When your family needs more or less elbow room, or a neighborhood change is in order, it’s time to start combing the listings for the right local house for sale. At the same time, though, now that prices have been steadily rising for so long, it’s not unreasonable to ask yourself if this a good time to be looking? The question arises from the investment side of a home purchase; so it’s logical to ask what the investors are doing…
Those who looked upon any town house for sale only as an investment rather than a place to live tend to fall into one of two groups. The first live by the buy low, sell high school of investing. It’s a philosophy that makes perfect sense—it’s been around since before Wall Street was even paved, and its logic is unarguable. Back when U.S. real estate prices took the express elevator down to street level (and below), this group looked at the chart that showed median house prices, noted the cliff they had just gone over, and started looking for the nearest house for sale to scoop up. Their assumption was that these prices had to go up…eventually—no matter how bleak the future looked. Because that’s always the case.
But that group of canny local investors soon found themselves with unexpected competition. Big investment conglomerates started showing up, suddenly looking for houses for sale at bargain prices. The result was a strange kind of bidding war, where the ‘buy low’ investors who spotted a local house for sale at a fire sale price had to compete with institutional bidders (and they had unlimited budgets!). A lot of all-cash sales were made, at a few dollars higher than would have been the case if strictly local investors had had the market to themselves.
Although the second kind of investors may have agreed that there is unarguable arithmetic underlying the ‘buy low, sell high’ philosophy, they are unimpressed by it. Buying low and then selling high is a fine abstraction, but since you never know when the lowest price has been reached, nor when the peak high prices have arrived, they ignore the whole price roller coaster phenomenon. Whenever they have accumulated the right amount of money to invest, their single concern is to find a quality local house for sale, buy it at a fair current comparable price, and then hold on to it. They have confidence that markets rise and fall, but in the long run, a quality residence will appreciate in value. So these are the buy and hold investors.
Now, most of us consider a local house for sale primarily as a place to live rather than as an investment vehicle. Nonetheless, we don’t offer to pay more than its current market value because we don’t want to lose financially should we decide to sell. But in most cases, we plan to live in the home long enough that we consider a loss unlikely. In other words, we fall into the buy and hold group.
So what does that suggest about whether it’s wise to be looking at local houses for sale when prices have risen as they have? I may be a bit prejudiced, but a ‘yes’ isn’t hard to come by. For the ‘buy low, sell high’ folks, we haven’t even hit the previous high water mark when you take inflation into account. For the buy and hold adherents, it’s always the right time to buy a quality home at a fair price—especially when mortgage rates are low. Which means that now is also the right time to give me a call!