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June 20, 2012
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Here are some facts and advice on what to ask about home ownership

Since 2008, there have been a lot of changes in the economy and the real estate market. The one major change that has affected most of us in this area is our property values have decreased by up to 50 percent in some cases. We have seen a major amount of foreclosures and short sales. The one positive thing for home buyers is there are a lot of great deals out there.

Today, there are approximately 339 residential properties for sale in western Garfield County. Of those, 117, or 35 percent, were under contract and 249 of those properties were listed for sale under $300,000. In the past 12 months, 462 residential properties have sold. The activity in the market is strong for sales of properties in good condition, priced right and in preferred areas. We are seeing multiple offers at above asking price for properties in those categories. The remaining part of the market is a lot of homes need major repairs and others are overpriced for the market.

It is a prime time to purchase properties for the savvy buyer, as interest rates are at an all-time low and there are great deals out there. Buyers need to know their local market or work with an experienced, honest broker. It is also a great time for investor buyers, because the rental market is very strong at this time and investors can get a great return.

Owning versus renting

Without question, owning a home comes with responsibilities and risks you don't have to worry about when you rent, such as a mortgage, taxes, homeowner's insurance, maintenance and repairs, to name a few. However, financial advisors - not to mention homeowners themselves - say there are far more advantages to owning:

• Historically, over time, you'll lose money by renting instead of owning your own home. Why not build up equity in a home instead of paying your landlord's mortgage?

• Although there are periodic market drops, historically, owning a home has been a prime financial investment

• You can take advantage of many ongoing tax benefits, like deducting the interest on your mortgage and property taxes from your income tax.

• Owning a home isn't just a good investment in financial terms, it's also an investment in a higher quality of life, particularly if you have a family or if you're planning one.

• There is a special kind of pride in the ownership and upkeep of a home you won't get with renting.

At the end of the day, it just feels good to own your own home. You can decorate it any way you like, renovate or build additions, personalize your landscaping.

Do you qualify to own?

There's only one way to find out: Go to your bank and/or other lending institution and have them perform a credit check and analyze your financial situation. You might be surprised, because the pity is there are many renters who financially qualify to own their own homes, but don't realize it. Are you in this category?

It would be a shame if you wanted to own your own home, but didn't know you could, particularly in this perhaps once-in-a-lifetime buyers' market. Also, keep in mind you may be eligible for loans insured by the Veterans Administration or the Federal Housing Administration.

Is it a good time to buy?

Generally speaking, if you're financially qualified, your timing couldn't be better. In fact, few markets have ever offered the kinds of opportunities that currently exist for first-time home buyers, because:

• Home prices are down generally

• Mortgage rates are historically low. You might be able to lock-in at a very low rate on a 30-year mortgage.

• There is a large listing inventory generally, i.e., plenty of homes to choose from.

• There are many foreclosed homes and distress sale listings available at greatly reduced prices.

• There are many builder liquidations, i.e., new homes, available at greatly reduced prices.

Glenn Ault is a broker at Bray Real Estate in Rifle.

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The Post Independent Updated Jun 20, 2012 06:16PM Published Jun 20, 2012 06:15PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.