There’s always something to howl about

Love these “10 Reasons to Buy a Home”

From the Wall Street Journal, complete with video, is Brett Arends take on why now might be a great time to buy a home.  This is the action item to follow Greg’s last post on Why Housing will come back.  I’m in a very seasonal, resort type of market.  A buyer’s negotiating position right now, when a seller who doesn’t have a deal is likely going to still own their home next spring, is amazing.  Make that reason eleven.

Enough with the doom and gloom about homeownership.

Sure, maybe there’s more pain to come in the housing market. But when Time magazine starts running covers that declare “Owning a home may no longer make economic sense,” it’s time to say: Enough is enough. This is what “capitulation” looks like. Everyone has given up.

[roiA0915]The Sept. 6 cover of Time magazine: This is what capitulation looks like.

After all, at the peak of the bubble five years ago, Time had a different take. “Home Sweet Home,” declared its cover then, as it celebrated the boom and asked: “Will your house make your rich?”

But it’s not enough just to be contrarian. So here are 10 reasons why it’s good to buy a home.

1. You can get a good deal. Especially if you play hardball. This is a buyer’s market. Most of the other buyers have now vanished, as the tax credits on purchases have just expired. We’re four to five years into the biggest housing bust in modern history. And prices have come down a long way– about 30% from their peak, according to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index, which tracks home prices in 20 big cities. Yes, it’s mixed. New York is only down 20%. Arizona has halved. Will prices fall further? Sure, they could. You’ll never catch the bottom. It doesn’t really matter so much in the long haul.

Where is fair value? Fund manager Jeremy Grantham at GMO, who predicted the bust with remarkable accuracy, said two years ago that home prices needed to fall another 17% to reach fair value in relation to household incomes. Case-Shiller since then: Down 18%.

2. Mortgages are cheap. You can get a 30-year loan for around 4.3%. What’s not to like? These are the lowest rates on record. As recently as two years ago they were about 6.3%. That drop slashes your monthly repayment by a fifth. If inflation picks up, you won’t see these mortgage rates again in your lifetime. And if we get deflation, and rates fall further, you can refi.

3. You’ll save on taxes. You can deduct the mortgage interest from your income taxes. You can deduct your real estate taxes. And you’ll get a tax break on capital gains–if any–when you sell. Sure, you’ll need to do your math. You’ll only get the income tax break if you itemize your deductions, and many people may be better off taking the standard deduction instead. The breaks are more valuable the more you earn, and the bigger your mortgage. But many people will find that these tax breaks mean owning costs them less, often a lot less, than renting.

4. It’ll be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want. You can move the walls, build an extension–zoning permitted–or paint everything bright orange. Few landlords are so indulgent; for renters, these types of changes are often impossible. You’ll feel better about your own place if you own it than if you rent. Many years ago, when I was working for a political campaign in England, I toured a working-class northern town. Mrs. Thatcher had just begun selling off public housing to the tenants. “You can tell the ones that have been bought,” said my local guide. “They’ve painted the front door. It’s the first thing people do when they buy.” It was a small sign that said something big.

5. You’ll get a better home. In many parts of the country it can be really hard to find – read the rest, see the video at the WSJ


4 Comments so far

  1. Joe September 15th, 2010 7:14 pm

    Nice post Al. I blogged about this today on ActiveRain.
    Brett Arends posts 10 items for consideration, all of which we as real estate agents might take for granted, but the one point that screams at us as investors is (or are) the low interest rates. Btw, the video can be embedded. 🙂

  2. Al Lorenz September 15th, 2010 7:20 pm


    I posted about this on my local blog and did embed the video. I’m usually too impatient to watch a whole video, and personally prefer written words. The last 5 reasons are some of the best for those who link to them! I also love the Time Magazine proclamations, then and now.

  3. Phillipe September 15th, 2010 9:15 pm

    Great article – enjy reading the 10 top reasons as well as the comment “A buyer’s negotiating position right now, when a seller who doesn’t have a deal is likely going to still own their home next spring, is amazing.” so true….

  4. Alex Cortez September 19th, 2010 6:50 pm

    Great stuff, Al. Historically low interest rates have driven me to personally invest (maybe even more than I should have).