Strong First Time Home Sales Make This a Move Up Market!

Over the course of the last year, I have noticed that my personal sales history shows that smaller homes are selling much faster than larger homes.  I have seen a number of 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes sell in less than 30 days, even in this austere market.  And these homes are selling for strong prices, several having appreciated in the last year.  One of the small homes that I sold in 2009 set the mark for the highest price per square foot in its Plano neighborhood.

Across the nation, the strength of smaller size homes seems to be consistent.  A USA Today article published this morning addresses this topic directly.  The article quotes statistics from the National Association of Home Builders noting that this trend has not been overlooked by those who bring new product to the market.  The median square footage of homes has dropped about 9%, from a peak of 2300 sq ft in the third quarter of 2006 to 2100 sq ft in the same period of 2009.

I believe there are a couple of factors that cause this trend to occur.  First, the general strength of the economy has everyone scrutinizing expenditures, and people are beginning to realize that they can survive on less.  The thought pattern goes something like this “We’d love to have the media room, but do I really need it?  Perhaps now is not the time – we’ll get that in the next house.”  Second, the strongest segment of the market is in first time home buyers.  People are realizing that given price levels, interest rates and tax incentives, it make sense to buy a home rather than rent for those who can qualify for a mortgage.  First time home buyers have not built up equity over the years and usually start by purchasing smaller homes.  The combination of these occurrences leads to smaller homes outperforming larger homes in the current market.

So what’s the moral of the story?  If you have been in your first home for the last several years, and are thinking that perhaps now is the time to move up, you couldn’t be more right.  Your smaller starter home will yield the best price in the market, and the home that you purchase will likely be discounted from its level of the past couple of years.  The market is taking shape to make now the best time to step into a larger home.

Did the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit Work?

As 2009 draws to a close, I am wondering how well the first time home buyer tax credit worked this year. Rather than simply speculate, I will look to market numbers to answer the question. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), first time home buyers accounted for 47 percent of all real estate transactions that were completed thus far in 2009. That figure represents an all time high percentage of first time home buyers, eclipsing the mark of 41 percent that was seen last year and the previous record high of 44 percent in 1991.

Money Picture
Up to $8000 coming back to First Time Home Buyers

Paul Bishop, NAR Vice President of Research notes, “It’s interesting to note the last cyclical peak of first-time home buyers was during the last noteworthy economic downturn, with first-time buyers starting the chain reaction that led the nation out of recession.” Well, I’m all for pulling out of the recession, so I sure hope that an upward trend of home sales continues in 2010.

In addition to the tax credit received by first time home buyers in 2009, there were additional factors that contributed to the increase in the number of first time home buyers. Interest rates were phenomenally low throughout the year. I would hope that they remain low through the next year, but prolonged periods of interest rates this low have not often been observed in our economic history. Additionally, home prices in many areas fell during the past year. So, bottom line, there was a product “on sale” with very cheap financing that someone (Uncle Sam) was paying the consumer to buy. Sounds like a good recipe for success. To those first time home buyers who purchased a home in 2009, congratulations! To find out if, and how much, tax credit you received, click here.

First Time Home Buyer

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, I believe that now is an excellent time for first time home buyers in Dallas to enter the market. Many entry level homes are available at great prices in Dallas, especially if you are a first time home buyer that can do a few repairs. The number of foreclosure properties in Dallas is increasing, but these properties frequently come with a few warts. Given that the last occupant could not afford the mortgage, it is likely that they could not afford to keep up with repairs either. However, with a little TLC, Dallas homes can be spectacular again. They are all at a discount price for first time home buyers in Dallas.

Dream House Sketch
Live Your Dreams!!

So how do you go about buying a home in Dallas as a first time home buyer? How do you know if you are getting a good deal? How do you get it financed? How does the closing process actually work? How do I obtain good advice when being a first time home buyer? All of these are great questions, and the answer to most of them is “don’t do what I did when I was a first time home buyer in Dallas.” Here’s my story…

Young and relatively new to Dallas, I was ready to be a first time home buyer. A US Navy officer at the time, I knew that I could obtain financing through the VA and have little out of pocket cost. I walked into a local real estate office in and announced that I was ready to be a first time home buyer in Dallas. I was soon signing a long term representation agreement with an agent that turned out not to know very much. It was up to me to figure things out, and I made some rather large mistakes (bought a house about 300 yards from the Dallas county line. Had I crossed over the line, taxes and car insurance would have been significantly cheaper).

So here are my recommendations to any first time home buyers . First, work with a seasoned agent or broker that has years rather than minutes of experience about Dallas real estate. Get to know them before signing a long term agreement, and then only sign an agreement if you have a way out. Don’t get yourself tied up for six months. Good agents will always have clauses that will release you from the agreement. Also, if you are a first time home buyer in Dallas make sure that you really trust the person you are working with. Watch the way that they present information and ask questions until you can determine whether or not they seem knowledgeable and trustworthy. If you can get a reference from a friend, do so. If the references you use are provided by the agent, ask them hard questions.

Second, if you are a first time home buyer in Dallas get yourself qualified for a mortgage before you start a serious search. This will let you know what you can afford. No sense looking at $750,000 homes if you only qualify for a $200,000 mortgage as a first time home buyer. When it comes time to make an offer, you are going to have to prove to the seller that you can obtain financing before they will accept the offer. Going through the qualification process early as a first time home buyer in Dallas will help throughout the process.

Finally, think about the things that are really important to your life, and find a home near them. Being a first time home buyer, I purchased in the outer Dallas suburbs, but my life never moved out there. All of our friends and social events were in Dallas. Being a first time home buyer, I could have afforded to pay a higher mortgage in exchange for the fuel and wear and tear that I put on my cars.

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