Housing Experts: Now Is a Perfect Time to Buy

Don’t forget to remind potential buyers of something that is obvious to real estate professionals: Now is the time to buy, but that opportunity may be slipping away.

For people who have a job and money, a dream house is within reach, writes Marc Roth, founder of Home Warranty of America and a columnist for BusinessWeek.

He points out that mortgage rates remain low, prices are still at historic lows, and the government is offering incentives for first-time homebuyers.

He also adds that the inventory of homes to buy is still large, but it is shrinking. According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the housing inventory peaked in November 2008 at an 11-month supply. At the end of May 2009, it had fallen to a 9.6-month supply.

Roth says anyone who dallies will miss a good opportunity to buy a first home at a terrific price or go shopping for a move-up property that is a great buy.

Source: BusinessWeek.com, Marc Roth (11/17/2009)

Survey: Households Say Now Good Time to Buy

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of potential first-time home buyers say that now is a good time to buy a home, despite widespread concern about the economy.

Out of the 1,000 prospective U.S. first-time home buyers surveyed in early March for the CENTURY 21 First-Time Home Buyer Survey, 68 percent think now is a better time to buy than six months ago.

Prices are the driving motivation for potential first-time home buyers with more than eight of ten first-time home buyers (85 percent) saying they consider current home prices affordable and 73 percent citing that taking advantage of current prices is a major factor in their decision to buy.

Interestingly, potential first-time buyers are still split between “being willing to consider an offer now” (42 percent) and “waiting for prices to go down before they seriously consider making a purchase” (48 percent).

“Current pricing, rates and incentives, such as the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, provide tremendous opportunities for first-time home buyers to get into the market,” said Tom Kunz, Century 21 Real Estate president and CEO. “Our research shows that while consumers still have concerns about the future of the economy, many are actively considering their options as we move into the spring selling season.”

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • Bargains in the marketplace are providing additional options for buyers to consider. 56 percent of potential first-time home buyers are considering purchasing a foreclosed or short sale home, and 63 percent are open to purchasing either a “fixer-upper” or “as-is” home.

  • When asked to rate the features that they look for when choosing a home, price is the primary consideration with 87 percent saying this feature is “very important,” followed closely by neighborhood safety (80 percent) and the condition of the home (71 percent)
  • Having enough money for a down payment is a top concern of potential first-time home buyers as nearly half (46 percent) said they are “very worried” about the issue.
  • Most respondents (86 percent) are in the market for single family homes.

Source: Century 21

How to Buy a Condominium

By eHow Personal Finance Editor

1 Step

Think about how long you’re going to stay in one place. Buying a condo is no different than buying a single-family home–you need to live there at least a couple of years to recoup closing costs, assuming the property will appreciate.

2 Step2

Give some thought to what you want. If you’re not interested in the pool or sauna, understand that the condo’s price and ongoing monthly association fees will reflect their use regardless of your interest in swimming or sweating.
3 Step3

Visit various condominium or townhouse communities and multiunit buildings so you know what’s available where you live. Get a sense of prevailing prices.

4 Step4

Request a market analysis from a real estate agent regarding the selling prices of condos in the building or area. Check the price appreciation on the market analysis to evaluate how quickly the condos are increasing in value; subtract the selling price from the purchase price and divide by the number of years the property has been held by the previous owner for a ballpark estimate of annual appreciation, if any (varies from state to state and place to place), in the neighborhood.

5 Step5

Get prequalified for a mortgage

6 Step6

Find out if the building has a good reputation. Ask current residents how often repairs and maintenance are required, and how good the soundproofing is between units.

7 Step7

Check out parking, storage, security and other amenities.

8 Step8

Ask to see the minutes from a recent meeting of the home owners association (HOA). Find out what the hot issues are and if members are fighting tooth and nail. You may want to keep looking– nobody wants to live where neighbors are at each other’s throats.

9 Step9

Ask how large the HOA’s reserve funds (used to pay for maintenance and emergency repairs on the building) are. The larger the reserve, the less a chance of an assessment or one-time payment to chip in for an unexpected expense. The smaller the reserve, the greater the chance you’ll be billed for an assessment in the near future. Some states require periodic updates of reserves to be published to HOA members.

10 Step10

Check the HOA’s history of assessments to see how many have been made in the past 10 years and how large they have been. This information will help you gauge how likely it is that you’ll be assessed in the near future, and indicate how well-managed the building is. Better managed buildings make fewer assessments.

11 Step11

Talk to other members and find out how restrictive your HOA is. For instance, some buildings even dictate what sort of holiday lighting you can put up. Request the same information as you would for buying a house. Read the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).

12 Step12

Budget in association dues, which are above and beyond your monthly mortgage payment. To assist in long-term financial planning, ask the condo association whether association fees have increased in recent years. Also estimate monthly maintenance costs that you’re responsible for in addition to the association fees.

13 Step13

Make an offer and close on the deal.

High Gas Prices Get More Buyers Moving In

A survey of 900 Coldwell Banker associates reports that 96 percent think rising gas prices concern their clients and 78 percent say higher fuel costs are increasing buyers’ appetite for city living.

Homes in cities and neighborhoods that require long commutes and don’t provide enough public transportation alternatives are falling in value more quickly than those in more central locations, according to a May study by CEOs for Cities, a network of U.S. urban leaders.

In Atlanta, Mike Wright, an associate with Prudential Georgia Realty, says that real estate within the city perimeter has been selling better than properties outside the city, reflecting a trend of people moving “closer-in.”

In Florida, real estate professor Bill Weaver sees this as possibly the beginning of a shift to a more European approach to finding homes.

“Transportation costs in Europe have been so high for so long that they already take transportation into account when they buy a home,” Weaver says. “We’ve just been behind on that. In that regard, you might look at high gas prices as sort of a silver lining.”

Source: The Associated Press, Adrian Sainz