3 Tips for Buying a Home When the Market Stinks

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Existing home sales surged 9.5% in February 2024, the largest increase in a year. Even with the rate of home sales slowing down a bit, they remain relatively strong. With home sales still fairly strong, we’re not likely to see prices come down anytime soon. Combine that with relatively high mortgage rates, and it’s definitely NOT a buyers’ market.

But what if you’re ready to buy a home anyway? What can you do to best position your finances to get ready to buy a home, no matter what’s going on with the market? In this episode we welcome back a friend of the show Mindy Jensen from BiggerPockets to help us sort out how to get the best bang for your homebuying buck.

Remember, even though we sometimes talk about money and specific investments on this show, don’t take them as recommendations. Before investing in anything or making any money moves, do your own research and make your own decisions.

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Why is the housing market so tough for buyers right now?

We start by taking a look at why the housing market is so tough right now — and why prices remain stubbornly high. Some of the reasons that home prices haven’t come down as much as we’d like:

  • There remains a housing shortage of at least 1.5 million homes.
  • It can be difficult to buy a home on a current income since home prices have far outpaced wage growth in recent years.
  • Coming up with a down payment can feel challenging in the current climate.

On top of that, there are concerns about how the recent settlement with the National Association of Realtors could impact buyer representation and costs for buyers.

However, some of these pressures might finally help bring home prices down, at least in some markets. Depending on where you hope to buy, you might be able to find lower home prices as you move forward with your homebuying journey.

Tips for preparing your finances for buying a home in any market

Our episode includes helpful information on buying a home, pointing out that it depends on your goals. Trying to time the housing market, especially when you’re looking for your primary residence, might not make much sense in the long run.

We reference a past episode featuring Mindy, which offers tips on getting the best homebuying deal possible. But we also talk about some of the realities of getting financing these days.

  • You don’t need to put down 20%, even though that’s the conventional wisdom. Indeed, first-time homebuyers often put down 6%, and some conventional programs through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow as little as 3% down. Figuring out how to come up with a down payment is one of the most difficult parts of the process.
  • Government programs can help you get a lower down payment. We talk about FHA loans and VA loans as ways to get help financing a home with a low down payment.
  • Another option is to use seller financing. If you can work out a deal with the seller, and they don’t need an immediate chunk of cash, you might be able to convince someone to help you with a deal.
  • Keep your credit score as high as possible and make sure you have a low debt-to-income ratio to increase your chances of being approved at the most competitive rates.
  • Understand your goals for buying. In some cases, getting a cheap live-in fix and flip, like what Mindy does, can be a way to make the most of your dollars — as long as you have the ability to upgrade the home yourself.

We also spend some time on the rent vs. buy debate. In the end, figuring out why you want to buy is essential to moving forward. Miranda also talks a little bit about how much she likes renting.

Meet this week’s guest, Mindy Jensen

Mindy Jensen
Courtesy of Mindy Jensen / BIgger Pockets

Mindy Jensen is a licensed agent in Colorado, and has been buying and selling houses for more than 20 years. She’s the community manager for BiggerPockets.com, and the host of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast.

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About the hosts

Stacy Johnson founded Money Talks News in 1991. He’s a CPA, and he has also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

Miranda Marquit, MBA, is a financial expert, writer and speaker. She’s been covering personal finance and investing topics for almost 20 years. When not writing and podcasting, she enjoys travel, reading and the outdoors.

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