As of 2023, only 21% of people say now is a good time to buy a house according to a Gallup poll. This is due to high home prices and high interest rates. While the average home price has dropped since the last quarter of 2022, prices are still higher than normal. The median home price currently sits at $424,495 and mortgage rates as of June 2023 are 6.67% for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 6.03% for 15-year FRMs.
We’ve seen higher home prices and higher interest rates in the past year, so now may not be the worst time to buy. However, whether or not now is a good time to buy a house depends heavily on your unique financial situation and local market dynamics.
Determining When You’re Ready to Buy
Before you assess the current real estate market and pay close attention to interest rate fluctuations, it’s important to understand your financial and personal situation.
Here are a few factors you may want to consider before deciding if a new home is a good play right now.
Making Room in the Budget
When buying a home, the first thing you’ll need to budget for is a down payment.
While 20% of the home’s value is the benchmark, you may only need 3.5% if you apply for an FHA loan. But even 3.5% can be a chunk of change. If you want to buy a $200,000 house, 3.5% is $7,000.
Your home-buying budget should be large enough to cover a down payment as well as closing costs, which typically include homeowners insurance, appraisal fees, property taxes, and any mortgage insurance.
How long do you plan to live in the city where you’re eyeing a home? If you plan on staying in the home long-term, now could be a good time to buy because staying put will give your home time to appreciate (subject to market fluctuations).
Since mortgage lenders pay close attention to job consistency and a steady income, you may also want to consider your job security. Especially during uncertain times, it’s crucial to feel confident knowing you can make your mortgage payments every month.
💡 Quick Tip: Buying a home shouldn’t be aggravating. Online mortgage loan forms can make applying quick and simple.
Checking Your Financial Profile
It’s a good idea to check your financial profile. Doing so may help you secure better financing terms when you purchase a home. Lenders will review your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and assets, among other factors, to determine your eligibility for a mortgage.
Lenders review your credit history to gauge your creditworthiness and the level of risk to lend you money. They look at your debt-to-income ratio to indicate how much of your income goes toward debt payments every month.
If your ratio is high, it can show you’re overleveraged, which may mean you’re not in a position to take on more debt like a mortgage. You may also face a higher interest rate.
Last, a mortgage applicant can list assets like cash and investments. The more assets you have, the less risky lenders view you.
Weighing Renting Vs. Buying
You may want to compare renting vs. buying a home.
If renting a home in your community is less expensive than buying, you may want to hold off on a home purchase. Conversely, if renting is more expensive, you may be more enticed to purchase a new home.
Overall, if you find that these factors point you in the direction of homeownership, it’s possible you’re ready to buy a home and can begin determining the perfect time to pounce.
Observing Interest Rates
When determining if now is a good time to buy a house, buyers should look closely at interest rates.
Financial institutions charge interest to cover the costs of loaning money when they offer you a mortgage. The interest rate they charge is influenced by the Federal Reserve, but mortgage-backed securities are considered to be the main driver.
When interest rates are low, borrowing money is less expensive to the borrower. As interest rates rise, borrowing money becomes more costly. The government has been slashing rates to keep buyers in the market.
But keep in mind that the rate and terms you qualify for will depend on financial factors including your credit score, down payment, and loan amount.
And, if interest rates go down after you purchase your home, you can always choose to refinance your mortgage in hopes of getting a lower rate.
💡 Quick Tip: A home equity line of credit brokered by SoFi gives you the flexibility to spend what you need when you need it — you only pay interest on the amount that you spend. And the interest rate is lower than most credit cards.
Timing the Real Estate Market
Essentially, to time any market, you want to aim to buy low and sell high. If you’re going to buy a property, you’ll want to ideally buy when there are more sellers than there are buyers—a buyer’s market.
In a buyer’s market, buyers have an abundance of homes to choose from. This may also give you leverage to ask for more concessions from sellers eager to close a deal, such as a seller credit toward your closing costs or help covering the cost of repairs.
Conversely, in a seller’s market, real estate inventory is low and demand is high, which may drive up home prices.
Recommended: How Does Housing Inventory Affect Buyers & Sellers?
To identify the current market conditions, you may want to visit real estate websites like Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, or Trulia to look at inventory in your area or ZIP code.
Typically, it’s a buyer’s market if you see more than seven months’ worth of inventory.
If you see five to seven months of inventory, you’re in a balanced market that isn’t especially beneficial to buyers or sellers.
It’s a seller’s market when there is less than five months’ worth of inventory.
Understanding Local Economics and Trends
Because prices can vastly vary from area to area, real estate is often considered a location-driven market. This means that general rules of thumb might not be valid in every region or city.
Also, local economics may play a role in housing demand. For instance, if a large company decides to move its operations to a city, that city may experience a housing boom that creates a spike in home prices.
That said, hopeful buyers will want to pay close attention to the economic happenings and housing trends in their desired location.
If you find a home that seems right for you, your employment is stable, and you can get a home loan with a good interest rate, buying may make sense. Then again, with interest rates and home prices still being on the high side, comparing the costs of renting and buying may be called for.
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*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.