Profile picture for Just4Ever

Is now a good time to buy?

Everyone keeps telling me that now is a good time to buy my first home. However, I remain skeptical and would prefer to a wait a few years. Can anyone offer valid reasons / examples why now would be a better time to buy than in the future (say 3 to 4 years)?
  • June 07 2010 - US
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Answers (166)

Profile picture for sunnyview
If you would prefer to wait to buy, that is the right decision for you period. I guess my advice would be to cover your bases and get yourself in a good position to buy by saving for a down, learning as much as possible about you local market, looking at historical values in your area and normal rates of appreciation. What the market will do really depends on where you live. Nobody can tell you what will happen. I have to say that many people who were pushed to buy regret that decision now either because they paid too much or they feel tied down or they don't like their job and can't relocate without losing money on selling their house etc.

One of the safest ways to buy a house is shooting for a PITI (mortgage, taxes and insurance) that is close to the same or less than rent. It gives you added flexibility to ride out any changes in the market without being forced to sell and it means that you can rent the house out to relocate for work or move for an expanding family situation if needed. I believe that buying is a good path to long term financial security when done well and conservatively, but that does not mean you need to buy right now. Collect information, work on getting your credit as high as possible to save on loan costs and don't buy until you are ready.
  • June 07 2010
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Profile picture for stephengore30
My fiance and I are going to buy sometime this year.  Does that mean it is the "perfect" time to buy?  Maybe not for everyone, but I am begining to notice that the greedy with money are begining to leech their way into the market to buy torn assets from banks.  These people are the same people who will spin the house right back on to you the "real" consumer at a profittable price for them meaning inflated costs based on current market value for the home.
If you like your area and are ready to buy be wary and check the tax records to find the last recorded sale.  I am all for a buisness man or woman making a buck on real estate.  For the real consumer, though, this can mean another housing bubble is coming.  Interest rates will also inevitably go up sometime by the end of this year/beginning of next.
  • June 07 2010
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Whether or not it is the right time for you depends on many many things.  Sunnyview had a great response, but the one question I always ask is whether or not now is a good time to buy financially for you.  Can you afford to buy?  Have you figured out the full cost of ownership?  Figure out the full PITI (which includes taxes for your area, insurance, etc). 

While no one can tell what will happen in the future, the most important thing is that you are confident in your decision to buy and ready to purchase today.  Good luck!
  • June 07 2010
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Yes, i would say now is a good time to buy. In the next 3 or 4 years it may be harder for you to find the right "deal" for you. Buy when You are ready though.
It looks like stephengore30 has been burned a time or two by investors in his area. Any more the banks will not allow a house appraisal to pass if someone is asking way more than Fair Market Value. So that isn't an issue any more. But if you do buy a rehabbed house from an investor you have the right to a home inspection. So you shouldn't be worried about things falling apart in the house.
  • June 07 2010
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I agree with waiting if you are unsure about your employment or ability to pay.  Otherwise, even with the First Time Homebuyer tax credit behind us, it remain a great time with interest rates at a very low point and home prices at historic lows.  There are certainly many available homes suitable for first-timers and the best...you are a good candidate to have your offer accepted.  You have no home to sell.  This is a plus.
  • June 08 2010
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While it's impossible to predict what future home values may be -without the aide of a psychic- what we do know is that interest rates are within a hair of historic all time lows. This can sometimes be incentive enough for someone to jump into the market - even when there is no guarantee as to whether home values will continue to drop.

Real estate values vary not only from state to state but from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Minneapolis some neighborhoods have seen a drop of 50 percent in value when compared to 2006. Other neighborhoods have seen negligible drops in value and in some cases home prices in those areas are increasing as there is always demand for certain neighborhoods.

In short, it's impossible to say whether buying a home today is the right decision. There are too many factors both personal and geographical that help determine whether or not it's the right time.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for RichardReid
In terms of pure numbers, now is a great time to buy - if you have a down payment saved, and stable salaried employment.

Prices are at historic lows, financing is cheaper than it has ever been, and there is a ton of inventory.  This is a perfect storm for a 1st time buyer, as you haven't been affected by the recent struggles in the industry.

It is possible none of those things will be true in 3 - 4 years.  Prices are likely to have risen, as interest rates should be expected to do.  Home inventory will very likely be lower than today.  It is impossible to say how tight the market may be.

If you are comfortable making a purchase now, and feel stable in terms of location and employment, these are serious factors to consider.

