Has the market "bottomed out"?
Maybe. I doubt it. I expect in many areas it'll go lower.
Is NOW the right time for you to buy?
I don't know. I don't know your finances. I don't know your employment status and job prospects. I don't know what your health is like. I don't know if you've got kids who'll need tuition paid in a few years. [I know, it's your clients, not you. But you asked if it was the right time for you.]
I seldom react as negatively to such poor, off-based advice as you've already received. Let's rip a few of them apart:
"With prices lowest in 40 years and (even better) lowest interest rates in decades, how can purchasing a home go wrong?"
What if next year "prices are the lowest in 45 years"? That is, what if prices continue to decline? What if interest rates remain where they are, thus providing no advantage to buying now versus a year from now? And let's look at the ways purchasing a home can go wrong. The buyer loses his/her job. The buyer is transferred by his/her employer. The buyer or partner/spouse become ill. Or they're doing just fine, but a nearby company goes through a wave of layoffs and a couple of their neighbors lose their homes. Don't you think that might depress values?
"Low interest rate and concessions paid by sellers make purchasing a home a heaven for buyers."
So would you race out and buy a $35,000 car you really didn't need just because you can get low interest rates and some sort of rebate? So would you race out and buy a $3,000 big-screen TV just because you're offered 0% interest for 12 months and free hookup? And let's remember the pre-bubble burst days of 2006 or so. You could get those zero down loans, even cash back at settlement, and negative amortization loans. That sure was heaven for buyers. At least until things went wrong. Just because you can buy a big-ticket item easily doesn't mean you should. And it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.
"I also show buyers what they can purchase in the current market for less than they are paying in rent."
I'll bet you can. That's exactly the situation that existed in 2006 as well. That has nothing--absolutely nothing--to do with whether buying is the right decision. Back in 2006, I was trying to lease-option a property. Market rents were $1,300 a month. But with the financing available then, comparable units were being sold with the initial mortgage payments being $900. If someone had done the lease option (or just rented outright), they would have paid about $400 a month more to rent . . . for about a year. Then the ARM kicked in. Meanwhile, if they'd rented, at worst, for that first year, they'd have paid an additional $4,800 in housing expenses. If they bought, they saw their $275,000 purchase decline in value to about $80,000. So you tell me, which is better: Paying an extra $4,800 in housing expenses or being upside down by $195,000?
"If you like the property, do you really want to look back and say 'I should have bought that house then.'"
Fair enough. But there are plenty of people looking back at their purchases from 5 years ago and saying "I shouldn't have bought that house then." Even houses they liked.
What do I tell potential buyers who are scared to buy right now? It all depends on their circumstances. But I do tell them: "You have a right to be scared. Yes, interest rates are low and housing prices have come down. But we really don't know where the economy is going. We don't know if housing prices will go lower . . . or when they might recover. What you have to do is examine your own situation. If you're comfortable buying--if you can afford it financially and you'll be able to sleep at night if you buy--and if you plan on living there for at least 6 years and the house meets your needs, then you should consider it.
Remember: We're AGENTS for buyers [or sellers]. We do what they ask us to do. I agree with Bill's comments. We can present the information we have (all of it, not just one side of the story), and then we should allow the clients to make their decisions.