Chris Griffith: The Year of the first-time Home Buyer

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The combination of record low interest rates, low home prices and the new first-time home buyer tax credit have kicked off 2009 as “The Year of the first-time Home Buyer.” Nationally, over 41 percent of last year’s sales were first-time home buyers and that number is expected to grow even larger this year.

Locally, a smidgen over 50 percent of last months sales in the Sunshine MLS were priced $200,000 and under, compared to 17 percent in February 2008. Twenty-nine percent of the sales last month were single family homes under $200,000.

Folks who were previously priced out of the Southwest Florida real estate market and first-time home buyers are realizing a dream. While I agree that not every person should be a homeowner or is eligible to own a home, for those who are qualified the time is arriving.

That doesn’t mean buyers should jump in the water head first without checking its depth or temperature, first. If the thought of becoming a homeowner has crossed your mind and you don’t know where to begin, know that it begins with you, the buyer. It begins with you determining whether you’re qualified for home ownership. Even with the monthly mortgage payment aside it’s an enormous responsibility and commitment.

Finding the best mortgage rate and terms and combining it with a home at its best possible price is supremely important. The inventory is out there but if you don’t buy smart and carefully choose the best possible financing and terms it’s a mistake. You’re buying a home to use and enjoy long term so buy it right.

“Now is the right time to buy!” is something you’ll hear and read a lot. Here’s the truth. It is the right time to buy for some people. It is the right time to buy in some locations. It’s just a matter of discovering if that is what is best for you and if the area you want to purchase real estate in is a value.

Every market has a bottom. There are plenty of economists estimating and naysayer’s bellowing their predictions of where they think the bottom is when, in fact, nobody can predict the bottom of any market until it has actually passed. There will be no bell that rings so that everyone knows it’s precisely the time to buy. The bottom is different in your neighborhood than it is in a community two blocks or two miles away.

The real estate market is driven by inventory and price. Some locations are doing better than others and the inventory has dwindled. Other places have a ways to go but will at least offer buyers the luxury of taking their time to shop and research while they wait for just the right price and time to buy.

The fix had to start from the bottom. The sales numbers will speak for themselves. Our market is quietly turning the corner in a healthy recovery process. With the entry level priced property starting to move it is a tangible sign of actual recovery beginning.

Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Keller Williams Elite Realty in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs e-mail her at chris@bonitaspringsagent.com.

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