The real estate market has hit the Pause button in the last few days. Why? Who knows? Waiting for another shoe to drop (such as even worse economic news?) It doesn’t make a lot of sense, really. Mortgage interest rates have dropped to the lowest in over 50 years. Lots of people have rushed to refinance their homes, but many have discovered that the rules are too tough for them to qualify now. Appraisals are extremely conservative, which means that if you refinanced back in the boom times a few years ago, you might owe too much to qualify for the required 20 to 30% equity that lenders want you to have now.
People who ask me about the real estate market assume that no one is buying because no one can qualify for a loan these days. Surprisingly, this is not true. Lots of people can qualify and are walking around today with pre-approval letters hanging out of their pockets. They even have 20% down payments sitting in their bank accounts ready to go to purchase that new home. Why don’t they make a move?
We’ve talked before about fear and how that has been holding the market back for quite awhile now. Fears such as: what if the prices drop more? What if I lose my job? What if a better buy pops up next week? What if my friends/relatives think I’m stupid for buying now?
Another obstacle is information overload. Every day we hear more economic news about things we really don’t understand, like, say, the Case-Shiller index or Standard and Poor’s credit rating of companies or countries. We hear about Europe’s economic woes, we see the stock market rocket up and down. What does it all really mean? How can we make a good decision in the face of all this information (so much of it bad news)?
How about trying this: turn off your radio, throw the newspaper in the recycling bin, and think about what you really want. Do you want a home to live in for several years? One that you can make your own with your unique designer touches? One that your kids can grow up in with a sense that they are loved and provided for? Want to try your hand at urban gardening? Raising a litter of puppies? What does any of that have to do with the Euro?
For most of us, not much.
The percentage of people in the United States who own their homes has varied between 65% and 70% over the last several years. “Experts” are saying that we probably won’t see 70% home ownership again. So what? So what if it is 65% forever more? Isn’t that still a large majority of the people in this country? Can we agree on this: most of the people in this country live in homes that they own?
Let’s go back to the basics for ourselves. A home is a big investment and the decision to purchase should be taken seriously, but life goes on day by day by day. Things do change, such as interest rates and loan guidelines. If you qualify for a good mortgage today, do you want to risk that you don’t qualify under some new guideline tomorrow? Do you want to wake up one day and see that your opportunity has passed you by?