You don’t have to spend much time viewing real estate listings before you want to know how to find houses with lower prices.
Housing affordability is a huge problem for both buyers and renters. Aside from the benefits of owning a home, you may want to buy a house to shield yourself from future rent hikes. Paying a fixed rate mortgage brings stability to your housing costs as opposed to being at the whims of a landlord’s desires every time a lease expires. But homeownership is a difficult goal these days with record-high home prices throughout many countries.
A Brief Explanation of Why Do Houses Cost Too Much?
By and large, housing markets have been demanding robust increases in price, especially in major metropolitan areas. At the most basic level, supply and demand drive prices up because more people want homes than there are homes on the market.
The supply, or housing inventory, is also low because older people choose to stay in their homes as long as they are physically able. Would you want to rush into “senior living” apartments if you don’t have to? Demographically, the population is aging, which means more old people staying in their homes.
Regardless of age, rising home prices can keep more people in their homes. The temptation to sell at a profit is blunted by the worry of not being able to afford a new place to live.
Home builders have ceased building new homes for a lot of reasons, but the absence of new, affordable starter homes stems from high building costs and the desire to make money. Builders want to invest in building big, fancy homes so they can sell them for big prices. Simply put, the profit margin is better on big houses.
What all of this comes down to is that in most places it’s a seller’s market. Sellers can ask for high prices and generally get them. It does not matter how many people can’t afford the houses. What matters is all of the people who can put their money on the table.
Strategies for How to Find Houses With Lower Prices
1. Wait Until Winter
It does not matter if you live in a hot or cold climate. Homes on the market in the winter do not sell for as much as those that sell in the fairer seasons. On average, homes sell in the winter for up to 10% less than homes selling in the spring or summer.
One simple reason is that the days are short. People have a hard time looking at homes in the dark after work. People also don’t like to move in the winter months due to bad weather, disruption of school year for kids, or the holidays.
For a long time, people have known that they should list their homes for sale in the spring. Buyers are ready to move in the summer, and there is more daylight for viewing homes.
This seasonal constraint on housing inventory could be your opportunity to get the most house for your precious dollars.
What you really want to look for are summer’s leftovers. Those sad, rejected dwellings that failed to appeal under the light of day will be lingering on the market, and their owners should be increasingly motivated. Many disappointed sellers take their unwanted homes off the market in winter with hopes of relisting in the spring after making repairs or upgrades.
Some unfortunate souls, however, may leave their houses for sale all winter. This is the signal that they might take a lower offer. Other people just get stuck selling in the winter because they have to move for employment reasons or emergencies. Either way, you have a higher chance of dealing with someone who’s not in the strongest negotiating position.
Of course, homes that go unsold in summer and linger into the winter most likely did not sell for a reason. What the reason is on any particular property may or may not be a deal breaker for you. You’ll have to decide if you can deal with the problems or not. Perhaps a toy from the island of unwanted toys is better than no toy at all on Christmas morning.
Which raises the subject of distressed properties.
2. Consider Distressed Properties
A distressed property is one that is:
- On the verge of foreclosure
- In foreclosure
- Bank owned
An owner confronted by a looming foreclosure is motivated. That person may dump a property on the market at a reduced price for the speed of resolving the mortgage that cannot be paid. Additionally, these properties tend to be in various states of disrepair. If an owner can’t pay the home loan that person is not able to pay for maintenance.
After a lender forecloses on a home, it will eventually go to auction. Not all properties sell at auction, which leaves the lender still in possession. These are called bank owned or real estate owned (REO). The lender remains a motivated seller because it will want to get rid of the property.
Depending on the condition of the property, it is possible to get financing for an REO or pre-foreclosure. Many of these properties are decent deals. Their issues are mostly cosmetic although you should inspect them carefully for underlying nightmares.
3 Look for a Duplex
The single-family home lifestyle is nice, but if you just can’t afford it, then maybe a duplex is the solution. The price of a duplex may be similar to a single-family home, but you get to rent out half of it. The income eases the burden of paying the mortgage and makes it possible for you to buy property.
4. Look at Marginal Neighborhoods
It’s no one’s dream to live in a bad neighborhood, but, just because a neighborhood looks shabby, it is not necessarily a horrible place to live. Some neighborhoods that you might turn your nose up at initially are occupied by working people and with modest incomes and retirees. Such a neighborhood might be called a working class neighborhood.
Prices will be lower compared to newer or more affluent neighborhoods. Such neighborhoods could have drawbacks, such as:
- Undesirable school districts
- More property crime
- Proximity to industrial areas or noisy freeways
If you want to entertain the thought of buying a house in a neighborhood of questionable repute, start paying close attention to your local news. You’ll soon notice patterns in where violent and property crimes occur in your area. You will want to avoid the areas with drive-by shootings and the presence of homeless people or drug activity.
As you learn where the truly bad neighborhoods are, you’ll discover other neighborhoods that are just kind of meh. These are the places where you might afford a home. Keep in mind you don’t have to stay there forever. Once you actually buy a home and start building equity, you might be able to sell it and buy a nicer home in the future.
Condominiums generally demand lower prices than comparable single-family homes. Although a condo might be affordable for you, pay close attention to the association fees. They can be expensive or subject to change.
Condos are a little risky because of the association fees and the probability of having to pay a special assessment in the future. Your housing costs will not be as predictable.
6. Mobile Home Community
A mobile home community is the nice way to say trailer park. Not all trailer parks are bad. They fall into two broad categories:
Communities for functional adults
Communities for ex-cons and baby mamas
Some are dirty and depressing, but many others are clean and occupied by young families, single adults, and retirees.
Mobile home communities present a path to affordable housing, especially if you can manage to buy your own mobile home. These vary in cost. Used ones could go for as little as $10,000, and new models run $30,000 and up.
If you can buy the mobile home, then you’ll be paying lot rent for the space in the park. Although mobile home communities are not immune from housing price increases, lot rent will be less than rent on an apartment. If you can pay for your mobile home in cash, then your lot rent and utilities will be less than renting an apartment or house. This puts you in a position to save for a single-family home or for some other purpose.
Mobile home communities have some advantages over many apartment communities:
- You get to park next to your door.
- It’s easier to have pets.
- You don’t share any walls with other people.
These appealing factors and the reduced housing cost make them an ideal way to avoid throwing away cash on an overpriced apartment. Mobile homes don’t appreciate in value, but they retain value for several decades if maintained. That means you can sell it and get a chunk of cash when you’re ready to move.
7. Weigh Pros and Cons of Long Commute Versus Living Near Work
Many people flee high home prices by living in distant suburbs and commuting to their workplaces. This strategy usually saves tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on the price of a home.
The tradeoff of course is that instead of a really high mortgage payment, you spend hours every week in your car and pay for a lot of gasoline. Your time and the cost of operating a vehicle may match or exceed the money you would have spent on a higher house payment. However, if you literally cannot get approved for a loan on a home in the areas close to your job, then commuting is the answer to how to buy a house.
Weigh this decision carefully. People mostly hate commuting. It’s a huge time suck and bad for your health.
Maybe You Have to Move
Math can be a bitch. If your income simply won’t allow you to afford to buy a home, or even rent one, then moving to a new region could be necessary. Not every place has impossibly high housing costs. If you can find employment in a more affordable location, a better quality of life may await you.