Thinking of buying your first home? Congratulations! You’re making a very smart decision. Rents right now are unusually high, and in many cases, you could make a mortgage payment on your current house or apartment that would be cheaper than the rent check you scratch out each month (or the one that is automatically debited from your account). No matter what a stockbroker might try to tell you, residential real estate is still a good investment, and it forms the basis for a higher net worth as you age and have to start thinking about retirement.
I know that thinking about buying can be a little scary. So, here are a couple of things you might like to consider as you decide if this year is the year you take the plunge!
1) What you’ve heard is correct: our housing inventory is very low right now compared to historical norms. There are simply fewer homes to choose from. While finding the “perfect” house has always been tough, it’s doubly hard when inventory is low. You might have to consider a house that doesn’t hit all of your wants and desires, but just fulfills most of them. You might have to consider a house that needs some work. But, keep an open mind and you will find a place you will want to call home.
2) It’s not as hard as it used to be to qualify for a loan. Some jurisdictions, like Baltimore City, have loads of homebuyer assistance programs and grant monies to apply for. But it will be harder to get through the loan process. Frankly, lenders are being utterly ridiculous in the level of oversight and paperwork red tape they are requiring – they are overcompensating for the period from 2002 to 2007 when they were far too lax, and paid the price for it. The appraisal and underwriting processes have been insulated from the sales end of the transaction, to the point that they can seem totally disjointed. Buckle up, and try to enjoy the ride.
3) This is a seller’s market. It means that you as a buyer will not have the leverage or negotiating power you expect to have. Nice, well located, well priced homes are receiving lots of interest and multiple offers. Select a buyer agent who can advise you on negotiation strategies and who has experience negotiating for his or her clients.