Why Do People Actually Buy a Home?

It seems that every time we talk about real estate today the conversation immediately goes to the financial aspects of buying a home. Where are prices headed? Where are interest rates headed? Should I wait to try and get a ‘better buy’? Should I wait until I can get a ‘steal’?

The odd thing about all these questions is that survey after survey keeps telling us that price is not the reason families actually buy a home. When money is considered at all, it is in light of not paying rent to a landlord. Let’s look at two recent surveys as examples:

National Housing Survey

The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1.) It means having a good place to raise children and provide them with a good education
2). You have a physical structure where you and your family feel safe
3). It allows you to have more space for your family
4). It gives you control of what you do with your living space (renovations and updates)
5). Paying rent is not a good investment

The Myers Research and Strategic Services Survey
The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1). Home ownership provides a stable and safe environment for children and other family members
2). Home ownership means the money you spend on housing goes towards building equity, rather than to a landlord
3). Home ownership creates the opportunity to pay off a mortgage and own your home by the time you retire
4). Home ownership creates the opportunity to live in a neighborhood that you enjoy
5). Home ownership allows you the right to decorate, modify and renovate your home as you see fit

Bottom Line

Price dominates conversation when we talk about buying a home. However, when it comes down to it, we actually buy for the same reasons our parents and grandparents did – we want a better lifestyle for ourselves and our families.

Despite Fears, Owning Home Retains Allure, Poll Shows

Owning a house remains central to Americans’ sense of well-being, even as many doubt their home is a good investment after a punishing recession.Nearly nine in 10 Americans say homeownership is an important part of the American dream, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. And they are keen on making sure it stays that way, for themselves and everyone else.

Support for helping people in financial distress over housing is higher than support for helping those without a job for many months.

Forty-five percent of the respondents say the government should be doing more to improve the housing market, while 16 percent say it should be doing less. On the politically contentious issue of direct financial assistance to those having trouble paying their mortgages, slightly more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the government should help. And almost no one favors discontinuing the mortgage tax deduction, a prized middle-class benefit that has been featured on some budget-cutting proposals.

President Obama, who has been criticized for both doing too much to help the housing market and for not doing enough, was given poor marks. Only 36 percent of those polled approve of what Mr. Obama has done, while 45 percent disapprove.

In assessing blame for the housing crash, people are increasingly seeing financial institutions as the central culprit. Amid the swirl of recent disclosures about banks following improper and illegal procedures in pursuing foreclosures, 42 percent blame lenders, while 29 percent blame regulators. When the question was asked in early 2008, as the crisis was still building, the numbers were reversed, with 40 percent blaming regulators and 28 percent blaming lenders. Only a handful of respondents at either moment blamed the borrowers themselves for taking loans they could not afford.

“I believe the financial institutions willingly and knowingly allowed people to apply and receive credit at a rate higher than they could afford and this has degraded our economy,” said Steven Goode, an environmental health manager in Las Vegas, in a follow-up interview.

Making an offer for a house, something often done in past generations with little apprehension, is now riddled with worry. Only 49 percent call it a safe investment, while 45 percent feel it is risky. In a market where prices are consistently dropping, there is no easy exit.

“For the average person, it might not be a good idea today to buy,” said another respondent, Beth Lovcy of Troutdale, Ore., who bought a year ago. The value has already shrunk, but Mrs. Lovcy is unfazed. “It works out better financially than renting now because we can claim the interest on the mortgage.”

As the housing market slumped over the last few years with a speed and magnitude not seen since the Great Depression, aspects of homeownership have been debated as never before. There are tough questions about the role the government should take. These include how much of a down payment lenders should demand, whether lenders should be restrictive or expansive in granting new loans, how much assistance to give those on the verge of foreclosure, and whether real estate will ever again be the retirement savings vehicle it once was.

While the debate has been loud, there was little evidence of people’s views that went beyond the anecdotal. This poll offers a window onto widespread opinions at a critical juncture.

Before the crash, housing was widely deemed one of the safest possible investments. Few experts thought there was the possibility of a nationwide downturn. But after it happened, the effects were widespread and painful.

Diane Sherrell, a substitute teacher in North Carolina who retired on disability, traded up to a bigger house four years ago to accommodate an adopted son. “It’s been very difficult since then and we’re barely making it,” she said.

