• June 19, 2024
  • News

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House? An Encouraging Perspective for Homebuyers and Realtors Alike

In a world where financial landscapes are constantly shifting, deciding to buy a house can feel overwhelming. With mortgage rates hovering around 7%, many are left wondering, “Is now a good time to buy a house?” The short answer is: it depends. But don’t let the numbers discourage you. Buying a home is not just about the rates; it’s about finding a place to create memories, build a future, and establish roots. Let’s dive into why 2024 might be the perfect year to take that leap.

Understanding the 2024 Housing Market

Mortgage Rates: A Historical Perspective

Mortgage rates have been a rollercoaster over the decades. Since April 1971, the 30-year mortgage rate has averaged 7.73%, according to Freddie Mac data. While today’s rates near 7% may seem high compared to the sub-3% rates in 2021, they are still below the historical average. It’s important to remember that rates have been significantly higher in the past, peaking at 18.63% in October 1981.

For current homeowners with lower mortgage rates, the incentive to sell might be low unless rates drop to between 4% and 5%. However, this creates opportunities for new buyers. With fewer existing homes on the market, your dream home might be just waiting for you to discover it.

Improving Home Inventory

One silver lining in today’s market is the improving home inventory. Realtor.com reported a 17.8% increase in new listings in mid-March 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. Additionally, overall active inventory has increased by nearly 24% year-over-year. This means more options for buyers and potentially less competition for each home.

Expanding your search to nearby, more affordable areas can also uncover hidden gems that meet your needs without breaking the bank.

Moderating Home Values

The rapid increase in home prices over the past few years is beginning to slow down. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, house price appreciation was lower in the fourth quarter of 2023 than in previous quarters. This moderation can provide buyers with more negotiating power and the possibility of finding homes with price reductions.

New-Home Inventory on the Rise

The construction of new homes is another positive trend. February 2024 saw a nearly 6% year-over-year increase in housing starts. While builders face challenges like supply shortages and higher costs for land and labor, the growing inventory of new homes offers more options. New construction homes also provide the benefit of modern amenities and less immediate maintenance.

Personal Considerations for Homebuying

Where Do You Want to Be in 5 Years?

Buying a home is a long-term commitment. Unlike renting, where you can move every year or two, homeownership involves planning for several years down the road. Consider your career, family, and community when deciding to buy. Are you likely to stay in the same area? Do you want to be near certain schools, parks, or amenities?

Financial Stability

Your financial situation is crucial in this decision. Is your income steady? Will you need to move for your job soon? Ensure your job provides stability and that you have a solid emergency savings fund. Lenders will also look at your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and savings, especially for the down payment.

Credit Score and Debt Load

A good credit score can qualify you for better mortgage rates and terms. For a conventional mortgage, aim for a FICO score of 620 or higher. FHA loans require a score of at least 580 with a 3.5% down payment, while VA loans for military service members and veterans typically require a score of 620.

Calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to ensure you meet lender requirements. Fannie Mae suggests a maximum DTI of 36%, though exceptions can go up to 50%. Keep your DTI low by managing debts effectively.

Savings and Down Payment

Saving for a down payment is a significant part of the homebuying process. While some loans require as little as 3% down, aiming for 20% can help you avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). The average down payment in the third quarter of 2023 was 14.7%, according to Realtor.com. Ensure your savings also include a buffer for emergencies and unexpected costs.

Making Your Move

Shop Smart

Finding the best mortgage rate requires diligence. Compare offers from multiple lenders and get pre-approved for a loan. This not only helps you understand your budget but also shows sellers you are a serious buyer.

Explore and Negotiate

Look for homes within your budget and be prepared to negotiate. With moderating prices and increasing inventory, there is potential to find great deals, especially on homes that have been on the market for a while.

Consider New Construction

New construction homes can be an excellent option, providing the latest in home design and energy efficiency. Builders may offer incentives, especially for homes that have been sitting unsold.

Conclusion: Seize the Opportunity

While the current mortgage rates might seem daunting, remember that buying a home is about more than just the rates. It’s about finding a place where you can grow, build memories, and establish a sense of belonging.

The improving inventory, moderating prices, and increasing new-home options make 2024 a promising year for homebuyers.

As you navigate the home-buying process, keep your personal and financial situation in mind. With careful planning and smart shopping, you can find a home that fits your needs and budget. Embrace the journey with optimism and confidence, knowing that your dream home is within reach.

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