Housing will eventually recover from its great swoon. But many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg…

“There is no iron law that real estate must appreciate,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the real estate site Zillow. “All those theories advanced during the boom about why housing is special — that more people are choosing to spend more on housing, that more people are moving to the coasts, that we were running out of usable land — didn’t hold up.”…

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that it will take 20 years to recoup the $6 trillion of housing wealth that has been lost since 2005. After adjusting for inflation, values will never catch up…

“The experience we had from the late 1970s to the late 1990s was an aberration,” said Barry Ritholtz of the equity research firm Fusion IQ. “People shouldn’t be holding their breath waiting for it to happen again.”

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Mark and Joanne sold their home in Milwaukee — a home they owned for 28 years — and moved to Chicago. The couple, both in their 50s, relocated for her job. And they decided to rent an apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.

“It was a tough decision,” Mark says. “You have kind of the emotional baggage of wanting to continue to own a house — the ‘American Dream’ theory. The flip side of it is, you kind of get to give up the baggage of all the maintenance cost — and all the maintenance time that goes along with it.”…

Mark says that when he writes his rent check every month, he thinks to himself, “This is worth every penny.”

“It locks my cost in every month,” he says. “I have no surprises. Utilities are included. Parking’s included. I write my check, I’m done for the month. It’s a wonderful feeling.”