18 August 2011
By Jilian Mincer
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 400 points today, and many market experts predicting more volatility ahead, some advisers are recommending their clients put some of their cash to another use: To buy that house or summer home at the shore.
Potential homebuyers certainly have plenty of incentives: Home prices are still way down in many parts of the country, and mortgage rates are nearing their all-time lows. Consider: The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 1 basis point this week, to 4.45 percent — just a few basis points above the record low hit in October 2010, according to the Bankrate.com national survey of large lenders. Freddie Mac, meanwhile, reported today that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.15% for the week ended Aug. 18, its lowest reported rate in 50 years.
Another reason to act now, say experts: While the recent passage of the debt deal is likely to keep mortgage rates low for now, homebuyers could soon find themselves with fewer incentives once the details of the debt deal are ironed out. Lawmakers have been debating a simpler tax system with lower tax rates and fewer tax breaks that could include reducing the generous mortgage tax deduction as part of the long-term spending cuts that must be agreed on this fall.
Of course, buyers still need significant down payments, stellar credit and job security, but if “you’re financially prepared to do so, it’s a great time to buy a house,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “Affordability is tremendous, and if you’re in a position where you have the financial security that others are lacking, you’re in a great position to grab a good deal.” Rebecca Hall, a financial planner in Reston, Va., said several of her clients have decided to buy second homes instead of putting more money in the market. “People don’t view real estate as volatile as the market,” says Hall. “Housing prices go down, but people aren’t on-line looking at it every day,” she says. “You view housing as a much longer term investment so it’s a little easier to handle [the volatility].”