Can timing the real estate market help you get a better deal?

by Dan Krell
© 2011
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DanKrell.com

If you’re trying to time the market before buying or selling your home, you may decide to wait a little longer after hearing the recent housing data; however, you could also change your mind when you consider some recent research.

First, a recent housing report released May 8th by Zillow.com indicates further erosion of home values. According to Zillow.com’s chief economist Stan Humphries, home values continue to slide nationwide – except for the metro areas of Honolulu, HI (there was a slight increase in home values in March 2011 compared to the same time last year) and Pittsburgh, PA (where home values have been determined to be flat for the time period) (Zillow.com).

Even the Washington, DC metropolitan appears to have taken a hit. According to Zillow.com, area home values declined 0.5% in March 2011 compared to February 2011; and declined 7% in March 2011 compared to March 2010.

Humphries further stated that housing demand continues to be “fundamentally weak;” while housing supply is and will continue to be affected by distressed properties due to higher than normal delinquency rates (which are expected to continue into the near future).

Given the less than rosy picture of the housing market, those doubting the long term value of home ownership may continue to wait out the market. But a recent research article by Anderson & Harris (2010. Timing the market: You don’t have to be perfect. Real Estate Issues 35, (3) (10): 42-42-50) may indicate that you don’t have to be perfect when timing your purchase and sale of your home.

Anderson & Harris studied various strategies of purchasing and selling commercial real estate to determine if there is a significant difference in return. Their strategy simulation provided these results: the typical “buy and hold strategy” over a thirty year period results in an annualized return of 8.18%; however, buying when a recession has ended with a predetermined sale period yields a wide range of return that ranged from 13.38% to 1.42% annualized total return. Alternatively, timing your purchase and sale with the overall peaks and valleys of the market could be more effective than trying to be exact; although they concede that peaks and valleys are realized in hindsight.

Although their data analyzed commercial real estate investor behavior, the results may have implications for the housing market. As the data suggests, attempting to exactly time your purchase and sale can yield a wide range of unpredictable results; while a long term strategy appears to be more stable. Additionally, they caution that market timing can also be affected by macroeconomic factors as well as your personal financial picture; which can reverse positive returns, even if your timing was perfect.

Anderson & Harris’ data may indicate that attempting to time your purchase may not yield the results you might expect; long term home ownership can be as good, if not better, than speculating on the exact bottom or top of the housing market. Likewise, home sellers waiting for the housing market to rebound before making a move may be missing an opportunity as well.

Obviously, you should consult financial professionals before making any financial decision; as well as consulting a Realtor® to assist you in analyzing local and neighborhood sale data. However, if you’re trying to time the housing market, consider a long term approach before making your decision.

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Comments are welcome. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 9, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.

 

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