~Ask the expert:

What is the outlook for home buying in 2014?

 Even though the average price of both new and existing homes rose last year, there's no indication that they will fall any time soon. In fact, they will continue to rise.
 With the economy slowly improving and the shortage of existing homes for sale, prices are still rising.
 The average price of an existing home now approaches $215,000 nationwide. Of course, it's not the same everywhere. In some localities it's lower and in big cities it's higher.
  BUT, homes continue to be affordable in spite of recent price increases. They are still 31.5 percent below the 2006 price peak, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance.
 The percentage of monthly family income consumed by a mortgage payment  (at 4.1 percent interest) is just 15.6 percent of monthly income, on average.
 "Houses are very cheap," said David Stiff, principal economist at CoreLogic, a property and mortgage data analytics company.
 Market observers agree that home prices will rise in 2014, but at a steady pace when compared with historic trends. By the end of 2013, prices nationwide rose by 10.9 percent, pushing the median price for existing homes up by $30,000.
 For people who wanted to sell or refinance their homes, that's good news.
 If you're renting a home or apartment, you may have already experienced a rent increase of 3 to 4 percent this year. The same increases are expected next year. Mortgage payments will always stay the same. That's a positive factor in buying a home.
 So it would seem that if you buy a home now, some of your rent money will go to principle. It would be a smarter move than waiting a year or two.