Thursday, Apr. 16, 2009


We all know the story. Housing got way too hot a few years ago, and when the bubble burst it took down the whole economy. Well, as housing recovers so too will everything else. Dire forecasts persist. Some argue that home prices will not begin to recover before 2011. But this is a long-term investment. What's a few years — especially if you can drive a hard bargain now? Besides, there are modest signs that the turn could come much sooner, and when it does the deals will go away. Prices have fallen by 50% or more in parts of Florida, Nevada and Arizona. That's a stunning discount which when coupled with low mortgage rates makes housing today more affordable than it has been in many years. You can now buy the median house with 37% less income than you needed two years ago. Meanwhile, the government is offering up to $8,000 in tax credits this year for first-time buyers — an amount that would cover nearly half of a standard down payment on a typical home priced at $165,600. You can get below-market financing on new homes from builders like Toll Bros. (recently offering a 3.99% 30-year fixed rate mortgage) and Lennar (3.625%), and you can find deep discounts in the foreclosure market. Vacation properties have undergone an equally dramatic decline. Beach houses that once cost $3 million are now available for $1.5 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. The typical second home now runs $150,000, down from $204,100 at the peak, NAR reports.

See pictures of Americans in their homes.