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It’s Time to Buy That House

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It’s Time to Buy That House

Two key measures now suggest it’s an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income (but not for a quick flip). First, the nation’s ratio of house prices to yearly rents is nearly restored to its pre-bubble average. Second, when mortgage rates are taken into consideration, houses are the most affordable they have been in decades.

For most home buyers, mortgage rates are a key determinant of their total costs. Rates are so low now that houses in many markets look like bargains.  As a result, house payments are more affordable than they have been in decades. The National Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index hit 183.7 in August, near its record high in data going back to 1970. The index’s historic average is roughly 120. A reading of 100 would mean that a median-income family with a 20% down payment can afford a mortgage on a median-price home. So today’s buyers can afford handsome houses—but prudent ones might opt for moderate houses with skimpy payments.

For example, the median home in the greater Phoenix market, including houses, condos and co-ops, costs $121,700, according to Zillow.com. With a 20% down payment and a 4.12% mortgage rate, a buyer’s monthly payment would be about $470. Rent for a comparable house would be more than $1,100 a month, according to data provided by Zillow.com.

Houses aren’t the magic wealth creators they were made out to be during the bubble. But when prices are low, loans are cheap and plump investment yields are scarce, buyers should jump in.

—Jack Hough is a columnist at SmartMoney.com.

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By: on October 20th, 2011 Category: Uncategorized