Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel

Buy Now, Buy Later: Does it really matter in the long-term?

I've been lurking for a while, debating whether to buy my first house this April in NE Pa.  It seems to me that the perceived "value" of one's house doesn't matter at all while they are living there. It only becomes an issue if and when they are forced to sell. 

Of course, I would not even consider buying if I thought there was any chance of having to move anytime soon.  I plan to never move again.  However, it seems that putting money into a house is a gamble at any time, since there is no way to predict the future.  Stuff happens. 

Still, I do find myself wondering what might have been if we bought a house when we got married in 2001, which we debated.  I feel like I'm "behind" when I could be "ahead", and I don't want to feel this way in another 10 years. (I know another year or two of waiting won't hurt me either.)   

If I bought now for 182K @ 5%, I estimate I would have payments of $940/m + 80 PMI + 50 Insur + 241 Taxes.  This is only $97 more than I pay for rent and insurance.  (I would budget an additional 100 for water/sewer/trash & 50 for maintenance.) 
If prices dropped 11% next year, the same house would be $162K, but if interest rates went up to 6.5%, I would be paying $1024/m. 

Does that analysis seem accurate?
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December 14 2009 - US
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Answers (127)

Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel
...I can't believe you still bother to respond to her posts...  Don't waste your time.

So, about $5 per trip to the market each way just for the gasoline?

Well I do have a regular car, you know.  And Newton, NJ is not the nearest supermarket.  I doubt I would ever need to go that far for anything.  Of course, Newton is listed as THE hospital for Pike County, 40 minutes away, which scares me a little.  But they do have a local emergency room, and there is another hospital in Port Jervis....   

OK, here is the deal with the snow.  Yes, I hate it, and I'd rather live in Florida or Cali, but I'm stuck here.  Out of 365 days a year, it only snows in winter, and certainly not every day.  Once you're shoveled out, you're clear until the next one.  When a storm is predicted, you stock up beforehand.  So it's not as big of a deal as you are making it out to be.  As far as being "snowed in", that's not allowed in this occupation.  You just shovel yourself out and get on with it...   

So, has anyone calculated the annual transportation costs yet, to compare between the various options?

No, because as I said before, there is no way to know the commute.  He could get called anywhere between Port Jervis & Hoboken.  He could get called 2 days out of the month, or 20.  Hence, my dilemma.

The more I read, the more I'm leaning toward Milford, Pa.  It seems so much like where we live now, with the old Victorian walking town and great schools.  But with the added benefit of lower prices, lower taxes, and more "nature". 

Still, I'm open to suggestions.        
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December 25 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Total Homes sold, Pennsylvania

Always trying to give irrelevant data for an area that doesn't apply to the question asked?  How are they going to commute daily to New Jersey from Nevada?  What job can you offer in her husband's field?  Where are the trees, lakes, streams, and snow?

1.8% increase in number of units sold month over month in Pennsylvania, not 7.4%!  The total number sold in Pennsylvania Delaware, Dingman, and 18328 was too small to determine those metrics.

And yes, those people rushing to buy have artificially increased the prices, so they were over paying, and those buying now are still over paying, which is good news for Realtors ®, especially when they not only get their percent commission, but also their negotiated fee for service on top of that, which is why they keep telling you that the best time for you to buy is when prices are over inflated and when the competition to buy is higher.

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December 22 2009
Existing-home sales rose 7.4% in November as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded tax credit...
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December 22 2009
Profile picture for frisky1
"What, people travel 75 MPH on 2 lane icy rural roads?  You are kidding me, right?"

No.
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December 22 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
We're in the 70's here, partly cloudy today; maybe some light rains over-night, but I doubt it.

And less than 1 hr drive to snow (many are skiing or sledding or snowboarding), and less than 1 hr drive to the beach.  (Many are surfing or windsurfing, or sun-bathing/tanning).
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December 21 2009
In the 60's all week long with mostly clear skies....*)
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December 21 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Snowed in and can't get to the job?  No income.  Extremely costly per day.
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December 21 2009
sure, especially when you're snowed in
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December 21 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
SUV or truck on non-highway surface streets --- probably 15 MPG?

