There are numerous reasons to buy a house now – assuming you really want to. And by “now,” I mean within the next 6 months.
Even though the economy is a mess, unemployment rates are higher than they’ve been in a generation, and home sales are sluggish, there’s never been a better time to be a buyer.
In fact, many experts are starting to call this the perfect storm for buyers – especially first-time buyers. Why is this so? Here are a few reasons why:
1. This Is the Strongest Buyers Market in Many Years
There are more homes on the market now than at any time in history. In Philadelphia and the Bucks County and Montgomery County suburban communities, there’s about 8 months worth of housing inventory at the moment. That means it will take 8 months just to sell all the homes currently on the market – not counting all the new listings that may come onto the market.
This glut of available homes – in virtually every price range and every neighborhood – has been caused in part by the high number of foreclosures and short sales (where the proceeds of the sale won’t cover what’s owed on the mortgage) that have flooded the market.
For buyers, this means more sellers (including banks) desperately need to sell, which often translates into lower prices and more sellers who are willing to pay a big chunk of your closing costs. (That’s called getting a “seller’s assist.”) So why not take advantage of this situation that’s oversaturated with unsold houses?
2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Quite Low – and May Be Going Lower
This is an unusual time, because it’s extremely rare that such a strong buyers market is coupled with mortgage interest rates in the mid 5% range for owner occupied homes. For smart buyers, this is an unprecedented opportunity to combine strong bargaining power with very reasonable fixed rates. (Note: The national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 5.65% as of December 8, according to BankRate.com. And for a 15-year fixed, it’s 5.38%.) And there’s an excellent chance the rate will drop into the mid 4% range by early ’09, if the federal government acts on a plan suggested last week.
3. Home Prices May Be Starting to Rise Again in Our Market
It appears that the real estate market is at or near the bottom of its three-year downward spiral. Since no so-called expert has a crystal ball, no one can predict how long it will take for home inventory to shrink and prices to start rising again. And it’s nearly impossible to time the market. So, if you want to buy now, why wait until prices are already rising? If you’re planning to buy within the next year, this is probably as good a time as any to get a good deal.
Note: Even though the number of new homes sold and the number of new homes built have continued to decline each quarter in the Greater Philadelphia area, while the average number of days on market has continued to rise, the average selling price already is rising in most counties, including Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia. That’s certainly a positive sign for sellers who’ve been waiting anxiously for prices to go up again, but it’s also helpful for buyers, because it tells us that the great bargains may not be there too much longer.
4. Real Estate Is a Key to Personal Life Satisfaction – Now More Than Ever
Studies show that people who own their own home are financially more stable, healthier, more involved with their communities, and more satisfied with the quality of their lives than are renters. With the national median home price rising by about $85,000 during the 2000 to 2005 housing boom, many experts agree that home ownership, though more difficult for the average American to attain, is still very much worth the effort.
Plus, because home ownership is moving out of reach for so many people, you really don’t want to miss the boat on owning rather than renting. Home ownership is great for people who are “on the escalator” of rising prices, but it’s alarming to economists and sociologists concerned that many middle income people may not ever enjoy the health, social and economic benefits of home ownership if this trend toward rapid bursts of rising home prices continues. It’s a powerful argument for anyone considering a home purchase to stop procrastinating.
5. Real Estate Historically Is a Great Investment – Even in Tough Times
Buying real estate is your opportunity to build up equity. In fact, take a look at how the median home price in the US has risen since 1970:
1970 $ 23,000
1975 $ 35,300
1980 $ 62,200
1985 $ 75,500
1990 $ 95,500
As you can see, the price of real estate has jumped over time – sometimes dramatically. A buyer who purchased a home for $140,000 in 2000 could easily be sitting on $90,000 or more in home equity today, and all with very little cash out of pocket. Sometimes the increase in home values is slow (as it is right now) and sometimes it’s rapid (as it was from 2000 to ’05). But housing values, like the stock market always rise over time.
6. It May Be Cheaper to Buy Than to Rent at This Point in Time
Because home prices have fallen so dramatically over the past three years, coupled with historically lower interest rates that, as I mentioned, may be going even lower, it makes very little sense for most renters not to seriously consider buying. If you’d like to compare the costs of renting vs. buying, please let me know and I’ll be glad to email you a set of ballpark numbers based on your particular situation. I just need to know how much you’re currently spending per month for rent, and the home price range you’re most interested in. My software will do the rest, so you can see for yourself whether buying beats renting.
7. Take Advantage of the $7,500 Tax Credit for First-Time Buyers
The Housing and Economy Recovery Act of 2008 authorized a $7,500 tax credit for qualified first-time buyers. But you must use it by June 30, 2009 – or risk losing it.
Even though it’s really more of a low interest loan than a no-obligation credit, because it must be repaid over time, this income tax credit is still an excellent program designed to make it easier for first-time buyers to become home owners.
If you’d like to read a comprehensive FAQ that explains all the details of the program, please visit www.TaxCredit4U.com. If you’d like to listen to a tape recorded message from Gateway Funding about the tax credit and how it relates to applying for a mortgage, please phone this toll-free number: 800-404-4787 xt 7502.
8. You Have Your Own Best-on-the-Web Home Search Site
Until recently, buyers had to wait for real estate agents to email listings to them via Trend, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for the region. Now, though, you can return to my home search site, www.Search4PA.com, whenever you wish to search for homes.
In fact, if you know anyone who’s looking for a home now or in the future, please share the link with them. I’d appreciate it. They probably would too, since there’s no other site quite like it in the Greater Philadelphia real estate market.
I think www.Search4PA.com (aka www.FindPAhouses.com) is a very special site because it has every listing that’s in the Trend MLS database for all of Southeastern PA. Plus, it’s very consumer friendly, the photos are larger than they appear in Trend, and every listing appears on Google Earth maps. (The photos lose a little sharpness, but it’s a tradeoff of making them bigger.)
Using this site means buyers no longer have to wait for emails from TREND to view listings. It lets them become very proactive with their home search.
Most buyers tell me they love using it. And even though they have to register to search for homes, no one other than me sees their registration info.