By Carrie Colby
Buying a home is a little different every year and the following tips can help you buy smart and navigate as we head into the big purchasing and selling season in 2019.
If you’re revving up to buy a house in the next six months—or trying to decide if it’s the right time for you—a little inside information will help you make your best moves. The housing market made some big changes in 2018 as the rise in housing prices (finally) started slowing, and the 2019 market will have its own quirk. Here’s what home buyers and home-dreamers need to know compiled from the last year of Trulia research and analysis.
Inventory’s still tight – but great houses are out there.
Inventory has fallen nonstop for the last few years, and in 2019, that won’t change. The good news is, you can still find a great house. Here are three tips for buying in a tight market:
*Consider a fixer-upper. Instead of looking at houses above your budget, look at fixer-uppers priced below your budget and invest the rest upgrading it. You’ll end up with a home full of your own design choices, and just think of the eventual return on investment. Just be sure to buy smart: avoid fixer-uppers with red-flag issues like a crumbling foundation.
*Look at old listings. Old doesn’t always mean a listing has issues—it can also mean the house was priced too high from the start. Some sellers drag their feet before lowering the price, and the house just hangs out on the market. When buyers search only for new listings, they can miss great properties with price adjustments.
*Get a sneak peek. Ask your agent about “pocket listings” homes that are waiting to hit the market. Often, real estate agents have the inside scoop on homes weeks or even months before they’re listed.
Homes are expensive, but your down payment doesn’t have to be.
Home prices have largely outpaced income growth, making it increasingly hard for would-be homebuyers to purchase a home. And in 2019, limited supply will only keep pushing prices up.
For 53 percent of renters who want to buy, the biggest challenge is the down payment. But here’s something that might surprise them: the 20 percent down payment everyone talks about is way more than what most people pay.
Most buyers pay 5-10 percent down, and some even pay zero (yep, zero). Talk with your real estate agent and lender and research loan alternatives with traditionally low-down payments like FHA and VA.
Interest rates will continue to rise, but not enough to be a deal-breaker.
In 2019, mortgage rates will reach a 10-year high, making an already tight, expensive market feel even costlier to enter. But—deep breath—it’s important to put the interest rates into perspective. Interest rates are still at a historic low at just above five percent. Look back 30 years to 1988. Home loans were at 10.34 percent in interest.
The rise in interest rates can easily be offset by other home buying decisions you make, including location, loan structure, price, and whether the home is a good fit for you. You can’t change interest rates, but you can change your list of wants and needs to make home ownership fit your budget.
Be prepared to negotiate—but not about price.
Despite increases in inventory, prices have remained the same. While some sellers might not be amenable to price changes, the shift to a buyer’s market can give you an upper hand for other asks. You could negotiate for the sellers to make repairs or improvements to the property, for example. It may not change the sticker price, but it’ll still be money in your pocket when you don’t have to pay for them yourself.