Some Turn to Real Estate as Stock Market Falters

Eighty million of us are invested in the stock market, but a lot of us have lost money because the market is at a four-year low. So what investments are safe? Some nervous investors are looking close to home.

"People are looking to real estate as a safe investment, something tangible and something they can control when they want to buy and sell," said Lisa Maysonet, a New York realtor with Insignia Douglas Elliman.

Maysonet said clients today aren't just shoppers, they're buyers, and despite the volatile stock market, sales of New York apartments have remained strong. People are buying bigger homes and second homes -- all to feel a little safer in an uncertain economy.

"The stock market is going to continue to be a rocky place to invest, at least through the end of this summer, possibly through the end of the year," said Amey Stone of Business Week Online. "That will continue to fuel people wanting to put money into real estate."

But that's not necessarily the way to go, said financial planner Al Gobo of U.S. Financial Services.

"I don't advise people getting out of the equity markets and jumping into other markets, i.e. real estate or bonds," Gobo said.

That's because the stock market is depressed and the real estate market is booming, to the point that property may be overpriced. But the bubble could burst and real estate could meet the same fate the stock market did.

"If you're the last person standing when the music stops and you don't have a chair to sit in, you're stuck with a house you paid $500,000 for that's worth $400,000 today," Gobo said.

And low interest rates make buying even more tempting.

"Interest rates are so low that in most cases, it makes sense to own," Maysonet said.

But buyers should be cautious. Like any decision involving big bucks, it pays to consult the experts -- and think for the long-term.