If you are concerned about either your career or your geography, pay attention to your gut, and hold off.  You do not want to be in a position where you have to turn around and sell quickly before any equity is built.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for dacolan
No crystal balls are required. You can learn something by looking at the numbers, and at the moment they indicate now may not be the best time to buy; Demand is at or near historic lows (employment, incomes/wages, mortgage applications, removal of subsidies, etc) and supply is at or near historic highs (shadow inventory overhang, the coming Alt-A/Option ARM reset peak, demographic trends, etc).

There is an excellent article recently published on Seeking Alpha that sums up some of the problems and challenges still facing the housing market (the comments are worth reading as well). Some highlights:

Is Housing Already Double Dipping?

mortgage purchase applications are down ... to their lowest level since April of 1997
...
real organic buyers are exiting in droves
...
this is with mortgage rates at 4.83%
...
housing stimulus was an enormous waste of money and nothing more than price fixing that would temporarily stabilize the markets. The government is about to find out why bailing out the losers ultimately works to the detriment of markets.
  • June 08 2010
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It depends on your own personal situation.  Just because you hear 'now is the time to buy', doesn't mean that You should buy now if you're not ready. As "Sunnyview" explained it's important to do you 'homeowork' and research the local market where you are thinking about buying.  Your first home should be a happy experience and not something you should be stressed out about!  Making sure that you have at least 3.5% for the downpayment plus necessary closing costs.  But most importantly, is getting your credit score over 680 in order to obtain a low interest rate. Three years from now, there will still be houses for sale at reasonable prices. So when you're ready, you'll be able to make the right decision for yourself.
  • June 08 2010
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Woulda, shoulda, coulda!!!  If you wait for the right time, you'll never know when it is here.  Conditions now are such that it is a buyers' market.  You have plenty of homes available, mortgage rates are great and prices are lower than they would be if we had not had the bubble.  Find a place you love and try to get it for the best price possible.  And enjoy it.
  • June 08 2010
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SNL:  $4.5 B foreclosures nationwide held by US banks...up 12% in Q110!

Several economists predict with the the overhang of REO inventory and short sales coming on the market, the RE market is not expected to recover until 2013!

There are areas that may never recover...we live in a mobile society...folks are leaving areas plagued with high unemployment; 78 million baby boomers will be retiring within the next ten years...many will be leaving areas with harsh climates. 

Economist predict areas in CA, NV, Fla, AZ will exceed their former highs.  The only question is when?
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
As many people have said, there are a lot of variables that factor into the answer. So let me see if I can't shed some more light on the situation with the following:

* I have a very stable job and our business is increasing and is projected to increase for the foreseeable future.
* I have 20% down for prices in my range
* I have a large emergency fund built up in the rare case I do lose my job.
* I have a very low debt to income ratio with no car loans and credit cards paid off in full each month. My own debt is student loans but they are less than $20,000.
* I have a credit score that's 750+ and have never defaulted on any loans
  • June 08 2010
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woulda, shoulda, coulda...
If you keep on waiting for the right time, it might pass by you and you won't even know it.  Remember that mortgage rates are at an all time low, inventory is still plentiful in many areas and prices are lower than where they would be if we had not had this bubble.  My advice is to go out there, find a property you love and try to get at the best price possible.  And then enjoy it.  And keep in mind that when you buy, you should always think resale.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
Now that I've posted some more info, here are some things that I do not understand:

* How do interest rates work in relation to housing prices?

Thinking it over in my head, if I could spend $1,500 a month for principal + interest, a lower interest rate means I could buy more house, right? For example, at a 5% rate I could pay a ~$280,000 mortgage with a $1,500 monthly payment. But at a 9% rate (the historical average IIRC) I can only afford a ~$187,000 mortgage with the same fixed monthly payment.

* Assuming the above is correct, and considering the widely accepted belief that rates are at an all time low (most likely true), then wouldn't an increase in interest rates mean that people can afford a smaller mortgage payment?

If that's true, then it would seem to be better for me to wait until interest rates are higher, as housing prices would have to come down (or income would have to go up which is not likely) if they want to move inventory. What am I missing with this hypothesis?
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for hpvanc
Just4Ever,

Your not missing any major points, on the scenarios you are listing.  If incomes do not rise housing prices will find it difficult to rise or even remain the same as interest rates rise. 

Here are a couple more scenarios.

*  We could get into a inflationary spiral where interest rates and wages rise, which will eventually cause housing prices to rise, however there is likely to be a lag.

