With the Housing Market in Flux, What’s a Buyer to Do?

There are many issues casting a shadow over the U.S. housing market these days. It’s not just our unemployment rate and foreclosures, nor the $16 trillion dollar U.S. debt.  It's also economic issues in the European Union, such as the problems in Greece, instability in the Middle East, the upcoming November elections and stagnation in Congress, and all kinds of other issues that impact one’s decision making and confidence in the economy.

When people are concerned, stressed, or have uncertainty in their lives, they shy away from making big purchase decisions. And that is happening a lot today. This is especially true for younger individuals who naturally have more insecurity about jobs and life, as well as less life experience than those who have been through many past economic downturns and are taking it in stride.

Luckily, the past has proven that our economy and country are very resilient and our citizens will always fight for a better future. And over the next few years, many of the uncertainties in our lives will hopefully be resolved. Unemployment will drop, the foreclosure crisis will settle, and our nation’s finances — and our personal finances — will even out and stabilize.

So what is a potential home buyer, who can get financed and afford to buy, to do today? First and foremost, remember to take your time, as there is no rush to buy a home, even if you are able to do so. And here are a few things to consider as you mull over one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in life.

  • Buy the right property. The most important and wealth-building strategy in real estate is long-term ownership. If you buy a property that you love and that fits all the right reasons you want to own property, you’ll probably own it for a long time and be happy there. So find that near-perfect property that fits your needs and desires.
  • Don’t overspend on a house. Home owners know that there are many more expenses then one ever imagines in conjunction with owning a home. Just because a mortgage lender determines that you are qualified for X dollars for a house doesn’t mean you should buy that expensive of a property. A house is only an asset if you can comfortably afford the payments and all your other bills. Otherwise, it’s a liability if you are stretching each month to keep your head above water. Buy assets!
  • Stay away from fixers. Many people think it will be fun and romantic to buy a fixer-upper and make it their own, but most regret that decision. Renovating properties usually involves a never-ending stream of cash outflow and the property often ends up costing several times the amount that a non-contractor buyer estimates it will cost. Instead, try to buy a house that someone already renovated for themselves to live in, but had to sell. You want a house that's already in good shape.
  • Stay away from external nuisances. There are many seemingly non-issue things that can become a problem down the road. Houses should be next to houses, not non-residential use properties. Vacant retail sites, empty lots, industrial next to residential, religious uses, etc. may not mix well with a nice quiet place for you to sleep at each night. Too many buyers disregard the negative consequences of these, so survey the area for potential nuisances and be cautious.
  • Keep renting until you are sure. Don’t buy real estate unless you are sure you want to stay in the area, that your job is secure, that you won’t be transferred, and that it’s a decent and economically viable area. If you are not sure, keep renting instead. You’ll save yourself from a lot of potential hassle and financial pain in case any job or city issues go against your favor.
  • Don’t obsess over the price. A house price is important, but it should be secondary to finding a place you love (within reason). If you own real estate for a long time (which you should), years down the road, you won’t care what the house originally cost you. And by keeping it a long time, you’ll probably earn plenty of equity that will keep a smile on your face. So spend more (though again, within reason) to get that great place you love.

Keep those things in mind as you take your time and educate yourself regarding real estate ownership. And when you are ready, you will be able to find a great house to fit your needs.