Best Home Buying Conditions in Years

These Are The Best Buying Conditions In Years?

There is a lot of a B.C. housing bubble talk again: usually from the same sources that have been forecasting a crash in the housing market for the past 10 years as prices continued to climb and sales continued to increase. It always makes for scary headlines and a topic for talking heads.
Now the slant is that higher interest rates will kill off sales and the long predicted fall in prices will finally happen.
Don't count on it. On virtually any measures, this spring offers some of the best home buying conditions in years - in some markets. In fact, if you are not investing in the housing market this spring you may be missing a great opportunity.
Look at mortgage rates: Even if rates rose 2% to 3% overnight, which is not likely, mortgage rates would still be near the lowest point in recent history. Right now, top mortgage brokers like Mortgage Alliance have five-year rates at 3.24% (the posted bank rate is 5.24%) one-rate rates at 2.74% and a variable rate 15 points below the 3% prime rate.
Look at housing prices. They are down from the peak in most of Metro Vancouver. If you are buying outside of major cities, current prices offer very good value.
Condo example: MLS: V932466 2 bedroom condo in Mallairdville, Coquitlam (Evergreen line coming) for $164,500.
Detached example: MLS F1203862 4 bedroom house with 2-bdrm (unauthorized) basement suite, North Surrey. 7,500 sq.ft lot. Price: $469,900.
Look at the inventory. There are 25,000 residential properties for sale across Metro Vancouver and this number will likely increase this month as the spring selling season gets into full swing. There are also about 8,500 new high-rise condos hitting the market and developers are offering presale incentives for first buyers in.
Examples: Onni has cut prices 3% in a new Parkside tower in New Westminster for first buyers. Salient Group is offering 100 new condos priced under $299,900 at its new 22-storey tower in downtown New Westminster.
Look at the rental vacancy rate: It is 2.5% or lower in most Metro Vancouver markets, providing rental investors with a stable market for tenants.
Look at Canada: International real estate investors see what most Canadians don't appreciate: we have a stable banking and political environment, a steady real estate market, natural resources the world needs and few social tensions. That is why immigrants are buying - and will continue to buy - real estate from Vancouver to Toronto.
Look at mortgage default: More than 99% of Canadian homeowners are paying their mortgage. Our banks are not dumping homes onto the market, so there is no downward pressure on prices.
Look at the income-to-price ratio: Another misleading statistic is that in major markets, like Vancouver, the average price of a home is now 10.6 times the income of the average Canadian. But, as economist Bryan Yu of Central 1 Credit Union explains, this ratio is out of whack because Vancouver area average home prices - the most widely reported - are skewed higher because of expensive homes in three markets that represent 37% of sales and ignore the Fraser Valley. As we have pointed out before, drive half-an-hour south or east from the West Side or Richmond and you can find homes priced nearly 50% less. "Correcting for geographic inaccuracies to better match the economic region (which is consistent with income) yields a significant lower price and hence price-income-ratio," Yu said.
As well, median incomes are not an accurate measurement in home buying. People on fixed incomes don't buy homes. And buyers are often leveraging from a home they are selling. A $700,000 house is more palatable when a buyer has just cashed out $300,000 in equity for a down payment.
Look at consumer debt: The warnings about rising debt ratios must also be challenged. The Governor of the Bank of Canada is worried that the average personal debt ratio is now 156% in Canada. This means a household making $100,000 per year, owes $156,000, two-thirds of which is mortgage debt. Why is this so bad? At an interest rate of 3% or even 5%, the amount needed to service the debt is manageable. Most people do not pay off their mortgages in one year.
Major Point: Take a deep breath. Meet with your lender or mortgage broker to figure out what you can afford before you start looking for an investment. It may be a good time to buy, but you need to buy smart, select a good area, a quality realtor, developer and make offers.

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