discuss as:

Buying homes vs. renting them

In First Thoughts, we noted President Obama's observation yesterday that -- after the U.S. housing crisis -- there are some Americans “who are probably better off renting” homes than buying them.

Our NBC/WSJ pollsters have reminded us about a recent survey they conducted for CNBC showing a declining preference for owning a home. In 1992, a whopping 79% said people are better off owning a home, and 89% said that in 1996.

But in March of this year, the poll found the number dropping to 63%, with 24% saying it's better to rent.

Of course, if you have the money to afford mortgage payments, owning a home is beneficial -- due to the built-in tax breaks a homeowner receives.

But if you can't afford them (as well as a sizable downpayment), or if you live paycheck to paycheck, some economists believe that renting is preferable -- because there isn't the danger of foreclosure, and because it gives workers more geographical mobility (if you're renting, you are more likely to be able to move where the jobs are).