So, about $5 per trip to the market each way just for the gasoline?

The IRS indicates on the 2009 forms that the actual cost of using a car for 2009 is about 55 cents per mile after factoring in the other expenses, excluding the driver's time.

If commuting for work, the driver should figure their time at the same rate as they get paid.

So, has anyone calculated the annual transportation costs yet, to compare between the various options?
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December 21 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
What, people travel 75 MPH on 2 lane icy rural roads?  You are kidding me, right?
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December 21 2009
Profile picture for frisky1
And in Pennsylvania, it would take about 15 minutes.
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December 20 2009
Profile picture for frisky1
"estimates 51 minutes." which equals 30 minutes in NJ (and NY and New england) driver time.
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December 20 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
I think I mentioned, Zillow offers little metrics for zip code 18328 due to relatively low housing density.  They do offer for this past year, median list price per sqft.

18328 median list pric per sqft

They also track median days listed on Zillow and number of units listed on Zillow.

I don't know if data for zip code 18330 would be similar or not.  The median list price per sqft is quite a bit less in 18330, even though 18330 has only about 1/3 the number of homes listed on Zillow as 18328 has.

I know all these Realtors keep telling you it doesn't matter if you pay $30k more this year as compared to 15 months from now; and I know they think that if you are not paying interest to the banks that you are throwing your money away, and they think you are "building equity" if the value is declining faster than the rate at which you pay the principal down; but I'm sure you know more about the math and finances than those Realtors do.
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December 20 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Don't know if you noticed...  Google maps indicates that "Heather Hill Road" is Woodside Rd.  It wouldn't even allow looking it up by "Heather Hill Rd", thus making it harder to estimate transportation time.

Once I put in Woodside Rd, and then Main St Newton NJ, in Google maps, it indicates about 26 miles travel distance, and estimates 51 minutes.

I'm sure that assumes no snow on the roads.

maps.google.com
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December 19 2009
I found this article from Business Week to be very interesting...i think you have already hit the nail on the head...right now it's all about rates.  If rates go up you decrease your buying power.  Buy the best thing you can afford at the time, preferably in the MOST stable part of town.   (and there always is one!)  http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/dec2009/bw2009127_753974.htm
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December 19 2009
Profile picture for frisky1
CK - From what you just said, Dingmans actually sounds fairly ideal for location. You're way better off in PA than NJ or NY. You're prob 25 minutes from Newton where most of the bigger shopping is and not too far from milford. I don't know that area  so well, we have friends up in Bushkill, closer to Stroudsburg, and we spent a couple of years looking for second homes in wayne County but have only hit milford a few times.

I would characterize it somewhat like the Upper bucks market near Riegelsville (where I used to live). There are locals, but also a steady stream of New Yorkers (the poorer one's who cant afford Bucks, Litchfield CT or the Hamptons)--and not just during the bubble but since the 80s. And they're the ones who pay more in any market. So you might want to study the Milford second home market, and perhaps target homes that have nice views, private backyards, a creek, etc.--the nature the city folk are looking for. and if you havent lived in such a remote area (bucks is city compared to dingmans), you might consider renting to make sure. Its hard for me to believe that area is going to bubble again anytime soon but I'm no expert.
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December 19 2009

If we could tell the future we would not be in real estate. Let's face it, everyone that says home prices are going to go up or down really doesn't KNOW. Sure they might be looking at data trends and information to make their best educated guesses but the reality of it is nobody REALLY knows for sure. That said, it's not true that homes double in value every year but it IS true that if you take any 10 year span during the last century, home vaules have ALWAYS gone up, even during the great depression. History tends to repeat itself and lets face it, the earth is not creating more land so it only makes sense that over the long term, values should go up.