*  We could be entering into a deflationary period like Japan has been experiencing for the past 21 years.  In this scenario wages at best remain flat, and prices of most items decline and interest rates remain at historical lows.  We seem to be taking a lot of pages from Japan's play book to try to get the US economy inflating again, meanwhile I believe I read median housing prices in Japan have fallen from their 1989 high back to the level they were at in 1973.
  • June 08 2010
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Dear Just4Ever,
With historically low interest rates, the lowest home prices in 4 years, and a good amount of homes to choose from. Make this the best time to purchase a home.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
Patricia,

How do you know this though? How do you know that prices won't continue to fall further (as it seems to be the case)? While it's undoubtedly impossible to predict a perfect bottom, one can still reason about housing trends and save a lot of money by waiting, if that's the correct decision.

And can anyone answer my question about interest rates? What am I missing? Hpvanc seems to think I'm on the right track (thank you btw).
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for dacolan
Just4Ever,

I agree with hpvanc. If interest rates were to rise to a level more commensurate with historic norms as you've suggested above, house prices will rise only so long as incomes rise proportionately. As you point out, this appears unlikely given current economic conditions.

And those RE pros cautioning buyers against timing the market are giving misguided advice at best. Residential RE market values don't move with the volatility of the stock market. The period surrounding the end of The Great Depression is a textbook example. Those that bought seven months following the bottom of the RE market were far better off than those that bought three months prior.

There will be plenty of time to react once the residential RE market ultimately stabilizes. I am in a similar position as the one you've described above, and I too am in no rush to buy at the moment. There are far too many negative fundamental economic indicators to justify anything other than discretion and patience from my perspective.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
Thanks for the comments dacolan! I'm starting to agree more and more with you guys, although I would still like to hear what the other side thinks about my theory. :)
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for AnaBenitez

First, you must consider your financial situation. If  you can afford it, and rents in the area are either the almost the same, or higher than paying a mortgage payment, it would make sense.  You would be living the american dream, building equity, while obtaining more tax break at the end of each year -Instead of paying someone else's mortgage on their property.

Why now instead of waiting 3-4 yrs?  First, we have all time low interest rates mortgages loans available, property values in most areas have drop, so you're able to buy more home for the money, or spend less on a home than you would have in the past. Best of all, we know the Present, who really knows the future. 

  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for workabee
I am the magic agent 8 ball. Ask me a question and you'll see the future. How about this favorite...Q: Is it a good time to buy? A: Of course it is. I want a commission.
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
"you're able to buy more home for the money, or spend less on a home than you would have in the past."

Ana, I disagree. If--or more accurately, when--interest rates go up, then you'll spend less on a home than as your dollar will go to more interest, which would necessitate lower prices for the same monthly payment. Thoughts?
  • June 08 2010
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hi
  • June 08 2010
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Did the interest rates work in relation to housing prices? NO, the interest rate is related with the economy situation, the home prices were related to the affordable housing costs.
In one year from1999 to 2000 the interest rate increased 1%, the CA home prices increased 5%-10%.
From 2006 to end of 2008 the interest rate decreased 1%, the home prices decreased 40% (easy to explain).
From beginning of 2009 to mid 2010 the interest rate decreased 1%, the median home prices increased 15% in CA, flatted in US.
After the government stops purchase Mortgage Back Security, many real estate analysts and the lenders, who predict the massive rise in the interest rate, it turns out that the interest rate keeps dropping.
While the CA's economy was got the bad news in 2009, many real estate analysts predict the massive drop in home prices, in fact the CA's home price rose 15% from Jan. 2009, even before of the $8,000 tax credits and at the worst time of the foreclosure activities with 46% foreclosure sales in April 2009 in CA.

Follow is the copy from the other post:

These are the assumptions, which nobody can see:
* Home prices rise, flat, fall in the future.
* Interest Rates rise, flat, fall in the future.
* Economy rise, flat, fall in the future.

The reality:
$100K home, 4.75% interest rate, 30 years term, assumes 100% Loan To Value.
In the 12th month, the mortgage balance is $98,456. You have $1,542 equity.
Since you had to pay for the 30 years mortgage anyway (buy now or buy later), you save 1 year rent total of $7,200 if you are buying now.
Total of the saving is $1,543 equity + $7,200 rent = $8,743.
In order to break-even of "buy now and buy later", the $100k home today needed to be $91K home in the 12th month, in other words the home price needed to drop 9% and the interest rate stays same at 4.75% in order to break-even from the today home price, if you are buying home in next year.

