Posted by Frugal on 1st March 2010
Very infrequently I come across some articles that are so well written that I feel obliged to recommend them to people. And I found it at Irvine Housing Blog. IrvineRenter, the owner of the blog has written a couple of excellent articles that should be must-read for every home buyer.
On “Valuation of Lots and Raw Land”, IrvineRenter explained in details how the valuation of an investment in raw land would work out. To sum it up, land investment works like a call option on the housing market.
On “Loan Assumption is the Appreciation of the Twenty-Teens“, IrvineRenter gave his best advice (and I concur too) that the best bet in building your home equity is probably by buying with an assumable AND fixed-rate loan. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the only assumable loans these days are FHA loans, which have higher fees in general. Why is that? A good deal to the borrowers is always a bad deal to the lenders. The scarcity of such loans automatically tells you that assumable loans are not good for lenders.
And at last, on “Fundamental Valuation of Houses – Part 1“, IrvineRenter explained in details about the math of home ownership cost. His article almost acts like a companion manual to my online java housing cost calculator. All of the factors that he has mentioned, I have included them in my online housing calculator, plus commute cost difference. But just one caveat, garbage in, garbage out. My calculator is only as good as the validity of your input assumption. If your assumption on the housing parameters such as rent/housing inflation or tax rate, are inaccurate, then the results will be inaccurate as well.
So what’s the buying strategy for the housing market? In case you missed it, it’s using assumable fixed rate loan. On a longer term, I believe that the mortgage rates will be going up. Contrary to all the unscrupulous realtors, the best time to buy real estate is when the mortgage rates are at the highest, not when they’re at the lowest. Lower mortgage rates always cause the housing valuation to expand, while higher mortgage rates will rein in the price. Assuming a forward picture of higher than normal inflation, and mortgage rates trending higher, the inflation force may arrest and balance out the decline caused by higher mortgage rates. Nominal housing prices may stagnate for a decade or even two decades, but inflation-adjusted price will continue to decline. Such picture does not bode well for many participants. The renters will see their rents going up due to general inflation. The new home buyers may still see price declining if the nominal prices have not reached bottom. Worse yet, if the equivalent ownership cost of their home is higher than prevailing rent, then they’re effectively speaking draining any potential savings that they could have built without buying a home. In such picture, the only potential remedy would be to have an assumable fixed-rate loan, so that one could recover the price benefits between future higher mortgage rates and the current lower mortgage rates.
And if you cannot find such loan, make sure you put the least amount of down payment, and borrow as much as you can for 30 years fixed. Forget about adjustable ARM. The only way to short the bond markets and US dollar simultaneously and safely without margin calls is to borrow against your real estate holding.