Someone already pointed out that the expectation your house will be with more next year is just a guess but the low interest rates, affordable prices, and tax incentive programs are REAL. That would be enough to get me to say you should at least look. But base your dicision to buy not on a tax credit or low rate, rather look at all the facts and determine if it is best for you. If it's a toss up, I always recommend owning rather than renting because your money is building equity rather than just throwing it away in rent. In your later years you could use that equity to get a nicer house, or live rent/loan free, borrow against if you had to, or retire on via a reverse mortgage. I'm not saying those are all good options, just that they are options you would not have if you just rent for the rest of your life.

So should you buy NOW? Well, if you want to own, I can't argue that its not a good time to buy. But then again you have to look at your situation. I suppose if your job reloated you, it would be a lot easier being a renter, for instance. The decision is up to you. Think long term goals and best of luck to you.

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December 19 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
There is a 4th time when the value of a home is relevant.  That is when one decides to rent it out for income while living somewhere else, as the value is reasonably proportional to what one may expect for rental income.

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December 19 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
I've been in Alentown and in Bethlehem, and have driven from and to New Jersey, and know people that make that commute regularly.  I've not been in the Delaware Valley, thus I can only say what I've seen from the aerials, street maps, and housing data.

But if the goal is to reduce commute time and have more freedom on how to use time and resources; I think someone may want to do some "test-drives" and "exploration" as it looks like that kind of move is counter productive to the stated goals.
 
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December 19 2009
Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel
Ok then, what areas would you recommend?  I'm a perfectionist, but even I have realized I will never find the perfect area.  I'm going to be a stay-at-home-mom, so I don't mind chauffeuring.  I don't want shopping districts nearby.  I'd rather my kids be able to walk to the lake rather than the mall.  Yes, its a vacation district.  I figured that might make it a little easier to rent if we ever had to.  DelVal School District is excellent.  As far as snow - we're getting a truck anyway for the peace of mind.  (Ironically, we're supposed to get 12 inches today, and they're only getting 3!)  I was considering Lehigh Valley until I realized its a little too far.  We are trying to keep the commute to no more than 1.5 hours.  He can get called anywhere between Hoboken, NJ & Port Jervis, NY (not every day).  At some point in the future, we should be able to get Port Jervis permanently.  That's why I was thinking somewhere like Milford, Pa, which is, like 10 minutes from there, and still only 1.5 hrs from Hoboken, for the interim.  Its still closer than where we live now, but I can afford much more house up there.  I'm trying to cover all the bases...
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December 19 2009
Profile picture for frisky1
Pasadenan -  the 80 sq foot lot is more likely 8000 sq feet given I can see other houses in the background (so its not really large) plus they spelled the school Delawear valley not Delaware Valley. 

At Dingmans ferry, the bridge to NJ is still privately owned and the man stands in the road between the cars to collect the quarter each way--is that rural?  That is a completely different market than the lehigh Valley (which more or less ends at the blue moutain) and has an underlying infrastructure.  Dingmans and Pike is more vacation/dreamer country with little support system.
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December 19 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
No, most people think that it takes a couple years for things to straighten out and that they just need to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities.

I have no doubt that there will be some good buying opportunities in her area within the next 5 months; but the trend curves show there will be even better opportunities in about 9 to 18 months.  She has the time to wait it out; but she also has the resources to jump on something if the opportunity knocks.  Her area is more stable than San Fransisco, but still over inflated.

My biggest concern in looking at random properties is that the transportation routes are still not that good for her husband's job.  Even the one she referenced as a sample, looks like it takes close to 20 minutes just to get out of the neighborhood.  And there are no local stores or shopping districts nor public transit, so it is very car dependent, which may not be good in a health crisis, or heavy snow storm.  I like rural areas like she is looking at with lots of trees and lots of lakes; but if one has an employer that is expecting you at a location?  You need to get there.  And she indicates they are starting a family.  Where are the local schools, and how long does the commute take each way?  Is someone going to be a chauffeur?

The time to look at these things is before hand when it is not urgent.  To wait until you have no choices only creates unnecessary stress.

