2010 Home buyer Tax CreditFinancingFor BuyersFor SellersReal EstateReal Estate OpinionSeattle real estate March 8, 2010

Should You Buy a Home on Seattle's Eastside Now or Wait?

Should you buy a home now on Seattle’s eastside now or wait until after the tax credit expires at the end of April?

People were talking on the Wall Street Journal site and on Zillow about this very issue.  Today people don’t just ask, “How’s the real estate market?”  They ask, “What do you think will happen to the real estate market after the tax credit?”

Here are some of the things people are wondering:

  • Do I buy now?
  • Do I wait?
  • Will I get a better deal now or if I wait?
  • Is it worth passing on the tax credit and waiting to see if prices come down after April 30th?
  • Is it better to buy now because there is a healthy number of homes for sale and good interest rates?
  • Will there be more homes to choose from later?
  • Will interest rates go up and cancel out any possible decline in prices?

I got my crystal ball out as did many others. Money Magazine made a strong case for buying now. Warren Buffett, on the other hand, thought the real estate market would pick up in 2011. Luke Mullins of US News and World Report presented the positive aspects of home ownership, even in today’s real estate market. Truthfully, no one knows what will happen and we can only speculate about what may happen with prices, the number of homes on the market and interest rates.  But all these variables should be considered when making a decision about whether to purchase a home now or later.

I believe there are good deals on a home now and will be after the tax credit, but it’s on a case by case basis.   Here’s why I say this:

Right now…

$6500-8000 home buyer tax credit available for most buyers.

Historically low interest rates.

Good selection of homes, many with very realistic home sellers and prices.

Having the tax credit of $6500-8000 and terrific interest rates,  increases buying power.  Typically, your loan payment is amortized over 15 or 30 years,  a lower interest rate means more dollars per month in your pocket.


Will prices drop after the tax credit goes away on April 30th?  No one really knows. There may be more homes on the market, which we typically see in the summer months in the Seattle area.  If so, the law of supply and demand will kick in.  More homes + less demand= lower prices.  But we really don’t know if this will happen.  We don’t know if there will be less demand. We can only guess.  We can only gamble on what may be.

However, there’s a good chance  interest rates will go up, which means purchasing power will go down. If rates go up 1%, then purchasing power goes down by about 10%.  This means if you could afford a home for $330,000, if rates do go up by 1%, you would then qualify for a home at $300,000.

The impact of interest rates on buying power

Buying a home will, obviously, be less expensive if prices drop (but we don’t know if they will),  and mortgage rates could also be a higher ( again, just a guess, but looking pretty certain), which could more than cancel out any savings in the price of the home.  Remember,  I’m not just talking about your initial investment, I’m talking about spreading the total cost out over the time you own your home.

The location factor:

Real estate is hyperlocal. There is no one size fits all real estate locales, individual buyers or individual sellers.   Some areas of the Seattle- eastside real estate market will remain stronger than others.  Within each city on the Eastside, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, it will vary.   The East of Market neighborhood in Kirkland may be vastly different than Kirkland’s Rose Hill real estate market.  We see that today with a difference in real estate sales performance in different areas on Seattle’s eastside.  So no one should make a “one size fits all” about the real estate market.  It will depend on how hot the area is, how many homes are on the market, and how hot the house may be. ( The Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle seems to remain hot through most real estate markets, as an example.)

Some neighborhoods will be full of homes for sale and the homes in these areas will need to be priced more competitively.  Other areas will have fewer homes to buy.  These areas will have stiff competition among the sellers to grab the buyers.  Buyers will be looking harder at the overall value each home brings them.

The home factor:

In every real estate market, you’ll find fabulous homes.   These homes will be perfect, priced right, and terrific values.  Homes that shine will be the ones to sell in any market.

The emotional factor…

For most people, it’s a huge personal decision when to buy and what home to buy.  If you find a great house and are able to get it for a reasonable price for the real estate market at the time, it may make sense to you to buy.  There are the financial aspects of buying a home and the emotional aspects.  You might find the home you can’t live without and it’ll be worth it to you to buy now rather later.  You may not find a home now and miss using the home buyer tax credit, but you may not want to buy a home now just to get the tax credit.

There are going to be great homes now and in the future.  There are also going to be great deals now and in the future.  The difference in today’s market is you’re dealing with a known quantity.  You have to decide what works for you.

What do you think will happen with the Seattle-eastside real estate market later this year?