Should You Buy a House Soon?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

There are few greater pleasures than owning a house and making it your home.

The “right time” to find your perfect place is obviously impacted by your personal set of circumstances, but there are also external elements in the housing market that might come in between you and your dream home.

Interest rates, availability, lending options, etc. All of these can deeply affect the choice to jump on a house.

I’ve already covered how the President’s trade war might impact the American housing market, but most of the external factors I mentioned are unfortunately not ideal for buyers looking to make a mid-range purchase.

Overall, affordability has gone down in the housing market.

One of the largest reasons for this is a lack of inventory. Plainly, there are fewer houses to buy, so the cost to buy an available property has gone up.

Homebuilders have had rising costs from new tariffs on key supplies like lumber and steel. This has stunted building from a cost perspective and made it more appealing for builders to take on high-profile projects. When there has been inventory growth, they have been favorable for more luxury homebuyers and less for mid-range buyers; especially in the metro areas.

There is also a continued hangover from 2008’s bubble burst. Homebuilders have been cautious to not overproduce and overspend on properties that are not guaranteed sales. Banks also bought up thousands of properties in ’08 and they have not unloaded them consistently since then, withholding them from the market.

These leftovers from the market crash are slowing down steadily out after a decade of general growth, but I’d expect them to trickle into 2019.

Federal interest rates have gone up as well. This usually means the economy is doing well, but it also means borrowing is going to be more daunting for first-time buyers. The most recent change was a jump to 5.06 percent, up from 5.04 percent, for 30-year fixed mortgage rates. It’s not steep, but it is a raise nonetheless.

A lot of these issues have been known for awhile, but artificial measures have kept the mortgage market steady for the past couple of years. Lenders kept their heads in the sand to keep things normal and now it’s all being thrown into a bit of disarray.

It’s not a cause for panic. There are other benefits to the current position of the housing market.

Consumers have better access to responsible lending than ever. Mortgage lenders have stricter rules now preventing buyers from getting led into loans they will never pay off. Laws passed earlier this year have also rolled-back Dodd-Frank Act restrictions on community banks lending mortgages. There is more variety than ever to find a loan with the interest rates you like.

My biggest advice if you are looking to buy a home soon is to be honest with yourself about the affordability of the homes you look at. There is not much the average person can do to change the way interest rates move and how many houses are available on the market, so patience and your own intuition become your best friends in tougher times like this.

Nervous about a mortgage? Look around for a better one, they are out there.

Is your dream house too much right now? Ask about ways to work around that or settle for something a little more modest at first.

Want to live in a big city? Try a suburb with easy access to the metro area. It’ll almost certainly be cheaper, and owning a home early can have major payoffs (link to previous article).

You can rest assured that there is not a 2008-style market crash around the corner. Even though interest rates are rising, lending has become more reliable overall. However, you may need to keep saving up if you are not in the right place to afford luxury housing or to take on higher interest rates on a mortgage.

Be persistent, there will be a home out there for you soon; maybe just not today.