As Published in The Seattle Times/ New Homes Saturday
by Al Doyle
I bought my first home at age 18. I needed to get the loan co-signed, most of my friends laughed at me, but this was without a doubt one of the best moves of my life. Today, some 40+ years later, I’m renting for the first time in my life, and thinking a lot about when is the best time to buy a new home. Every morning there is a new blog, a news story or an office conversation that speculates about the future of the housing industry. Each expert attempts to top the next with stories varying in nature from The Apocalypse to Pollyanna. Most of these pundits are focusing on the wrong point — the investment aspect of a new home. Not until the early 2000s did investment become a major driver in home ownership. It was a given that over time, owning a home would benefit a family nest egg, but new homes were not get-rich-quick schemes. Today is no different.
Here are the generation-proven reasons for buying a new home. A new home is a place to settle in and put down roots. It’s a chance to make a commitment to a neighborhood and a community and build friends and contacts. A new home gives a person or a family a sense of pride and wellbeing. A new home, particularly today, is built to energy efficiency and sustainable standards that can save the owner tens of thousands of dollars in operating and maintenance costs over its lifetime. A new home is something, unlike a rental, that can be personalized and decorated to reflect your tastes, your values and your entertaining style. A new home, and making regular payments, not only build equity, but also can anchor a personal credit score, enabling other investments. With a new home, your monthly cost can be fixed for the next thirty years (then go away when it’s paid off). Often homebuyers learn that a new home can be paid for in full in less than 15 years with a little extra payment each month. If you are renting a home or an apartment now, what direction do you think your rent payment is headed? Historically rents rise, and with an increasing demand on the housing stock in the Northwest and limited new apartments under construction, a shortage of rental units could easily drive rents up faster than the cost of living.
For me, personally, the best reason to buy a new home, instead of renting or shopping for a resale home, is design. New homes offer floor plans and features that are more exciting that ever. Homebuilders, particularly in the Puget Sound market, are becoming quite innovative in their offerings. Now more than ever, the selection is outstanding. Depending on your stage of life you should be able to find the perfect match in the perfect neighborhood, from high rise condominiums in a downtown setting to cottages tucked along quaint tree-lined streets, to the family home with a big back yard and lots of neighbor kids to play with.
So, what is the best time to buy a new home? How about now? I always start with the Saturday paper.