Buyers Have a Wealth of Opportunity in Today's Housing Market 

Competitive prices, low rates, and improving affordability mean now is the time to act.

Attributes of the current housing market such as low mortgage rates, a large selection of available product, and generous builder incentives bode exceptionally well for potential buyers who find themselves favorably positioned when it comes to making a deal on a new home.

Today's home buyers have opportunities they haven't seen in years. Gone are the days when dozens of bidders stood in line for a chance to purchase a home at whatever terms the seller dictated. Housing consumers should take advantage now of the low rates, competitive prices, and great buying opportunities in today's market.

There is a variety of reasons that buyers are holding all the cards, including:

■ Prices have leveled off and even declined in some areas,

making homes more affordable for first-time and repeat buyers.

■ Houses are staying on the market longer, creating a wider variety

of choice for home shoppers.

■ Mortgage interest rates remain in a very favorable range,

near historic lows.

■ Many builders are offering discounted financing packages and

value-added incentives such as a major upgrade to close the deal.

■ There is a wide range of financing options available for consumers

in all price ranges.

■ The economy is solid, job creation is strong, and demographic trends

portend strong housing demand in years to come -- all of which

bode well for long-term house-price appreciation.

To some extent, it's true to say that it is always a good time to buy a home, given the equity-building opportunities and tax savings that homeownership affords and the fact that it's a more solid investment than almost anything else you can think of.

But today's market is special. It's a much more relaxed atmosphere for buyers than it was when sales were booming. That means you can find the home you want and carefully consider all its attributes before deciding to go ahead with your purchase. This compares to the frenzied atmosphere that prevailed in many housing markets not too long ago, when buyers had to make a snap decision or risk losing their chance of having a winning bid.

Caution, though, to those who may be sitting on the fence waiting for the market to head lower. Those who try to time the market just right in hopes of buying at the very lowest point are likely to lose out. First, it's nearly impossible to predict exactly when the slowing market will start to speed back up again, and in the meantime you're liable to lose the home of your dreams to another buyer. And second, if mortgage rates head higher while you're waiting, or some other aspect of your financing changes, you could easily wind up spending more than if you bought now.

If you want to have the most opportunities in your home purchase, now is the best possible time to go for it. Seldom has there been a more advantageous environment for home shoppers. ■

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Keith Grant is president of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association.

Speaking of Real Estate

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