Once upon a time, when Baby Boomers were really babies, people thought of houses as places to live. How quaint. The modern conviction is that houses are actually ... investments!

So we learn from a survey released today by Century 21 Real Estate LLC, the franchisor of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization. Century 21 interviewed just over 1,500 first-time buyers and first-time shoppers, split in thirds between boomers, Gen X'ers, and Gen Y'ers.

Yale economist Robert Shiller, author of "Irrational Exuberance," says that one earmark of a speculative bubble in housing is when people start talking about a house as an investment rather than just a place to live. If he's right, then younger people are more affected by a bubble mentality than boomers.

Forty-two percent of Gen X'ers and 39% of Gen Y'ers said they thought of a house purchase as an investment, vs. just 32% of boomers who felt that way. Boomers were more likely to think about buying a home because of a life event such as a job change or marriage.

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