Half of those surveyed say the market’s continuing downward spiral has affected their long-term plans. One in five people say the crisis has prevented them from moving to another city or taking a different job. Nearly one-quarter of homeowners say their home is now worth less than what they owe on their mortgage, a condition known as being underwater. Families in this predicament are much more prone to foreclosure if they suffer job losses or other setbacks.

Over all, people are bleaker about the economic outlook than those surveyed in October. While most still think the current downturn is temporary, those saying it is permanent rose to 39 percent, up from 28 percent.

In the last two years, the stock market has recovered strongly while house prices have gone sideways at best. Yet those polled dismissed stocks as a long-term savings vehicle in favor of a savings or money market account (22 percent), a house (26 percent) or a 401(k) or individual retirement account (41 percent).

Who should be helped to buy is another contentious issue. Whether buyers need to come up with a 20 percent down payment — the standard for decades, but beyond the reach of many families now — is hotly debated. Fifty-eight percent of respondents say lenders should require this, while 36 percent say they should not.

People who cannot pay their mortgage are foreclosed upon. If they can pay but feel that doing so is pointless on a property that has lost so much of its value, it is called strategic default. While two-thirds of Americans say strategic default is not justified, 28 percent think that it is.

When houses are abandoned for any reason, it causes trouble for the neighbors. Three-quarters of those surveyed say foreclosures are a problem in their communities.

“Our home is worth much less now because houses are foreclosing around us,” said William Mack, an assembly line worker in Taylor, Mich.

Beyond all these ills, however, a persistent belief endures that the market will eventually improve and housing will regain its traditional importance.

Donna Boyd, a transportation supervisor in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, acknowledged “it might take a long time” for property values to go back up.

“But I don’t think I’m throwing my money away,” she said in a follow-up interview. “I rented for years when I was younger, and I just don’t like the idea of putting money in someone else’s pocket for something I will never own.”

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted June 24-28 with 979 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults.

NEWSFLASH: There Is NO Inventory!!!

I was in a conversation with one of the most productive agents in our area recently and he told me that there were “no homes for him to sell”. I thought he had a brain cramp. Look at all the ‘For Sale’ signs, all the homes on MLS, all the short sales and foreclosures plus all the shadow inventory on its way. Had this respected agent lost his mind?

As he saw the puzzled expression on my face (which was his intent), he began to explain that every home that is priced correctly is being gobbled up by buyers right away. The only homes that remain on the market for more than 30 days are the ones where the price doesn’t COMPEL a buyer (even multiple buyers) to make an offer.

I pondered his assertion for a while and his premise began to make more and more sense because I am witnessing:

1. Increased attendance at Open Houses. Buyers are coming out to look because they know now is the time to buy(great interest rates with higher rates around the bend, huge inventory available, etc.)
2. Realistic sellers (in terms of asking price) are getting significantly more traffic. This results in an increase in interested buyers; more interested buyers push prices higher. By adjusting prices, many sellers are getting higher offers. By remaining overpriced (and hoping to negotiate down), other sellers are seeing no traffic and no offers.
Why are there record numbers of homes on the market when the properly priced homes are being gobbled up (some at even higher than the listing price)? Because there is a huge difference between a home ‘being on the market’ and a home that is seriously ‘for sale’. Sellers who are serious about selling are aggressive with pricing because that is how you gain the highest price. A little counter-intuitive maybe; but, it’s very true.

Pricing is the centerpiece of your real estate agents marketing plan (although not the only component). The marketing plan should be designed to drive as many qualified buyers to see your home because THAT is the single most important factor in getting the most money – the number of people bidding. My advice is to give yourself the best chance for highest bids by pricing the home at a compelling number.

Why the Housing Market is Three Times Worse Than You Think

Between the recent report that sales of new homes hit a record low in February and this week’s news that 19 of the 20 largest metro areas tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index saw a price slump in January, it hasn’t exactly been a stellar few weeks for the housing market. And yet another data dump tracking foreclosed and distressed homes that have yet to hit the markets – what’s known as “shadow inventory” – suggests things are not likely to get a whole lot better for a long time.

