Have you ever heard a real estate agent say that it’s a bad time to buy? I haven’t. It’s either “The market’s hot, buy now before prices go up even further,” or “It’s a buyer’s market right now, make an offer while the deals are good.” Come on, agents need to make money, too, right? A good time to buy is when you, and only you, decide that it’s right.


When I moved from San Diego, California, to Austin, Texas, I knew I wanted to live in Austin, but I really had no idea about where to live within the area. Austin’s a great town with a lot going on, but I knew nothing about the area’s traffic, schools, or where the best dry cleaners were. I know that there are plenty of tools out there to help make decisions and there are many relocation experts who can help. But I picked out a house to rent for about a year instead of buying. I wasn’t ready to buy. Why? While I knew Austin, I didn’t know Austin. I couldn’t have known certain things without living there. I also knew that if I bought in Austin, I would most likely soon be moving out of that house to the area where I determined I really wanted to live.

It worked out great. Now when I go to work in the mornings, my commute is quick, the kids are in a blue-ribbon school district, and we’re close to downtown while in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Lucky me, right? Maybe, but I don’t think I would have been so lucky if I had tried to buy a house in a city right off the bat without living there first. Life’s like that.

Sometimes just reading a book about something doesn’t make it feel real. Living it does. Is there something that tells you, “Wham! Buy a house!”? No, of course not. But perhaps one of the best ways to know if it’s a good time to buy or not is the fact that you’re even thinking about it in the first place. It’s a good time to buy if you’re ready, and a bad time to buy if you’re not. Don’t get pushed into home ownership.

Too many people get caught up in real estate valuations, home price cycles, the number of homes listed, buying in the winter instead of the summer, and so on. While these are all useful considerations, they shouldn’t make that much of a difference when all is said and done. Yes, it’s easier to buy in the summer and move if you have kids and you want them to start a brand-new school at the beginning of the new school year. Yes, home prices might be a little softer in the wintertime than in the spring or summer because of seasonal demand. And yes, it might be a good time to buy a home because the market is soft and values will certainly appreciate. But don’t get caught up in all of that. At least not to the point of paralysis. There is no right answer.

Certainly, these things should be taken into consideration at some point, even more so if you’re a real estate investor who studies market trends and buys and sells homes for income. But if you’re just looking for your first home, don’t get bewildered by such facts.

Buy a home because you want to, rather than for an investment. Buy a home that you can call your own. Begin saving for the future by building equity. But buy from the heart while using your head. Don’t buy because some real estate guru told you that you could make millions in real estate. Bookstores and late-night infomercials have enough on real estate investing. If you’re reading this book because you want to become a real estate tycoon, you bought the wrong book.

Renting has definite advantages, too. Renting allows you to be more portable. If you move into an apartment only to discover three months later it was a bad decision, you know that you’ll soon be out of your lease and you can move on. You might even be able to sublet while you move into another space—that is, if your landlord allows you to do so.

When renting, the maintenance costs go to the landlord, not you. If the hot-water heater breaks down, you call the landlord who will dispatch maintenance and either fix the hot-water heater or install a new one. It didn’t cost you anything except maybe a cold shower or two. When you own the home, you also own the water heater and it’s you who bears the cost. You’re the landlord.

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