I feel the answer to this question has changed a lot over the last few years. Bottom line: it depends on you and your goals. Knowing that our market has dropped like a stone to the bottom of a lake, and prices have plummeted, does it make sense to pay rent every month, or jump into still settling waters?
In terms of value, the time is right to buy. There has been close to a 50% drop in prices across the housing market in SW Florida. No one could have expected the magnitude of our market correction. If you’ve been renting, you’ve probably watched with a mixture of relief (at not buying) and awe (as in open-mouthed) as the market crumbled, knowing that your rent wasn’t exactly a wasted expense. Unless, of course, you’re one of the renters who was forced onto the street after your landlord went into foreclosure. Not as bad as going into foreclosure yourself, but still not a pleasant experience.
Whether you got fleeced, recovered and are looking to try investing again or, even better, if you’ve been renting this whole time and want to buy, now truly is a great opportunity. As a Realtor since 2004, it has been very exciting for me to see how this market has created new opportunities for people who may have never been able to buy.
Eventually, people who, through the market and the stimulus plan, are taking great pride in owning their own home will help end this housing crisis. Making the house a “home” will help the market sustain itself by removing the speculation and flipping. There’s nothing wrong with a little flipping, but, as a community, we need to realize that unless the end buyer is living in the house or renting it for years (making a home for tenants), we’ll end up with same problem over the last couple years: speculators selling to speculators- that doesn’t last.
Having said that, my best advice for potential buyers is to speak to a Realtor as well as your financial advisor and find out if you can afford a monthly house payment compared to what you are paying in rent. If it’s close to the same number and you are prepared to settle in the house, then go for it and become a homeowner. It’s very rewarding and if you buy now, you’ll be able to take advantage of the $8,000 stimulus tax credit if this is your first home. If you are not up for the commitment of owning, then keep on renting, which may allow you more freedom and fewer worries. Do your research and happy hunting!