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My story....

The first home I bought (~1983) would, today, probably sell for about 50% more than I paid. My second home (sold in 1998) has about doubled in value courtesy of some remodeling and landscaping. My current home has risen about 33% in since 1998 (partially as a result of some remodeling we've done). A lot of the changes weren't driven by my selection of home but by economic conditions beyond my control. So, for me, it's all been about luck.

A couple of years ago, DW looked at the future and decided we would most probably be leaving the area when reaching age 66. I found an interesting mortgage which would be interest-only and fixed for ten years, then adjust upwards with a ceiling of 2% increase for P&I over the next twenty. I got the mortgage and bought down points to give us a two and seven-eighths rate (we had about 50% equity). Money saved (former mortgage minus the $340/mo we now pay) goes into our retirement savings.

If we leave the area as projected, everything would be fine. We'll have had eight years of very low interest and increased retirement savings.

If for some reason we decided to stay, we might well sell the house and move to something smaller, less expensive, and easier to maintain. If we stay, we'll look at rates and either refi or pay the house off with the extra savings we made in the years prior to retirement.

While I don't look at our house as an investment per se, I do recognize its value (much like I do my car). Having it allows me certain options and a lifestyle more desirable than, say, living in an apartment.

As an aside....

When I work with our financial planner, I have them run three different scenarios and wonder if others here do the same. Here they are:

1) We both get our current Social Security benefit (totaling $4300/mo).
2) Means testing cuts our SS benefit in half.
3) No SS.
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