Q: My wife and I have been looking to buy a house for the past six months, but it seems as if the market has priced us out.
We both have good jobs with no debt, but unless the house needs major work or is in a really depressed area, you can’t buy it for less than $250,000. Our price range ends at $200,000.
It seems as if real estate agents are pricing the market high. We saw one house’s listing price rise after interest rates dropped.
It’s really depressing looking at a house that was purchased in 1997 for $130,000 that is now on the market for $240,000 just four years later. The average salary has not gone up that much in four years.
When will this market start to come back down? Or am I doomed to spent at least two hours commuting from a place where real estate is more affordable?
A: While it’s difficult to imagine that real estate prices could be so high, it’s even more difficult to imagine them dropping 30 percent, which would put them in your price range. But given the events of the past few weeks, anything is possible.
If you’re counting on a recession to bring down the prices of homes, then you’ll want to buy over the next six months. If you wait for a real downturn, you could miss your opportunity.
In any case, your best bets will be finding a foreclosed home, or a home that is really ugly inside, but structurally sound. Either of these choices will allow you to build in some value, which is crucial when buying at the top end of your price range. You might also consider purchasing a two-family property, and renting out one unit in order to maximize how much you can buy.
It’s also possible that what you want may simply not exist at the price you’re willing to pay. Consider realigning your expectations or changing neighborhoods so that you’ll be happy with what you can afford.
Feb. 28, 2001.