I tend to agree with you, but I think better deals are on the horizon. I rent now, but I own one house that's paid for and I rent out. I'm thinking of buying another house, but I know I'll probably never get this one paid off. It will help me on my taxes as a write off though, and in time I'll gain some equity...but it's going to take awhile this time around. As long as I get the house for the right price, and get a good mortgage, I can always rent this house out in the future and make some more free money. The problem that some people have with renting and wasting their money never bothered me, but at the end of the year when it's tax time I sure wished I had some write offs. Paying the government plenty of taxes, bothers me more than renting.
I have an older boat that I don't live on, but I sure would like to...but not my wife. The idea of buying a new boat is a loser financially, but a well maintained older boat makes sense. Having an affordable house pretty much already fixed up makes the most sense, because that will leave you money for a pretty much fixed up older boat. You can live part time in the house, and part time in the boat. When you get ready to cut the lines to land, sell your land stuff or put it in storage, and rent the house out...you'll like the extra income. If you get tired of living on the boat, then you'll have a place to come back home to. Of course one main advantage of renting is, you can usually afford to rent where you want to live...not always so with owning a house unless you're pretty well off.
When it comes to owning a house, location is the most important thing. If own a house somewhere where appreciation does not rise very much, then you would be better off investing in a house in a better appreciating area...which may not be where you are now. Real estate is good to invest in, but it does have it down times like any other investment...so timing is just as important in real estate. If I had to do things over again, I'd like to have at least five paid off houses (or partially paid off), each paying me some monthly income. If I was making enough money from the rentals, I'd hire a property management company to manage them and send me my check...but that's just me. At your age and with what's going on in the market right now, you do have some time to put off real estate investing...but I wouldn't wait more than a two or three years.
To be the contrarian, I think real estate is as good an investment as anything else. And right now is quite possibly the absolute best time in any of our lives we'll ever see to buy it. One of the biggest housing price corrections in history, and rates in the 4% range? It's a buyer's dream market.