Great question! As a Realtor with 10 years of experience, a large percentage of my clients have purchased for livelihood reasons as opposed to purchasing for investment. For those folks it was a good time to buy at the time they bought because they wanted the stability and advantages of owning and did not necessarily plan on moving for a long time. The investment aspect was implied but not the driving force.
With that said, I consider myself an optimistic person and I can tell you that during that time selling real estate that there was not one year that I really did not believe that it was not a "great time to buy". It is really not until you look back at the rise and fall of the real estate market can you see what were good and bad times to buy. We will be able to make that same determination about 2010 two years from now.
What I am telling my clients who ask me that question today is RENT now and sign no longer than a 1 year lease. During the rental period, we can pursue great real estate purchasing opportunities as they present themselves, but with less pressure(better negotiating position). My viewpoint is that home prices will drop more into 2011. There is a massive shadow inventory of foreclosures coupled with underemployed and/or unemployed homeowners who are or will be attempting short sales. With the vast supply of distressed properties yet to be sifted through, the real estate market has a lot of shaking out to do.
I would be happy to share more, but I could go on and on...