Ask Chuck: Buy or Keep Renting?

Dear Chuck,

We’re trying to decide if now’s the time to buy a house. We’ve been outbid numerous times, and our landlord wants to raise our rent. Should we wait or keep trying?

Squeezed by Rising Rent

 

Dear Squeezed by Rising Rent,

My answer is yes—to both. Exactly if or when to stop renting is not a decision I can make for you, but I can offer some advice.

The value of real estate continues to be determined by the age-old maxim: “location, location, location.” Since I have no knowledge of the market that you are in, I will respond with some market insights and a few tips from my own experiences. You and your spouse can decide the answer to your question, but it is good to be patient (wait) and keep trying.

The Market Is Cooling

Numerous professionals say the housing market is cooling. High home prices (driven by Covid, remote work, and a supply/demand imbalance), a doubling in mortgage rates, inflation/recession, and a shaky stock market are contributing to slower sales. There is a slowing of appreciation as well: homes in areas that appreciated 10% or more may only rise 5% in the year to come, or even 0%. CoreLogic expects home prices to rise 4.3% from June 2022 to July 2023 on a year-over-year basis. This should be helpful in determining the likely costs of waiting.

Characteristics of a Cooling Market

Depending on your city or region, you may begin to see the effects of a cooling market, which are listed below. These should work to your advantage: 

  • Lower listing prices
  • Price reductions after listing
  • Longer days on the market
  • Fewer bidding wars
  • Contract cancellations

Are We in a Housing Bubble?

What we see today is different from what we experienced back in 2007–2008. That was a housing bubble defined by rampant speculation, a huge run-up in prices, and too many homes for sale without significant demand. Another factor was the number of homes sold with questionable loan financing to subprime borrowers. Many borrowers had no equity, used an option ARM, or were not qualified buyers. The only factor we have in common in today’s market is high prices.

A Housing Recession?

An article here states that The National Association of Realtors reports that housing affordability has plunged to the lowest level since 1989. According to Redfin, the median sale price was $371,125 in the August timeframe, up 6% from the previous year. However, sale prices dropped 6% after peaking in June when the median price was $394,775. Industry experts are calling this a housing recession, which does not mean the market is crashing.

Realtor.com reports that homes may remain on the market longer, but they still spent 26 fewer days on the market this July than in 2017 and 2019.

Natalie Pace reports that home builder D.R. Horton had cancellation rates of 24% in 2nd Q 2022, up from 17% a year ago. Redfin warned that 60,000 home-purchase agreements were canceled in June—the highest percentage of buyers backing out of deals since 2017. Inspections and appraisal contingencies allowed buyers to exit. Others walked away when they no longer qualified for a loan or could not come up with a down payment. A third of June sales were first-time buyers while 16% were from investors and 2nd home purchasers. Since families prefer to move during the summer months, more price corrections may be noticed during the upcoming seasons.

These 10 cities had the highest number of price drops in July, per Redfin: Boise, Denver, Salt Lake City, Tacoma, Tampa, Sacramento, Indianapolis, Phoenix, San Diego, and Portland.

These are the cities where actual home prices are falling the most, per realtor.com: Toledo, OH; Rochester, NY; Detroit, MI; Pittsburgh, PA; Springfield, MA; Tulsa, OK; L.A., CA; Memphis, TN; Chicago, IL; and Richmond, VA.

Realtor.com says a house may be overpriced if:

  • It has been on the market for a long time.
  • It is priced higher than comps (comparisons) in the area.
  • It has been on and off the market several times.
  • Houses around it are selling, but the one you are looking at has not sold.
  • Many homes in the neighborhood are listed, but few are selling. Could be due to price, a change in zoning laws, anHOA battle, etc. Find out before making an offer.

The cooling housing market impacts sellers, carpenters, landscapers, and other businesses in building and renovation. Declining sales, inflation/recession, and the higher cost of consumer goods will reduce many homeowners’ desire (and ability) to remodel, update, or make important repairs.

Buyers

Buyers are beginning to experience FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). Coupled with low cash reserves, some are choosing to stay put in their current housing situation. This will work to your disadvantage as many will choose to continue renting, thus giving landlords the leverage to increase rents. 

Don’t Overpay

Buying too big of a house or overpaying for one can negatively affect your finances for years. Many people are experiencing buyer’s remorse because they got caught up in the real estate frenzy and are now underwater or unable to keep up with the expenses of home ownership. Pandemic checks have been spent, and consumer debt is up. Combine that with maintenance, repairs, higher utilities, groceries, etc., and it is easy to understand the discouragement.

Patience Is Good

The good news is that qualified buyers who have waited patiently may soon be able to find what they can afford. Whether hoping to sell or desiring to buy, trust the Lord, and seek wise counsel.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)

While seeking the Lord’s guidance and patiently waiting, one way to improve your finances is to reduce or eliminate credit card debt. Christian Credit Counselors is a trusted source of help toward financial freedom.

 

This article was originally published on The Christian Post on September 16, 2022.