That's the message from Janet Cristiano, the broker/managing partner at Prudential California Realty.
Sure, she's a Realtor and she's saying what real estate agents are supposed to say to promote sales and improve their business which, as everyone knows, has not been very robust lately.
But Cristiano may have a point. Fixed, 30-year interest rates are in the 4-and-5 percentage point brackets, historic lows for this century and certainly since the 18-19-percent ranges in the early 1980s.
Home prices are also low, with existing homes now selling at 1999 prices in much of the Tri-Valley and far less in the foreclosure-hot communities of Brentwood, Antioch, Mountain House and even in parts of Livermore.
Experts say the stars are aligned in favor of buyers with good credit, especially for first-time buyers who can take advantage of recent stimulus packages that can make their purchase even less expensive, but also for those who want to sell their house in Pleasanton and move up into more spacious quarters.
Interest rates are not likely to stay this low for long and home prices appear to be bottoming out. In Pleasanton, there is a variety of homes ranging from seven room estate homes in Ruby Hill that sell for $3 million and more to town homes for much less.
Although Pleasanton hasn't escaped the downturn in sales and downward trend in prices, the market here is better than in many neighboring communities and in far better shape than the state as a whole. Conditions also seem to be getting better, with more sales so far in the first quarter of 2009 than at the same time a year ago.
"So the buyer's confidence is building again and, of course, affordability has gotten better as prices have gone down," Cristiano explained.
It's the lack of confidence that interest rates have dropped about as far as they will and that home prices have nearly bottomed out that has kept most buyers out of the market. There's also been difficulty in finding mortgage lenders willing to make loan commitments.
Today, conforming loans (the most common and easiest to arrange financing) include mortgages below $729,000, much better funding is available to a large group of buyers.
Most of the higher mortgages are for homes in Ruby Hill, Castlewood and other high-end Pleasanton neighborhoods where prices range from $2 million to $4 million and even higher. For those homes, it's not uncommon for buyers to seek jumbo mortgages well above the $729,000 mark. With good equity, say from selling an existing home in the $1 million range, and good credit, more jumbo mortgages are being written. But it's even more important for buyers seeking those types of mortgages to be "squeaky clean" in their credit rating.
As good as the timing is for prospective home buyers today, it's even better for first-time home buyers or anyone who has not owned a home in the last four years. These buyers are now eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $8,000, a benefit recently put into place to encourage buyers to purchase right now. It's not a deduction or loan to be re-paid, but a credit against taxes owed in the current year. Special benefits also include smaller down payments with fixed-rate, 30-year loans available through the FHA with as little as 3 percent down for qualified buyers on conforming loans.
"I've seen quite a few up-and-down real estate marketing cycles in my years as a Realtor in Pleasanton," Cristiano said. "This has been the most difficult but we're starting to work our way out of it."