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NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO SHOP FOR A HOME

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The time may be approaching when younger couples can stop grousing and take action to buy a home.

Why?Prices, for one reason. While those prices may still look high in relation to the prospective buyer's income, conceivably they could look like bargains when matched against prices five years or 10 years from now.

Interest rates are another reason. The investment climate may be changing for the better. Rate increases are unlikely, and some decline is even possible, a situation that experience shows may be temporary.

Market conditions constitute another reason. Some houses have had "For Sale" signs for a year, meaning their sellers are eager for action and possibly willing to help with financing.

There is little question that younger homebuyers have had difficulties in recent years.

While the ownership rate fell generally in the 1980s, from more than 65 percent at the beginning to less than 64 percent near the end, the decline was a consequence solely of bad times in the younger age groups.

Why should a seller want to help with financing? First, of course, to sell the house, but then to obtain a double-digit rate of return backed by solid collateral.

The financing picture is every-changing, usually for the better. While it is true that many banks have been burned, and therefore are increasingly strict in appraising properties and potential buyers, most still want to lend.

Finding the best lender isn't nearly as difficult as it once was, either.

With the multiplication of mortgage products, mortgage specialists have become institutions in many communities, and are thoroughly knowledgeable about what individual banks offer. They can choose the right one, and for no fee.

At the same time, many real estate agents have developed arrangements with lenders in their areas, enabling them to originate mortgages right from their sales offices. In most instances, the real estate agent will charge a fee.

This practice has developed into open warfare between the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, which seeks to have the practice banned, and the National Association of Realtors, which views it as an effective sales tool.