Home ownership has been the secret to wealth in America for generations. Period. While it is debatable whether there is a correlation and not a causation of wealth, the fact is that home ownership is better in the long run than renting (7 or more years).
Just check out this statistic: On average in North America, the net wealth for a homeowner is $140,000, but only $4,000 for a renter. The key to successfully getting wealthy is to buy the right home and get the right loan. For the loan, try to get as low of an interest rate as you can. Home lenders want to see a borrower have a FICO score of at least 700 or more before they get a low interest rate loan (which is 5% or less), and a credit history or you paying off debt such as having 10 years of credit cards (while never missing a payment) or student loans. Also, avoid the additional PMI interest fee and save 20% for a downpayment. Usually the government will help subsidize your mortgage by allowing home buyers to pay only 3.5% down, but tack on PMI in the form of an additional interest rate fee. I would avoid this and instead wait until you have at least a 10% downpayment so that not only will the mortgage be less, but you pay less in interest. Besides, if you cannot afford the downpayment, you probably shouldn’t even buy a house in the first place. Remember for home ownership, you still need to buy furniture, appliances, and anything that goes along with owning a home (taxes, insurance, ect.).
So in summary: Get low interest loans, save early for the downpayment, and buy the “right” home. It is not wise to buy too big of a home. So I would recommend not buying a mortgage that exceeds 35% of your income, many people fall in love with their dream home, but cannot afford to pay for it. Paying 50% of your income to a mortgage, is too much, and leaves you vulnerable to financial ruin.
Mortgage tip: Pay mortgage bi-weekly instead of monthly. For example if you have a $1000/month 30 year mortgage, you can split it $500 biweekly. If you do so, you can shave 5 years off your mortgage. How? Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you end of making an extra payment a year. Make sure you specify to the lender that the payment will be deducted to the mortgage and not in their holding tanks to be deducted off of interest.
Home Equity: A great goal is too pay off mortgage. Once you have enough equity saved, you can always go to the bank and refinance to take that equity out and invest it using a super low home equity loan.