2. The only true sign of a bottom is a price low enough so that you could rent out the house and make a profit. Then you’ll know it’s pretty safe to buy for yourself because then rent could cover the mortgage and ownership expenses if necessary, eliminating most of your risk. The basic buying safety rule is to divide annual rent by the purchase price for the house:
annual rent / purchase price = 3% means do not buy, prices are too high
annual rent / purchase price = 6% means borderline
annual rent / purchase price = 9% means ok to buy, prices are reasonable
So for example, it’s borderline to pay $200,000 for a house that would cost you $1,000 per month to rent. That’s $12,000 per year in rent. If you buy it with a 6% mortgage, that’s $12,000 per year in interest instead, so it works out about the same. Owners can pay interest with pre-tax money, but that benefit gets wiped out by the eternal debts of repairs and property tax, equalizing things. It is foolish to pay $400,000 for that same house, because renting it would cost only half as much per year, and renters are completely safe from falling housing prices. Subtract HOA from rent before doing the calculation for condos.
Although there is no way to be sure that rents won’t fall, comparing the local employment rate (demand) to the current local supply of available homes for rent or sale (supply) should help you figure out whether a big fall in rents could happen. Checking these factors minimizizes your risk.
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