Ask Chuck: Buy or continue to rent?

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Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

We’re trying to decide if it’s time to buy a house. We have been outbid several times and our landlord wants to increase our rent. Should we wait or keep trying?

Pressured by rising rents

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Dear pressured by rising rents,

My answer is yes – to both. Exactly if or when to stop renting isn’t 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 you are in, I will respond with some market information and some advice from my own experiences. You and your spouse can decide the answer to your question, but it’s good to be patient (wait) and keep trying.

The market is cooling

Many professionals say the housing market is cooling. High house prices (due to COVID, remote working and an imbalance between supply and demand), doubling mortgage rates, inflation/recession and an unstable stock market contribute to the slowdown Sales. There is also a slowdown in appreciation: homes in areas that have appreciated by 10% or more may rise only 5% in the coming year, or even 0%. CoreLogic expects house prices to rise 4.3% from June 2022 to July 2023 on an annual basis. This should be helpful in determining the likely costs of the wait.

Characteristics of a cold market

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

  • Lower listing price.
  • Price reductions after registration.
  • Longer days on the market.
  • Fewer bidding wars.
  • Cancellations of contract.

Are we in a housing bubble?

What we see today is different from what we experienced in 2007-2008. It was a real estate bubble defined by runaway speculation, a huge price spike, and too many homes for sale without meaningful demand. Another factor has been the number of homes sold with dodgy loan financing to subprime borrowers. Many borrowers had no equity, were using an ARM option, or were not qualified buyers. The only factor we have in common in today’s market is high prices.

A real estate recession?

An article here indicates 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 during the August period, in 6% increase over the previous year. However, selling prices fell 6% after peaking in June when the median price was $394,775. Industry experts call it a housing recessionwhich does not mean that the market is collapsing.

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

Natalie Pace reports homebuilder DR Horton had cancellation rates of 24% in Q2 2022, up from 17% a year ago. Redfin warned that 60,000 home-buying deals were canceled in June – the highest percentage of buyers backing out of deals since 2017. Inspections and appraisal contingencies have let buyers out. Others left when they no longer qualified for a loan or could not provide a down payment. A third of June sales were first-time buyers while 16% came from investors and second-home buyers. Since families prefer to move during the summer months, further price corrections may be noticed in the coming seasons.

These 10 cities saw the most price cuts in July, per Redfin: Boise, Denver, Salt Lake City, Tacoma, Tampa, Sacramento, Indianapolis, Phoenix, San Diego and Portland.

These are the cities where real home prices are falling the most, according to realtor.com: Toledo, OH; Rochester, NY; Detroit, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Massachusetts; Tulsa, okay; AC; Memphis, TN; Chicago, Ill.; and Richmond, Virginia.

Realtor.com indicates that a home may be overpriced if:

  • It has been on the market for a long time.
  • Its price is higher than the comps (comparisons) in the area.
  • It’s been on and off the market several times.
  • The 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. This may be due to price, a change in zoning laws, an HOA battle, etc. Find out before you make an offer.

The cooling housing market is impacting sellers, carpenters, landscapers and other construction and renovation companies. Declining sales, inflation/recession, and the higher cost of consumer goods will reduce many homeowners’ desire (and ability) to remodel, update, or make major repairs.

Buyers

Buyers begin to experience FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). In addition to low cash reserves, some choose to stay put in their current housing situation. This will work against you, as many will choose to continue renting, giving landlords the means to increase rents.

Don’t pay too much

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

Patience is good

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

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to all. The Lord is near; do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests 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).

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

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio show, My MoneyLife, which airs on more than 1,000 Christian music and talk stations in the United States, and the author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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