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Buyers have the upper hand today

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Two years ago, we were in what was called a seller’s market. A homeowner would put up a “For Sale” sign and, if the price was right, be assured of multiple offers on the home.

It was a whirlwind in the market, with buyers eager to buy and sellers receiving top dollar. Buyers got caught up in the maelstrom, certain that they would not own their dream homes if they didn’t move quickly. This led to buyers topping the list price and often outbidding each other to get the homes they wanted.

Sellers had the luxury of sitting and waiting (not very long!), and eventually picking from the choicest offers before them.

Sometimes those buyers would forego an inspection of the home they wanted to buy. Not a good idea!

I’ve been in the real estate market for some years now and the adage is true: What goes up comes down, and what goes down will go up.

And that’s why today’s situation is what we call a buyer’s market. The real estate industry has an overabundance of homes on the market.

Most of them are great buys because sellers and their agents are doing everything they can to induce an offer from the few buyers available.

Buyers, on the other hand, know they are in the catbird seat and are looking for a deal — even on a fine home that’s priced low, low, low to match the market.

Some sellers are now in urgent need of buyers, while buyers have the luxury of time and abundant choice. Realtors are holding the hands of nervous sellers, walking them carefully through all the possibilities, and are sharing the rare good fortune of buyers with a host of great choices before them.

My advice? If you can buy now, do it. Prices are down considerably, putting a fine home within reach. Your choices are many, and sellers are willing to talk.

For most of us, the key to buying a home today is avoiding the quick buck. “Flipping” a home, or buying it solely to update and put back on the market, is a long shot in a buyer’s market. Buying a home to live in even a few years before moving on is risky in a buyer’s market.

What works? Looking at your investment the old-fashioned way. Your investment is in the home you buy, in the place you will live, raise your family, grow your garden and join your community. Time will eventually make your home appreciate in value, and the time you have there will result in a full life with a home of your own.

So now is the time to work with your real estate agent to find out how you might purchase a home in today’s market.

And to the sellers, my advice is to show a home that buyers will want to live in for years to come. Pride in your home shows…and so does a reasonable price! Work with your real estate agent to find the right price and your home likely will sell. Add enthusiasm, a welcoming attitude toward potential buyers, and perseverance, and you’ll have a new owner for your home.

Bonus for buyers:

Being a real estate professional in today’s market, one of the questions we are most often asked is: Should I buy now or will the prices keep dropping?

While most of us don’t have a crystal ball at home, this question can be easily answered in terms of interest rate. So take a look and decide if it’s a good time to buy.

According to Christopher Andrade, senior loans officer for NW Mortgage Alliance: On about May 2, 2008, you could get a 30-year fixed rate at 5.5 percent. On July 2, 2008, the 30-year fixed rate was 6.375 percent. That is a huge difference of .875 percent and almost one full percentage point. That is a huge difference and many in the financial market believe the rates will continue to rise.

Now take a look at the next few examples.

Example 1: Let’s say on May 2, you purchased a home for $400,000 and you locked in a rate of 5.5 percent on a 30-year fixed loan with a 20 percent down payment. That would be a loan amount of $320,000. Your monthly principle and interest payment would have been $1,816.92.

Example 2: Let’s say on July 2, you purchased the same home at a lowered price of $375,000. You locked in the 30-year fixed rate at 6.375 percent with a 20 percent down payment. That would be a loan amount of $300,000. Your monthly principle and interest payment would be $1,817.60. So by waiting for the lower price, your monthly would have been $54.68 more per month, $656.16 more per year and cost you $19,684.80 over the life of the loan. These are examples using real interest rates for the days quoted.

Federal Way real estate agent Tricia Ackerman: TriciaAckerman@PNWRealty.com.

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