Reasons To Buy a Home Today
Branden Chhuor, October 22,2014 (All rights reserved, permission to reprint with appropriate citations)
Many people in my Southern California market have asked me, “Is it a good time to buy a house?” My general response, “It depends on your situation.”
In most situations, people are looking at properties for sale to live in, not rent out. If this matches your situation, then it is definitely still a good time to buy, even with the increasing house prices within the past couple of years. The four factors I look for in determining when it is a good time to buy your Southern Californian dream home or first home are the following:
A market with rising rent means that the real estate market is getting back on its feet and vacancy is low. When you have a situation such as today where rent is climbing faster than house prices year over year, then you are faced with the dilemma of cost to rent versus cost to own. As such, I would rather buy and lock in my monthly payment at a fixed amount than risk facing rent increases. Why pay for someone else’s mortgage? In addition, as a homeowner you would also reap the tax benefits and principal pay down on your mortgage.
Inflation is another factor I look at because it affects our purchasing power and the value of currency. I am surprised that the US Federal Reserve continues to downplay inflation and dismisses the notion of it. Have they not seen the prices of gasoline, milk, beef, and other consumer goods have all gone up over 30% the last 4 years while wages remain stagnant? I am betting that wage will eventually catch up with inflation and when that day comes, house prices will further increase to match the cost of material and labor to build a house. As a homeowner, you will be hedged against inflation because you will be paying a fixed monthly payment while your property steadily increases in value over time. Again, you will be paying down the principle, increasing your equity position instead of paying someone else rent.
Interest rate is the cost of borrowing money and we are currently at a 16 month low on the 30 year fixed rate ranging 3.8%-4.1%. From a finance perspective, it’s not costing much to borrow money and people should take advantage of. People don’t realize 10-15 years ago, the 30 year rate was nearly double at 6%-8%. Buying real estate for most people means leveraging their position by putting a down payment and borrowing between 5%-95% of the purchase price. If you are borrowing, doesn’t it make sense to borrow when interest rates are at and near the all-time low? Let’s say you (a borrower) with a solid credit score and you are looking for a conventional 30 year fixed rate with 20% down payment. Let’s assume that for every 0.50% increase in interest rates, it will result in a 5% drop in house prices. Here are some scenarios to show what I mean:
Scenario 1: Home price of $500,000 at 4.25% = $1,968 monthly mortgage
Scenario 2: Home price of $475,000 at 4.75% = $1,982 monthly mortgage
Scenario 3: Home price of $450,000 at 5.25% = $1,988 monthly mortgage
As you can see, yes, prices do drop as interest rates rises, but there’s a good chance your monthly payment has gone up.
Like that old saying goes, “Timing is everything”. The same goes for real restate. If you buy it a little too late such as 2007, then you were upside down on your property for the next 5-7 years. I believe today is still a great time to buy due to the fact that we just came out of the recession and real estate prices have adjusted. Southern California real estate historically has a cycle of 8-10 years of appreciation and then 3-5 years of depressed prices. If history holds true, then we are in the beginning of an appreciation cycle. Considering the other factors mentioned above, it’s safe to say the timing is still there for people to buy their first home.
Hopefully this reading gives you some idea of what I usually look for when people ask me the
question, “Is it a good time to buy a house?” This point of view is for those looking to buy a dream home or first home for the long haul of 5 years or more. If you are looking to buy for investment purposes, then it will depend on the area you are targeting. Stay tuned for the next article on real estate investing. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments.