Until 2010 I was a renter. This seemed to annoy quite a few people. I am not sure why, but it did. Some wanted to sell us a home, others wanting to sell us debt to buy a home, and those who believed home prices would continue to soar. We did buy, once we found a home where the cost per square foot was slightly less than we were paying in rent. We moved 4 blocks. No big change, just a decision driven by the numbers.
During those years as a renter we kept hearing the same old question "but don't you want the tax write-off?" I was always surprised that those asking the question did not really seem to understand what the write-off was. Sure, they knew that interest on a mortgage and property taxes were deductible from their federal income tax. What they didn't seem to know was that we already got a write-off. It was called the "standard deduction". In order for a home purchase to actually save me money, my mortgage interest, taxes, and other itemized deductions would need to exceed the standard deduction. In most cases that translated into a hefty mortgage payment on a home with high property taxes. I'm frugal, and that was not my plan.
If you are currently a renter and are considering a home purchase, keep the following in mind. The 2012 standard deduction is $11,900 for a married couple, $8,700 for head of household, or $5,950 for a single filer. That means in 2012 mortgage interest, property taxes, and other itemized deductions (charitable deductions for example) need to exceed $11,900 for a married couple to "save money". Even if it does exceed that amount, the savings may not be that great. For example, a couple earning $80,000 that has $15,000 in deductions may save $620 that year, or $50 a month (using back of the envelope calculations). I can think of several ways to save $50 a month that do not involve taking on mortgage debt.