Are first-time home buyers fueling a housing market rally?

Buyers who are still waiting for the residential real estate market to hit bottom may have waited too long. The first week in May is signaling changes and while there will still be bargains to be had, they might become harder to find.


Housing sales were up for the second month and after five months of declines. At the end of March, there were 3.74 million existing homes on the market, taking an average of nearly ten months to sell. But foreclosures, short sales and bank-owned properties are suddenly selling briskly.


At the beginning of 2009, it was not uncommon to see foreclosed homes sit on the market for a year or more. Suddenly, starting at the end of April, real estate agents who specialize in foreclosed and bank-owned homes are reporting getting multiple offers after only a few days. Many of these homes need work. Some need a lot of work. Many of these buyers are investors, bringing in professional crews to fix and resell the homes in a couple of months. But, first-time buyers account for more than half of recent home purchases.


For those planning on living in their newly bought homes, low interest rates and the $8,000 tax credit/rebate for first-time buyers can help pay for needed repairs. Before clinching the deal, buyers need to have an eye for potential and an ability to look beyond bad paint jobs, ugly carpet and dirt. They also need to hire a professional inspector take a look at the house. It’s best to find hidden problems and be able to walk away before the final papers are signed than to discover that the ‘cosmetic only’ fixer-upper needs all new plumbing or major electrical work.


Handymen and women have an advantage, but whether new home buyers plan to do the work themselves or have experts do it for them, they need to factor in the costs of repairs. Real estate experts recommend that buyers come armed with a sharp pencil and knowlege what they can afford.  If there are multiple offers, buyers should avoid getting caught up in a bidding war and paying more than the home is worth or more than they can afford. There are always more homes coming on the market from which to choose.


The price of foreclosed properties have also driven down the price of other non-forclosed homes nearby and sometimes these homes are even better deals. They are usually in good shape and buyers have more bargaining power than with a foreclosured home, when every negociation has to go through a bank.


The warmer weather and longer days are also a factor bringing out the buyers, especially in colder climates. Will this summer see an end to cheap homes prices? Maybe and maybe not. No one knows for sure, but what is certain is that right now is a good time – especially for first-time buyers – to buy a home.