“The oldest and strongest emotion in mankind is fear.” H.P. Lovecraft
If you watch only national news of financial turmoil and declining housing prices, you may fear now is not the time to buy a home. While that may be the case in other states, it’s not an accurate picture of the market in Washington. We have a unique set of economic variables that sets us apart from much of the country.
As the financial regulator responsible for overseeing the financial safety and soundness of our state-chartered banks and credit unions, the Department of Financial Institutions stays in close touch with local real estate market conditions. This message is prompted by that “local knowledge” and a concern that the true nature of Washington real estate market has been lost among the national headlines.
Is it a great time for everyone in Washington to buy a home? No. However, we can truthfully say this may be a great time for you to buy.
There are many reasons for optimism.
Long-term mortgage rates are in historically low ranges and, contrary to what you may think, our state’s banks, credit unions, consumer loan companies and mortgage brokers have money available for buyers with reasonably good credit.
Also, Congress acted to expand a number of home loan programs. Washington’s financial institutions have a strong presence in your communities and have excellent financing options for home buyers, including great programs for first time homebuyers. With the addition of expanded FHA guidelines, they can meet a variety of different borrower needs.
Additionally, there is a good selection of new and existing homes available on the market. Reports of plummeting home values are almost always coming from markets far from Washington . Here, home values are generally stable, experiencing only modest fluctuations up or down over the past year.
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is the reality that the Washington economy continues to outperform the national economy.
If you want to buy a home, expect to live in the home for at least three years. If the only reason you are hesitating to buy the home you want is an expectation that you are likely to get the same home for considerably less money if you wait a few months, you may want to reconsider. Very few of us are lucky enough to pick the bottom of a stock market downturn – and that also holds true for the housing market.
For many buyers looking for that perfect home, now may be the time to buy and be comfortable in your new home. Depending on your personal financial situation, this could be an opportune time to contact a Realtor or homebuilder to help you find that perfect home and a Washington financial institution or mortgage broker to assist with your financing.
There are many resources available to assist you with your decision. The state Department of Financial Institutions, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, our state’s financial institutions, mortgage brokers, Realtors and your local homebuilders association are among the organizations providing valuable information to assist you with your home purchase decision.
Free state-sponsored, pre-purchase counseling is available to Washington residents thinking of buying a home or considering refinancing. Call the Washington Homeownership Information hotline at 1-877-894-4663, or find a participating counselor near you at www.homeownership.wa.gov.
Scott Jarvis is the director of the Department of Financial Institutions. He was appointed by Governor Chris Gregoire in March 2005 and has 30 years of experience as a financial regulator in Washington.