By Robyn A. Friedman
If you’re from South Florida, you know people here love to talk about buying and selling houses and condos. But is now a good time to buy?
Well, that depends on what you’re buying, where – and whom you talk with.
The Case for Buying
“Buying a home is still a smart thing to do, especially if renting feels like throwing good money out the window,” says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton. “Owning your own home helps you cut taxes, participate in rising home values and protects you from rent increases. Plus, you can paint your walls, own that big dog and personalize your space.”
Mortgage rates remain at historical lows, so in many cases your monthly housing expenses may be less if you buy rather than rent. Nowhere is that more evident than in South Florida, where, according to residential real estate site Trulia, it’s cheaper to buy than rent in many cities. The median rent in Fort Lauderdale in March, for example, was $1,750, making it 49.7 percent cheaper to buy than rent there, Trulia reports.
“It’s a phenomenal time to buy,” says Andy Weiser, a Fort Lauderdale real estate agent. “Because so much of the market is stagnating — because people are scared — those who will jump off the sidelines right now and buy are getting better buys.”
Craig Studnicky, co-founder of sales and marketing firm ISG World, says that single-family homes are “hot as hell.” “Don’t wait,” he says. “Prices are only going to go up because we’re dealing with very tight supply.”
Studnicky believes the time is right for condominiums as well. There have only been 690 new-construction condos available for sale in Fort Lauderdale since the middle of 2011, and 374 of those are already sold, ISG recently reported. “We don’t have the kind of inventory out there that we had in 2006 or 2007 when Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and broke his crown,” he says.
Still, it’s no secret that the condo market is weakening in areas. “Certain clients I represent know the condo market is slow, and they’re either paying bigger commissions to brokers or discounting condos to move product,” Studnicky says. In those areas, “condo buyers have the leverage right now for sure.”
The Case for Waiting
Jack McCabe, a housing analyst in Deerfield Beach, says that timing is crucial to purchasing a home in South Florida. With respect to single-family homes, particularly those priced up to about $400,000, he says now is a good time because values should remain strong, without price drops anytime soon.
For high-end condos, however — those priced at $1 million and up — McCabe urges buyers to be cautious. “Wait at least 12 to 18 months when there will probably be better deals,” he says, adding that he anticipates price drops of about 20 to 30 percent. “There are better deals on the horizon.”