Even though much of the current real estate “news” is really just hype, there can still be good reasons for you to be in the market

This from my Arizona Republic real estate column (permanent link):

Get a load of all that great housing news! Median prices are up! Sales volumes are up! The prognosis for the future? Up, up, up!

Here’s a different take: If it looks, walks and talks like hype, it’s probably hype.

Are houses selling well, compared to a year ago? They are — but the federal government is giving first-time home-buyers $8,000 in free money to buy houses right now. If that tax credit is not extended or replaced with something even more generous, the music will stop on November 30th.

And while median home prices may be up, prices for homes that normal working people actually buy are flat at best — and they have been trending downward since December of 2005.

But what about the shortage of available homes you have read about? What about the multiple offer scenarios, with homes selling for thousands of dollars over list price?

What would you expect to happen when you artificially stimulate demand at the same time that you artificially limit supply? We should be doing what your grandpa used to call “a land-office business.” Instead, even with $8,000 in free money, prices are still trending downward.

And that artificially-limited supply — all of the foreclosed homes that banks are withholding from the marketplace — will flood the market sooner or later.

If you’re in the real estate market right now, what you should do depends on your circumstances.

If you’re a seller, make a deal. Your carrying costs will almost certainly exceed any gain you can hope to realize by waiting out the market.

If you’re a first-time home-buyer, jump. If you’re not under contract by October 15th, you’ll probably miss out on the tax credit — and houses are not easy to get, taking account of the artificially-limited supply.

Buying with a loan? Interest rates are low for now, but they may not stay that way.

Buying all cash? Sit tight. As sweet as prices look right now, it seems likely they’ll get a lot sweeter when the banks finally release all the homes they’ve been hoarding.

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  1. […] Even though much of the current real estate “news” is really just hype, there can still be food … – Greg Swann takes a look at how the market may be on an artificial high because of the $8000 tax […]

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