From the last poster (clearly a real estate guy):
""Let's take this scenario for example: let's say you're paying $2000 a month rent here in New York and you stay here for 5 more years. That's $24,000 a year in the toilet or $120,000 over 5 years."
OK -- now for the real math.
Paying $2,000 a month for 30 years at 6% yields a "present value" (price of the house that these payments could support) of $333,588. Assuming NO downpayment, At the end of five years (to be consistent with the example above), you will have paid $97,000 in interest and paid down $23,000 in principal. Assuming nothing has changed in the market, you will have $23,000 in equity in the house. Well, that's something, I suppose. But you will have thrown $97,000 out the window in interest payments. Of course, if you then tried to sell the house for what you paid ($333,588), you will pay a 6.0% commission ($20,015), leaving you with all of $3,000 in net "equity" to put into your pocket. Big whoop. For that $3,000, built up over 5 years, you have locked yourself into a mortgage, into a location, and lost all flexibility of change of job or change of geography. What if prices go down? Opps . . . . that $3,000 doesn't look very good after all now, does it.
Renters may be throwing their money out the window in rent payments, but house owners do the very same thing for a very long time as well -- only in their case its called "interest" on the debt they've taken on.