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2009-12-30 12:38:58
Latest Home Price Data Is Good News for Buyers

Homes are now cheap.

No, not everywhere in the country (more about that later). And, even after the latest Case-Shiller data, it's anyone's guess when they might actually turn around and start rising steadily again. It could be years.

But if you've been thinking of buying a home to live in, the current meltdown is a big opportunity.

You might not know it from the coverage of the latest data. Too many, as usual, are focused on the trees instead of the forest. The 10 and 20-city composite indexes were unchanged between September and October. And the numbers were lower than a year ago, but the rate of decline seems to have slowed: Two facts that are both obvious and practically useless. Indeed the latest survey contains a whole truckload of information for all those who prefer data to knowledge.

But long-term fundamentals are more important than the short-term noise. And it's generally a mistake to pay too much attention to doomsayers or to overthink these things.

Here's some home truths.

Real estate prices in the Case-Shiller 10-city index have now fallen by a stunning 30% from their 2005 peak. Nothing like it has been seen since the Great Depression–and, according to some sources, not then either. Obviously for anyone who bought a home at the peak of the market this has been a disaster. But for those thinking of buying a home now this is exceptionally good news.

And at the same time, mortgage rates have also plummeted. In 2006 you had to pay an average of about 6.4% on a 30-year fixed loan, according to the Federal Reserve. Right now you can get deals for about 5%.

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