A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

A Buyer’s Market?

Realtor associations are coming out with campaigns to encourage people to realize that all real estate is local. Banks and financial institutions that are still standing are refocusing on their retail side of providing mortgages. (Much of the mortgage problems banks are having come from the investment side of the banks. The retail side sells loans directly to the consumer, while the investment side bought loans bundled as investments from primarily predatory lenders.) Housing prices are coming down in many parts of the country (however, here in Houston, prices have had a slight gain). Lastly, the news seems grim for the American consumer (although sales reports from Black Friday appear good). Should we declare it a buyer’s market in the real estate industry?

The reason that I pose the question is that one Realtor association said the evidence still points to it being a seller’s market, because of the slight gain in home prices for their area. The fact remains that buyer’s seem to be staying away from the market. This is a traditionally slow period in real estate sales. Who wants to move before the holidays or during winter? Sales for homes have dramatically decreased all over the nation. Buyers are considering their finances, and consumers have expressed fear over their mounting credit debt. This has led many to wait and see what will become of this situation, before feeling secure enough to buy.

The number of foreclosures is taking an upturn, which we should be prepared to see continuing. Many who face foreclosure do not seem to realize that there are steps that they can take to prevent it from happening, but they need to act early instead of waiting till the last moment. It would be nice to see the media placing this message into the public forum more often, because those people in trouble do not seem to be receiving or comprehending it. The foreclosure crisis is starting to effect urban redevelopment, which is a shame for our nation’s major cities. I think one of the great trends of this past real estate boom was the fact that individuals were looking back to city centers, instead of moving further out. These revitalized centers were also benefiting the poor to a degree.

The interesting fact is that our mobile society may become more settled. Employees may request compensation from large corporations that want to move them about. We also might not pick up to move somewhere with the hope of finding a better life. We may just want to stick close to family. With rising fuel costs, we probably will also want to live nearer to work or to the activity that dominates our life. Both facts bode badly for the building industry, unless they specialize in revitalizing urban areas, like a CDC.

What does all of this mean to the buyer? In most of the country it is a good time to purchase a home. You should go through a bank, and you should take your time to look for the property that appeals to you as well as fit your needs. Investors will find many opportunities coming along the horizon, but I would suggest that you do your homework on how you we handle the property. For sellers, this may be the time for you to cut your loses; the future does not seem bright for you, but Realtor associations around the nation are still predicting a good year for home sales next year. Maybe they are right.

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