Do home buyers need to be cautious?

It seems many first-time home buyers are taking a wait-and-see attitude before jumping into the housing market. The question is: What are they waiting for?In an Ipsos Reid poll released in late March, 15% of those polled said they’ll probably buy a house in the next two years — down from 27% last year.About 75% of the 3,000 people polled between Jan. 31 and Feb. 8 cited the mortgage market restrictions for delaying their buying decision. However, six of 10 respondents didn’t see the 5% minimum down payment and the shorter amortization as that big a deal.

Eighty-four per cent felt real estate was a sound investment, and 52 % said now is a good time to get into the market.

Could the overall uneasiness about the economy and the housing market be more perception than reality? 

Almost half of those polled said they believed mortgage rates are going to be at the same level next year, suggesting they see no rush at this point. The move-up market is also on hold, likely waiting to see if sale prices increase to get more value out their homes.

It’s true the housing market has slowed since Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty introduced the changes to mortgage rules. Many in the mortgage and housing industry believe he may have gone too far. His recent intervention with lenders advertising a 2.99 fixed rate special may have confused many Canadians and could lead to increased caution. 

With interest rates at historic lows, and likely to stay there through 2013, and house prices stabilizing, it’s be a good time to review the reasons you might be staying away from the market. 

Consider the following:

  • Because the housing market is cyclical in nature, corrections are to be expected
  • Broad economic and industry forecasts have not been stellar, which contributes to the cautious mood
  • The Bank of Canada has hinted it is less concerned about household debt levels
  • Inflation rate is still in check despite a recent jump
  • Credit growth is slowing, meaning consumers are  shopped-out
  • Job growth continues
  • Interest rates are in no danger of increasing soon
  • Overall, Canadians exercise fairly good judgment when it comes to borrowing
  • A majority of homeowners believe they could manage their mortgage payments if rates went up

Perceived market weakness may be keeping new home buyers out of the market; however, more mature, experienced buyer may see this as the right time to buy.

Guy Ward is a Mortgage Broker in Calgary, Alberta with TMG (The Mortgage Group Alberta).