And really, there are three times when prices of houses are important; First when one buys as that determines the debt and potential gain or losses.  Second, when one is calculating net-worth for college loans or other loan applications; and third when one sells.

Considering how poor so many of these Realtors are at estimating their taxes, I would never trust any of them for any financial recomendations.

And as far as those 2 story units; there are multiple factors to consider.  Better health from walking up and down stairs.  Better heating on the second floor and cooling on the first floor.  A "sanctuary" from extra heavy snowstorms, so that you can still get in and out.  But a liability if confined to a wheelchair, even temporarily.  Sure, stair lifts are not that expensive and can be retrofitted in many applications, but one still needs to consider stairway widths, and potential turns at landing issues.

This kind of decision warrants extra planning, contingencies, and consideration.  It doesn't cost any extra to run a few more "what if's".
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December 18 2009
- What can I say? I'm an obsessive over-planner.

We knew that!

Here's the thing. You have more than enough information to decide, and you know that the future is uncertain.

In good times, most people think they'll never end, the rest think the end will come tomorrow. In bad times, most people think they'll end but have no idea when, the rest think that they'll never end!
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel
Well, that was part of my thinking in posting the original question: If I can get a comfortable payment and stay for 30 years, my house will be paid off and there will only be property taxes, insurance, and maintenance to worry about.  (Not exactly free, but still less than rent.)

the only time the value of your house is even relevant is when you sell it.

I think this was the real issue.  If I were forced to sell in 5 years (which could certainly happen) am I going to lose everything I put in?  I think this is a strange market to enter in 2010.  If waiting a year can minimize that possibility by a large percentage, then I'd rather "throw my money away" for another year.  

Of course, if there were a way to guarantee that I would never have to move, I would buy a house right now.  What can I say? I'm an obsessive over-planner.
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for rdmohr
"The stupidity of your logic is why so many people are going bankrupt right now.  They have eaten up the NAR propaganda because they're idiots, and spread the word to other idiots who are willing to ruin their financial lives too.  Best of luck with that strategy. "

Yep, that's me, the idiot that's living in a house that was appraised at $400,000 in June, paid $325,000 and I only have a $150,000 15 years fixed rate mortgage.  I obviously shouldn't be giving advice and have no idea what I'm talking about.  You should instead look at the graphs and numbers and predictions and continue to pay rent until you pass on from this world.  Me - I'll be living rent/loan free in 15 years and enjoying the extra money I have to spend on vacations and enjoying life.  Not to mention the security I have knowing that since I have some much equity in my home, I don't have to worry about debt problems.  And this is all because I bought a house.

The only idiots are the banks that convinced people to get ARM loans and that housing prices would stay high forever.

I think someone said this before, but the only time the value of your house is even relevant is when you sell it.  So, as long as your mortgage payment is fixed and something you can afford you should buy a house.  Of course, there are many scenarios where you would need to or want to rent.  But the orginal post was not about whether or not to buy, it was about WHEN to buy.  If this question had been posted a year or 2 ago, my answer would be completely different.  Noone can predict the future, home prices are reasonable again, so I would not recommend waiting. Start building that equity in your house as soon as possible and that will be a year sooner that you can get the mortgage paid off and not have to worry about that living expense.
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel
Thanks for all the data!
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
So, what do those change trend charts indicate?  That the "government incentive" artificially caused "values" to decline in value at a slower rate or even rise, and the expected termination of the "incentive" caused the change to start evening out; but that the prices will likely rise some until the incentive ends, and then additional decline is expected to correct for the bubble.
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Here is the year-over-year change chart for the selected zip codes, lower tier value range:


Address for full size image:
http://images2.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i1/i9593/IS15fisrzpm8qlf.jpg
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Labels were wrong on the last chart posted; thus reposting:


Address:
http://images2.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i1/i9593/IS15fis6y1qzo2r.jpg
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December 18 2009
Profile picture for Dr.C.K.Tiel
Its probably just a typo.  I've noticed a lot of them.
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December 18 2009
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