If your clients are wavering on whether to buy a home, there are several reasons they may want to get more serious about their real estate search, according to MagnifyMoney, a personal finance website. Most importantly, mortgage rates remain historically low—but that isn’t expected to last. They’ve been rising steadily, but rates for the current 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are still well below 5 percent, compared to nearly 19 percent In 1981. “The housing market has been on pretty solid footing now for a number of years, and a lot of that is due to pretty affordable mortgage rates,” says Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, a real estate professor at Columbia Business School. In a recent Reuters poll, 45 housing analysts predict that by the end of 2019, the average rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage likely will be above 5 percent. So buyers who lock in a rate this year likely will have lower borrowing costs.
Also, escalating home prices aren’t expected to let up anytime soon. According to the Reuters poll, home values in the 20 largest metro areas are expected to increase by another 5.7 percent before the end of the year. The National Association of REALTORS® predicts growth in home prices to continue in the coming years, but year-over-year growth likely will slow to 3 percent or 5 percent. “Homeownership is long-term prospect,” says Paul Bishop, NAR’s vice president of research. “So as long as prices continue to increase at even a modest pace over the next four, five, eight, 10 years, then that equity does build up, in some cases, to quite a substantial part of someone’s net worth.”
Home shoppers who are holding out for more inventory may need to accept that the waiting game likely won’t be successful. At the end of May, there were 1.85 million existing homes for sale, including single-family homes, condos, townhomes, and co-ops. That is 6.1 percent lower than a year ago, according to NAR. Construction is on the rise but new developments are only accounting for about 2 percent of the market, says Van Nieuwerburgh, adding that “we’re not building enough to alleviate those shortages.”
While there are plenty of reasons why buying makes sense now, housing analysts are quick to point out that consumers shouldn’t take the plunge if they’re not ready financially or personally for the commitment. Prospective buyers need to consider financial security, their location, and their job situation, says Bishop. “Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: Are you likely to be in a particular location long enough that homeownership makes sense?” he says.