  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
White Picture,

Thanks for the comment. Your post is a little incomprehensible, but I think I got the gist.

In regards to your thoughts on the relationship between interest rates and housing prices, I was thinking more along the lines of long term trends. The evidence you present for interest rates is essentially using data from the bubble, or the events which lead up to it, which is not following long term trends (otherwise it wouldn't be a bubble).

Specifically, I was curious about how inflation and high interest rates in the late 70's affected housing prices, so I did a little digging. What I found is that housing prices did rise nominally during the period, which makes sense since tangible assets like real estate are better stores of value than cash during periods of high inflation. However, in inflation-adjusted terms, housing prices fell showing that they aren't THAT great of a store of value. :)

Here are some interesting links I found:
http://mortgage-x.com/trends.htm
http://www.lesjones.com/2008/11/25/inflation-adjusted-us-house-prices-1975-2008/
  • June 08 2010
  • 1Yes

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Profile picture for klarek the realist
"Assuming the above is correct, and considering the widely accepted belief that rates are at an all time low (most likely true), then wouldn't an increase in interest rates mean that people can afford a smaller mortgage payment?"

You have just unlocked the future NAR propaganda point that will be issued once rates go way up.  It's a simple numerical truth that the increase in rates leading to increased costs of a mortgage in a leveraged system will decrease the prices of housing, all other things remaining constant.

I only call this point future NAR propaganda because for the past eight years, they've convinced every idiot they can find to buy NOW because rates are low.  But when rates are high, their simple minds will repeat the words of their NAR-masters that it's better to buy when rates are high.  All things being equal, you'll be buying when prices are depressed and you'll have the option to re-fi at a lower rate down the road. 

I can't blame these idiots for deceiving people, they're just repeating what they've been told, like the simplistic idiots they are.  They don't mean to be deceitful, they just don't understand economics or finance.  They've been baiting clients for year with "low prices, low rates," and  I'm sure a lot of those clients are in foreclosure now or deeply regretting their purchase. 
  • June 08 2010
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Even with the home prices didn't rise 1 cent in next 30 years, the return of the housing investment is 4.75%.
If you put $50K in the bank with 4.75% interest, in next 30 years you have total of $251,182 (principal + Interest, compounded yearly).
If you buy $250K with $50K down payment, the house is your in next 30 years, free and clear (assume the buy = rent).
  • June 08 2010
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Profile picture for Just4Ever
Haha, sweet. What do I get for unlocking this secret? ;-)

In all seriousness, I think you're on to something klarek. Although, in the future, I think agents will be hard pressed to find buyers as most people have already jumped on the bandwagon and others don't have enough savings for even a minimal down payment. Even people who are strategically defaulting and banking the mortgage payment will have trouble getting a new mortgage for at least a few years after they get foreclosed upon.

Hey, if you have any blogs or other news sources that you read, I'd be grateful if you would share them. I get the impression that you know quite a bit and I'm eager to gobble up any insights you can throw my way.

Thanks!
  • June 08 2010
  • 3Yes

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Seems that what we don't mention in these answers to whether or not to buy is that owning a home is more than an investment... it's a lifestyle decision.  The economy has caused many to postpone many of the comforts they have worked so hard to achieve.  At some point we need to buy something larger to accomodate more children, housing a elderly member of our family or relocate to a different state. If you wait 5 or 10 years until you are absolutely sure you have the "bottom", you may lose time and time is very important.

Owning a home will never be a bad investment, especially when you are gaining tax advantage and being able to live in a home with only a 20% down payment.  Hopefully, the mortgage payment you negotiate is comparable to the cost of renting the same space.

I bought my home in the early 80's with an interest rate of 14%.  It has really never been a bad investment for the lifestyle I choose.  I'm sure there is someone out there that believe the same as I do.

There are homes on the market in Massapequa and Massapequa Park that are more affordable than they were in the 1980s. Make sure you can afford it by speaking with a financial planner, get a good real estate agent who can fill your requirements and jump onboard.  If these prices and interest rates start to rise, it will be far less affordable. 
  • June 09 2010
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Profile picture for workabee
Lifestyle decision? You mean like foreclosure or bankruptcy is a lifestyle decision. Owning a home will never be a bad investment? Tell that to someone who bought in 2006. Your points are about as valid as a salesman telling people to buy a new car for the smell.
  • June 09 2010
  • 5Yes

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