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It's Buying Time Again, Big Time

Written by on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 7:00 pm
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If you've got the income. If you've got plenty of tenure on the job. If your credit is solid. If you can otherwise pass muster at the mortgage loan desk. If it's cheaper for you to buy than it is to rent.

Yes, there are lots of "ifs," but it's one of the best times in America to buy a home. And it won't last forever.

To wit

Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 34 percent of February sales, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The bargain basement is open for business.

Investors know a party when they see one. They snatched up 64.5 percent more homes in 2011 than in 2010 and now account for nearly one in every four homes sold, NAR reported.

• The second home market is back with a vengeance. Both investors and playhouse buyers are jumping on this bandwagon. They pushed vacation/second home sales up 7.0 percent in 2011.

• Meanwhile, owner-occupied purchases fell 15.5 percent last year.

Numbers talk

The median investment-home price was $100,000 in 2011, up 6.4 percent from $94,000 in 2010, which means you may have already missed rock-bottom in this sector.

The median sales prices for vacation properties was $121,300 in 2011, down 19 percent from 2010, which means you may still have a shot at the basement here.

Likewise, NAR reported the median price of all single-family homes dropped 4 percent from $170,600 to $163,500 in the fourth quarter 2010 to 2011 and, during the same period, condo prices fell almost 2 percent $163,500 to $160,800.

Housing market forecasts for a recovery remain mixed, but it's about when, not if. If this isn't the Year of the Dragon for the housing market, it could begin to breathe fire next year.

But consider that many of those forecasts are based on lagging information. One study by John Burns Consulting says many are lagging by a full quarter and prices have been rising in many markets for a full quarter.

And then there are those record low interest rates.

Don't get behind the curve and wait until a line forms and multiple offers are the norm, rather than the exception.

"Mortgage rates are near record lows and home prices may be within reach of many consumers who want to buy in today's market," said NeighborWorks America Director of Homeownership and Lending Marietta Rodriguez.

"But there are more things to consider than low mortgage rates and home prices when your plan is to be a successful long-term homeowner," Rodriguez added.

NeighborWorks' advice

• Be mortgage ready. If you haven't already, check your credit reports from the only federally-sanctioned source of free reports, AnnualCreditReport.com, to make sure your credit is mortgage worthy. Don't get taken by sound-alike websites that offer you "free" credit reports that are only "free" after you buy a credit monitoring service.

Looking for a mortgage with weak credit could result in a higher than anticipated mortgage cost or no mortgage at all. Work with a homeownership advisor at a NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center or other NeighborWorks organization to start the homeownership process.

• Know all your costs. More than just a mortgage payment, homeownership comes with insurance, tax, utility, maintenance and transportation costs, among others. Include them in your budget to determine what is truly affordable.

Know your mortgage . Fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) offer payment certainty, while adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) frequently provide lower initial monthly payments, but those low rates could rise considerably over time. Work with a trained homeownership advisor to help get the right mortgage loan.

• Hire good help. Get a licensed real estate agent who knows the market. It's easy to go digital and browse for housing. Actually going through the process and closing on a home without professional assistance is something else. Ask any FSBO (for sale by owner).

• Take your time. There may be some pressure to get in the market at today's affordable prices and low interest rates, but if you move too quickly, it could be a mistake. Take the time to obtain a home inspection, learn the neighborhood, investigate the school district. Buy only what you can truly afford , not a home based on the largest loan the lender will lend.

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  About the author, Broderick Perkins

Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.