Don't waste your time asking Realtors about price trends, investing in real estate or if it is a good time to buy. It was Realtors who were spouting off two years ago that "it was a great time to buy" and "prices never go down." We all know how foolish that advice was. According to Realtors, every day during the past 100 years was a great time to buy OR sell real estate -- and remarkably the same will hold true for the next 100 years.
Realtors may be knowledgeable on current and past prices for their area, but they are NOT experts on future price trends. Realtors are NOT economists and very few have any business or economic training to speak of. They are SALESPEOPLE. The reality is that they only get a commission if you buy, so they have an incentive to be less then accurate as to their assessments. The few competent Realtors with integrity would admit that prices are going down and most buyers could save money by simply waiting for the bubble to further deflate.
Assertions that you must buy now because of low interest rates is simplistic and misleading. Interest rates do play a role, and rates are historically low right now. However, one can refinance a loan in the future but they are stuck with the purchase price. Further, if interest rates rise, this will put further downward pressure on home prices, as you would not be the only one utilizing financing.
Apart from a few â€œthe world is flatâ€ realtors, everyone realizes that prices are falling. Those that are expecting a quick turn around from this bubble are dreaming. The last cycle took about 11 years to reach peaking pricing from the previous peak. Here are your Los Angeles County vanilla medians between 1989 and 2000: http://www.laalmanac.com/economy/ec37.htm
In the early 1990s, there were price drops in ALL communtities, high end, low end, beach, inland, condos
Pretty amazing, someone who purchased the â€œmedian homeâ€ for 214,831 sold for 215,900 11 years later. However, this bubble appears even larger that the 1989 run up, as depicted in the following graph: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laland/2008/04/where-we-stand.html
. Granted prices are falling faster, so perhaps we can reach a bottom faster.
In my opinion this would generally be a terrible time to purchase. All leading indicators are pointing in the same direction as to the southern California market, (i) inventory has increased, (ii) sales transaction volume has slowed dramatically, (iii) lending standards have tightened (pulling thousands of potential buyers from the market), (iv) notices of defaults and foreclosures are at records levels, (v) the economy is slowing (looking more and more like a recession), (vi) literally thousands of high paying mortgage and other real estate related jobs have been lost in southern California over the past year and (vii) the mania which surrounded the real estate market a few years ago has been replaced by a conservative caution steering people to other investment classes. All of these things will put downward pressure on pricing for some time to come.
The reality is that residential prices will almost certainly be lower later this year, likely lower in 2009 and possibly even lower in 2010. Real estate cycles take many years to play out and we are at the early stages of a down cycle.
With that said, if you find your dream home and can purchase with a large down payment and conventional financing and don't care about prices dropping further, consider the purchase. But DON"T purchase with the expectation of future price gains for a long time. If history is any guide, prices will not rebound quickly when the bottom is finally reached.
Best of Luck,