A good time to buy? Yes, but no need to rush

Many housing economists have said that for borrowers with stable incomes, good credit history, and FICO scores of at least 620, now is an opportune time to purchase a home. Although inventory rates are below the long-run average, there still are plenty of options available for buyers of high-end homes.

  • Consumers trying to time the market and purchase their home when prices are likely to rise again are advised to take a different approach. While home prices have stopped declining in most areas, and even have risen in some markets, mortgage rates may rise, offsetting any potential savings.
  • Early last year, the Federal Reserve began purchasing mortgage-backed securities, which helped maintain low interest rates for consumers. However, the Fed’s purchase program ended in March, and some analysts forecast interest rates to increase throughout the rest of the year. One financial publishing company predicts that rates likely will rise to 5.5 percent by mid-2010 and close the year at 5.75 percent to 6 percent. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) projects rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to average 5.6 percent this year.
  • Closely-watched indices, including the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Index, indicate that the high end of the market didn’t experience the same dramatic price appreciation as the low end. Home prices in this segment have not declined as steeply as homes in the mid- to low-end of the market. Additionally, many discretionary sellers in the high end—those who do not have to sell their homes—are opting to wait until home prices rise before listing their homes for sale.
  • The high end of the market also is facing challenges with buyers qualifying for financing. During the height of the market, many high-end home purchases were fueled by exotic mortgage products. Now that those mortgages are no longer readily available, many lenders are requiring borrowers to provide proof of income, such as W-2s and recent paystubs, as well as demonstrate their ability to meet the monthly mortgage obligation.

From the Wall Street Journal

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