Is it Time to Break Out the Crystal Ball?

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Experts are starting to talk more and more about a housing bubble.

The most common questions I have heard lately are “Will prices drop if the bubble bursts?” and “Should I wait to buy? If prices drop I don’t want to lose money”

These are both valid questions, and the first one especially is hard to answer. A crystal ball would be a very helpful REALTOR® tool right now. There is much talk recently about the Ontario government introducing measures to cool the real estate market. One suggestion has been to introduce a foreign investor tax similar to what B.C. introduced last year. Since the introduction of the tax, the Vancouver market initially showed a drop, but has returned to a ‘normal’ growth rate. The success of such a measure is dependant upon there being foreign investors in the market. This is true of the Toronto market, but perhaps not as important in the markets surrounding the GTA, such as Hamilton. There have been other suggestions that would have varied affects on the market, but in general the outcome of any measure is a total unknown. Government intervention can often have unintended consequences.

The second question really has two answers, depending on why you are buying property. If you are an investor as opposed to a family looking for a new home, the answers might vary.

As an investor, you will make a buying decision based on the expected return from the property you buy, whether through rental income, or capital growth. In a market as heated as the Hamilton/Burlington area is right now, there is not a large inventory of investment properties that are currently providing a high return on investment due to the large initial payment and the servicing of the mortgage debt. Even if an investor bought with cash i.e. no mortgage, the return on the investment would be limited. If buying for capital growth, it is difficult to predict how much, if at all, the market will continue to increase. With year over year growth currently in the area of 30%, investors are questioning just how likely it is that such growth can be sustained, and if it cannot be sustained, how much potential is there for a drop in real estate values.

As a family (or individual) looking to buy a home, now may very well be a good time to buy. If you are buying a family home, you are generally not looking to sell in the next few years. Real estate over the long term has proven to be a very good investment. Even if the market does cool, and prices drop, history has shown us that the prices will recover, just not in a one or two year timeframe. Also, if prices drop and you decide it is time to move up, the more expensive home will be more affordable assuming it suffered the same percentage drop in value as your less expensive home.

Also, if you are planning to buy a family home, and there is not a cooling of the market, each month you wait increases the cost of homeownership, or reduces the number of homes that are available in your price range.

If you have questions whether you should be acting now or waiting, call one of our Coldwell Banker Community Professionals representatives. They will be glad to sit down with you and discuss your particular situation and needs.

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