I think the answer is different for each person. It used to be that a home was a good investment, but with the bottom dropping out of the housing market in most areas, I'm not sure that is still the case. Our house is worth about 30,000 less than it was four years ago.
Also, a house can tie you down. For example, right now, I don't think we'd be able to sell and you are tied into a mortgage.
On the other hand, paying rent goes to nothing solid. You pay it every month just like a house payment, but in the end you don't own anything. You also have costs with a house that you don't have with renting, such as maintenance, paying all utilities, lawn care, etc., so keep that in mind.
If I were very young, I'd probably do the following:
Live with parents for a while and save up a huge down payment.
Buy a house that I could afford (no more than one week's paycheck for payment, if possible)
Buy the cheapest house in the best neighborhood, so it goes up in value and you can resell
Make sure it has at least 3 bedrooms/2baths, even if you don't need that much space, because it will be easier to resell
Hope that gives you some things to think over. The worst thing in the world is to be so house poor that you can't enjoy your life and take vacations, so even if the realty companies tell you that you can afford a $200,000 house, don't believe them. Start with what you can afford for a payment each month and go from there. Good luck, whatever you decide.