by Broderick Perkins
It sounds tired, trite, hackneyed, even a little specious, especially when it's become little more than a marketing slogan used to describe just about any housing market, no matter how bleak or bright.
However, right now, the popular refrain, "It's a good time to buy," resonates with a more resolute ring of truth.
Home sales are taking a dive, prices are tumbling, mortgage rates are relatively low, builders and sellers are offering concessions, and the most recent forecasts say the market is hovering just at or above bottom.
Given no one can actually pinpoint the bottom except in hindsight -- after the market rebounds -- waiting for that elusive place in time is as risky for buyers as it for sellers waiting for the market to peak.
But before you rush out the door in a frenzied attempt to stay one step ahead of the bottom feeders, remember that a "good time to buy" for you may not be the same "good time to buy" for someone else.
Personal considerations trump the generalities.
Instead of making the home-buying decision based solely on market conditions, consider it in a more holistic context.
It's only a good time for you to buy a home, typically, when owning is cheaper than renting and a home purchase is a natural fit for your financial needs, goals, obligations and lifestyle.
Consider market conditions -- it's wise to buy low and sell high -- but also examine your complete financial picture, other goals in life and plans for your family.
It's not easy.
The current market offers a big carrot.
"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," said Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in a recently release.
"Consider the facts: prices are competitive, rates are low, the selection of homes is high in all price ranges and sellers are ready to bargain," he added.
Right now, however, if you take the plunge but can't tread water until the market again surges with waves of home price appreciation, you could sink.
On the other hand, if you don't take the plunge and home price appreciation swells, well, you could be priced out of the market -- grounded.
"First-time home buyers who choose to 'play it safe' and keep renting are essentially postponing the opportunity to build household wealth. Currently, with rental vacancy rates tightening, they can probably expect to see an increase in the rent they pay. No one can accurately predict the peaks and valleys of the housing market. If you try waiting for the absolute best deal, you could end up literally waiting for years, missing out on the opportunity to become a homeowner while prices are moderating," NAHB advises.
It's a real Catch-22.
Over the long haul, real estate prices and values rise, historically, by an average of about 5 to 6 percent annually. At that rate, the value of homes doubles every 13 years, says the NAHB. Your market may do better or worse.
Will it pay to buy and hold now or stick to your current investment and savings plans now and buy in the future? As you wait to buy, will your financial planning generate the same rate of return or more than you could expect from a home investment?
How will you compare the value of the tangible asset that comes with owning a home? It's not just an investment, but also your own roof over your head.
You don't have to make the decision alone, you probably shouldn't, but you should make the decision.
Get professional financial planning help, expert tax advise and some experienced real estate and investment insight.
Maybe it is a good time for you to buy a home. Maybe it isn't.
But current market conditions do indicate it is a good time to decide.
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