Housing prices are holding up well in McCook, thanks to a strong real estate market, but owning your own home is an affordable bargain in Nebraska compared to other states, according to online lender LendingTree.
The business says Nebraska homeowners paid $711 a month for their mortgages on average over the past year. That's the lowest in the nation, rivaled only by Arkansas with an average of $715 a month, and $717 in Iowa.
Compare that the $1,641 in Washington D.C., $1,536 in Hawaii and $1,445 in California, and you'll understand why we have a bargain.
Of course, Nebraskans can't pay as much as those other states, with a per-capita income of $39,557 in 2010, compared to $43,104 in California and $41,021 in Hawaii, but we do average higher incomes than Iowa with $38,281 and Arkansas with $33,150.
The burst of the housing bubble didn't have the radical effects in Nebraska it did in the other states, but anyone considering the purchase of a home should consider housing an expense rather than an investment with high guaranteed returns.
Still, buying can be the right choice for someone looking to stay in place for at least, say, 10 years.
* It can be a good investment. You're owning more and more of your own home every month, and any improvements you make improve your quality of life.
* Real estate taxes and interest may be deductible -- check with your accountant and keep an eye on Washington.
* Buying is usually cheaper in the long run as you pay down the principal.
* A sense of pride. Drive around McCook, and you'll notice most homeowners go out of their way to make their homes more attractive.
* Steady payments. With a fixed-rate loan, you know your housing payments won't go up the way they might with rent.
* Better credit. You will find favorable treatment when applying for a loan, credit card or line of credit if you are a homeowner.
* Freedom. You can do whatever you want to your own home, within reason.
Even if housing may be a little tight in McCook right now, if you're a renter looking to grow your roots a little more, it may be the right time.