Supply Sigh Economics

More robust economic growth, a pickup in job creation (and wage growth), and a renewed desire by banks to actually write mortgages are all central pieces of any housing rebound. Job growth last month was indeed stronger than in past months, and a new survey of CEOs finds them increasingly upbeat about hiring. But even if those green shoots emerge, it may take a whole lot longer to see any pickup in home values given the alarming backlog of homes currently on the market, as well as homes that may soon be for sale.

Sign of the times in some markets

In terms of homes for sale, we have three inventorytracks to keep an eye on:

* The official inventory: 3.5 million homes. The National Association of Realtors says the current inventory of existing homes that are listed for sale would take 8.6 months to work down at the current sales pace. In “normal” times, the inventory backlog is more in the vicinity of six months.

* The unofficial shadow inventory: 1.8 million homes. According to research firm CoreLogic, there’s another 1.8 million homes sitting in shadow inventory. These are homes that don’t yet show up in NAR’s Multiple Listing Service as being for sale, but that are likely to hit the market at some point. They include homes that banks have already foreclosed on but have yet to put up for sale, homes that are somewhere in the foreclosure process, and homes in which owners are at least 90 days late on their mortgage payments. CoreLogic estimates that those 1.8 million homes represents an additional 9 months of potential supply given the pace of how bank-owned property and pending foreclosures make their way to market.

* The severely underwater inventory: 2 million. CoreLogic uses this category to refer to homeowners that are at least 50 percent underwater on their mortgages. Now there’s nothing that says homeowners with negative equity will in fact walk away from their mortgages. But it’s reasonable to presume that short of a quick turnaround in home values or a settlement between the state attorneys general and lenders that leads to substantial loan modifications, a significant chunk of these homes will end up on the market in the coming months or years.

Add it all up, and NAR’s 8.6 month official backlog triples to about two years or so.

Distress Points

To get a sense of where your housing market stands, take a look at CoreLogic’s comparison of each state’s tally of mortgages that are at least 90 days late to its current sales rate. The states with the most distressed housing inventory are New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Florida, while those with the least distressed inventory are North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana.

Of course, even state-level data doesn’t capture what’s going on in your local area. If you’re looking to buy or sell, one important step at this juncture is to look beyond the official sales and inventory data, and try to get a sense of local shadow inventory. This is where a solid and straight-up real estate agent is going to be crucial. You don’t want sugarcoating; you need an honest assessment of what’s in your local pipeline.

The fact that your local market has a large shadow inventory doesn’t necessarily mean more steep price declines. But if there is indeed a big backlog of shadow inventory, it’s hard to make a case that home values will rebound any time soon given the large supply that needs to come to market and be absorbed.

If you’re looking to buy, a high shadow inventory is seemingly an argument to take your time looking, but keep all the moving pieces of this in mind. For example, even if you don’t have to worry about rising prices, what about mortgage rates? No one can predict where mortgage rates will be in six months or a year, but we do know that current rates are at historic lows. As for sellers, well, if you really want to sell and you find you are in an area with a lot of shadow inventory, waiting might not be in your best interests. Even if prices stabilize, working through that backlog could make it a while before prices start to climb again. 

States with the most distressed properties are expressed in red

731 N. Harbor Blvd. Anaheim, CA.

Large bank owned property in Anaheim,CA. Coming soon to the MLS! Currently drive by ONLY! Large lot, Close to freeways, Disneyland, and shopping malls. Historical style and feel. Call agent for details.

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281 Trailview, Brea, CA. 92821

Bank owned SFR in Brea,CA! Association Pool and Spa. Small association fee. Good schools (Country Hills Elementry/Brea Olinda school district). Located in cul de sac. Coming soon. Currently, drive by ONLY!! Call agent for more details.

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14002 Hollywood, Corona, CA. 92880

Bank foreclosure in the beautiful area of Corona Eastvale with 3,234 SF, 4 beds/ 3 baths, master bedroom suite, bonus room, loft, large family room, large kitchen, three car garage, $360,000. Located in cul de sac.

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Where are the REOs?

Debate rages over supply of foreclosed homes
Why is there such a fierce debate about whether the housing market is slowly healing or heading for another free fall?  Partly because no one can estimate with much confidence how many foreclosed homes banks need to sell or how fast they are getting rid of all that property.

To read the full story, please click here.

bank graph