Are housing consumers suffering from some form of “market psychosis”?

by Andy High

During the recent boom years in 2003-2005, sellers were calling the shots – dictating prices and terms to multiple bidders who were knocking down their doors in many markets.
Today, with the real estate market slowing in many parts of the country, all the market fundamentals show that buyers are now in the driver’s seat. Consider the facts: prices are competitive, interest rates are very affordable, there are plenty of homes in all price ranges to choose from and sellers are ready to bargain.
So why are many prospective home buyers having second thoughts?
It appears they are letting emotions overtake common sense. For instance, many home owners who are looking to sell and trade up to a better house are hesitating because they have seen the value of their current home drop from peak levels.
“If my neighbor sold his house for $250,000 six months ago, why should I have to settle for $225,000 today?” But waiting out the market to recoup a $25,000 “loss” could prove to be a poor decision.
While the value of the buyer’s house may have fallen, that so-called loss has probably already been more than offset by a reduction in the price of the home he is thinking about buying. Furthermore, if he waits too long, he may lose out on the price advantage that currently exists.
First-time home buyers who are choosing to “play it safe” and keep renting are essentially postponing the opportunity to build household wealth. Also, in the current marketplace, with rental vacancy rates tightening, they can probably expect to see a healthy increase in the rent they pay. No one can accurately predict the peaks and valleys of the housing market. If you sit on the fence and wait for the absolute best deal, you could end up literally waiting for years, and in the meantime miss out on the opportunity to become a homeowner while prices are moderating.
Not to be overlooked are the tremendous tax benefits received by homeowners as they accumulate equity in their homes. History shows that buying a home is one of the very best financial investments available to a typical household, and a relatively small downpayment enables the buyer to see appreciation on the entire value of the property.
Though local housing markets periodically adjust according to overall economic conditions, over the long term real estate has consistently appreciated. On a national level, home appreciation has historically risen 5-6 percent annually. At that rate the value of a home doubles every 13 years. Not only is homeownership a stepping stone to a future of financial security, it provides a permanent place to call home and enormous personal satisfaction.
In today’s housing market, the real risk is in waiting to buy a home. We know that interest rates are low today. We know that home prices are leveling off and even declining in some markets. We know that there are plenty of homes on the market to choose from. We know that sellers are willing to bargain. And we know that builders are willing to offer attractive incentives to get your business.
Any or all of these favorable variables could change for the worse six months from today.

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