When is the right time to buy a house?

With rates dropping and even likely to drop next year, some say it's time to act

When is the right time to buy a house?

In terms of buying a home, the time to make a move is now.

That’s what some in the mortgage business are saying on the heels of the Fed’s decision to leave the interest rate alone at its December meeting. That lack of action on the Fed’s part telegraphed the likelihood of rates coming down by next year and even the idea of cutting the interest rate – not increase as had been done repeatedly to tamp down inflation.

“It’s an exciting time,” Sarah Alvarez (pictured left), vice president of mortgage banking at William Raveis Mortgage told Mortgage Professional America during a telephone interview.

But let’s slow our roll here

Yet she also sought to temper the enthusiasm: “Mortgages are so specific to the situation and individual, so not everybody’s rate drops by half a percentage point overnight,” she said. “A lot of the savvy buyers understanding that we’re looking at rates that are going to be closer to the middle 6s know that it’s totally advantageous to actually buy now.”

She anticipates a mass influx of potential homebuyers given the likelihood of a changed rates scenario in 2024: “As rates come down, the expectation is that there’s a ton of people coming back into the market,” Alvarez said. “I can speak personally to that; I’ve heard from a lot of people even in the past week. People are usually checked out right now,” she said in reference to the holiday season. “But people are pretty excited about the headlines.”

Alvarez provided some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate her point about the impact of falling rates. “In terms of looking at rates, if you had a million-dollar loan – so that’s 80% of buying for $1,250,000 – at 7.5%, your monthly pricing and interest is going to be right around $7,000. When it’s down at 6.5%, that payment is down almost $700.”

Buy now! Escape the madness

So, it’s all about striking while the iron is hot, Alvarez suggested: “Being able to get into the door and buy the house that you want before it kind of reverts to some of the madness we’ve seen in the past in terms of a busy market – that’s a big premium. And with the general expectation too of houses appreciating, you’re looking at the opportunity down the road to do a refi and bring down your monthly payment as opposed to perhaps getting priced out of the home you really love.”

Of course, it’s not going to be a seamless, laughter-filled sleigh ride. Not after a year like the industry has had. “On the flip side, there’s the question about inventory and we are in a market where we continue to see limited inventory,” Alvarez noted in showcasing a spoiler. “So in some sense, there are those who may be waiting a little bit longer. It’s hard to say if we’ll ever really see the previous norm of having inventory available.”

Alavarez’s colleague, William Raveis Mortgage regional vice president Melissa Cohn (pictured right), agreed with the assessment that now might be a good time to buy in anticipation of lowered rates. “We’re probably where the rates have come down enough that more buyers are coming back into the marketplace, and prices have certainly not gone up – and they’re not going to go up until next year because we’re in the holiday season,” she said. “As such, now’s the time to start making a move.”

A recent report from UrbanDigs buttresses the point further in confirming a “buyers’ market” status.

“The only element missing is supply,” researchers wrote. “This cycle is driven by forces other than an expansion of the sell-side pool, as panicked sellers feel isolated and limited.”

And then, researchers lower the boom: “Nevertheless, make no mistake: This is a buyer’s market and likely will remain one as we head into 2024.”

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