If you listen to the media you're probably paralyzed with fear over the terrible market, or at the very least, confused as to what to do. Actually, now is a very good time to buy. Interest rates are at an all time low and inventory is high--therefore you have choices. Prices are good and very competitive, whether you're looking at existing homes or new construction. Sellers (including builders) are offering very good incentives. Who truly knows what the market will do? However, I do feel that we are seeing the bottom of the bursting bubble in Jacksonville and much of the market correction has been done. For now, homes are affordable again. Also, there are some wonderful first-time homebuyers programs out there. I've worked with several buyers that have used them and there are several lenders that offer them. It won't hurt to check it out. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
You say "new home" buyer, so I'm not sure if you are speaking as a "first time" buyer or a "new home" buyer. If you are looking at new construction in the Jacksonville area, I think now is a great time to be buying new construction. Builders are saturated with inventory, and they want to unload it. Unlike the past, most builders will now negoiate their bottom line price, plus they are throwing in so many incentives on top of huge price reductions. If you are looking at resales, I really don't think we are going to see a huge difference between now and Spring 2008 as far as prices. Resales are also in a very competitive market in Jacksonville. Many sellers are offering incentives and many have already adjusted their pricing to reflect this current market. It's hard to say if Jacksonville will see a greater decline than we already have, but the rates are still historically low and there are great deals out there! I wish you the best in your home search!
A couple of comments and then some questions for you to answer for yourself.
1. No one rings a bell when the market bottoms. So DON'T try to time this. No matter how hard you try there is a 99% probability you will miss the upturn.
2. As a general rule, the time to buy is when everyone else is running away.
3. Traditionally, WINTER is the best time to buy. But that may be a northeast rule - you are in Florida - so I don't know how true this is.
4. If you need to buy in the relatively near future watch INTEREST RATES and listen to the news and read the papers. If interest rates seem poised to rise - GET MOVING. An increase in interest rates has a far bigger impact on affordability than the actual sticker price.
5. Keep tabs on you ABILITY TO BUY. Credit is very, very tight. If the tightening is going to squeeze you out - get moving (unless you are content to rent for several years.)
6. Remember that Florida has had a strong correction. Since you can't tell where the bottom really is - don't get too greedy. You will be in your home for several years. Appreciation will return. I don't know your specific area - but in most areas of Florida, it is unlikely that you would be catching a falling knife.
Questions you need to answer:
what are rents like in your area? Where I am -once tax deductions are factored in - it is often cheaper to buy than to rent. And remember that with each month the loan amortizes - so a certain amount of equity is being tucked away at the same time. I had one couple in my office that were literally throwing away $8000 a year more renting when you factored in amortization, tax deductions and price. This is more than average , but in my market I usually find that renters are about $5000 behind every year. THIS IS VERY MARKET SPECIFIC - so you need to know the numbers.
What is your time frame for staying in your home? The longer you are going to stay put, the less important finding the market bottom is and waiting may be penny wise and pound foolish.
Hope this helps.
If you've been monitoring your market, you'll see whether homes have been appreciating or depreciating in price within the last few months. Check with a Sales Agent so that you can familiarize yourself with the market and get their opinion on latest market trends. You should also start looking at homes, so that you can familiarize yourself with different home features and pricing, as well as neighborhoods you may be considering.
I would start looking now, if you find a nice house and you can get a great deal on it go for it. If you don't like what you see there will be more homes coming on the market in the spring. Interest rates are good right now and sellers are motivated. I never liked paying rent myself and home ownership has many advantages beyond possible appreciation. Be sure and work with a good Realtor, there's lots of them in your area.
Here's a thought. Figure out what you would pay if you paid rent for the next five years. Now figure out how much equity you would accumulate if you bought a home today and kept it for the next five years assuming the market stays exactly the same as it is today ( no increaase or decrease in price). Don't count closing costs because you will pay them whenever you do buy a home. Let us know what you figure out.