Buying a house seemingly never happens the same way twice.
In a buyer’s market, you may have lots of choices but there’s always the fear you’re taking on someone else’s problem and you never quite know if you should push your budget higher. Yes, you have lots of choices, but once you own a house during a buyer’s market, you have a possession that someone else struggled to sell.
That’s not a big problem if you intend to live there for a long time, but any homebuyer should acknowledge that life can sometimes interfere with intentions. You have to at least consider that the forever home you’re buying may end up as the place you live for no more than a few years.
When it’s a seller’s market — as it is right now — buyers have much less choice. The U.S., of course, isn’t one real estate market, and even when most of the country is one type of market, different areas may have different conditions.
For example, South Florida has been an incredibly hot market since the pandemic began, and while prices have somewhat stabilized, they have not fallen due to heavy demand.
New York City, on the other hand, had a brief period during the worst of the pandemic where cooling demand led to a bit of a buyer’s market (relative to how high prices are in the city). That has mostly corrected, but Manhattan buyers may still face a relatively easier time buying than their counterparts in Miami.
Buying a house has never been easy, but rising prices in many areas have made both the “should I” and the “can I” bigger questions.
Is Now the Time to Buy a House?
Houses, fortunately, don’t work like cars. Most of us need transportation and we need a place to live, but we don’t have to buy a house in an unfavorable market the way we need to buy a car. You can rent a place to live when buying conditions are unfavorable (or maybe move back in with family), but once many Americans find a stable job and life situation, owning a home becomes something worth pursuing.
Buying in a hot market has its risks, but those can be mitigated, a retired Realtor, Barbara Mergentime Morrison, told TheStreet.
“If someone buys now, they may need to remain in that house for many years or they may take a loss when they sell,” she wrote. “Prices have gone up so quickly in the last year or more that there is going to be a correction at some point in the next few years.”
Over time, buying a house has been a good long-term investment in most markets in the U.S., but it’s not always a smooth ride.
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“This always happens and the prices will drop, but not lower than they were before the huge increase. Eventually, they will go up again, the never-ending cycle.,” she added.
How to Balance FOMO With the Housing Market
Many people use rising prices to justify buying a house. Their logic is that prices only get higher and not acting now just means paying more later. There’s historically some truth to that, but fear of missing out isn’t justification to overspend.
Buying a house can make sense — especially given where mortgage interest rates are — but you have to consider the negatives of the current market.
“Inventory is extremely low, which means slim pickings and a very high rate of bidding wars. This drives up home prices and makes buying a house – not to mention affording one – even more difficult,” according to Mortgage Reports.
“In a seller’s market like this one, it’s common for bidders to go above asking price. And you may have to do the same if you’re hoping to secure a new home this year.”
Owning a home and building equity makes sense, but you also need to consider whether you’re paying too much simply because you want in on the action.
Every buyer should understand what it costs not to own a home (their rent or living expenses) and balance that against the costs and risks of owning.
“If you’re still paying off your mortgage, renting is cheaper than owning in each of the nation’s 50 largest metros. On average, renting is $606 cheaper than owning across the nation’s largest metro [areas],” LendingTree.com reported.
Consider that $600 a month — or $7,200 a year — that you might add to a down payment. Of course, prices may keep rising, but they may not — it’s never an easy equation and there’s no decided right time to buy.
You need to consider the market, your circumstances, the cost of not owning, potential opportunity costs lost by not owning, and your personal risk tolerance.