5 Tips for Navigating the 2024 Housing Market

A few more optimistic experts are predicting an uptick in inventory this year that may make housing prices go down a bit. Most, however, are saying that this year will be only marginally better, if at all, than 2023.

I was one of the folks navigating the rough waters of last year’s housing market, so I can offer some insight on what 2024 may be like. Here’s my advice.

1. Be thoughtful, but decisive

Although there’s been some waning in demand thanks to higher interest rates, there are still more home buyers than home sellers. Any property of decent quality that isn’t vastly overpriced is going to sell quickly.

During my search last summer, houses would hit the market on Saturday and have multiple offers by Monday. This leaves you very little time for contemplation before making one of the biggest purchases of your life. Make sure you know exactly what you need out of your new home so you can decide quickly whether a given property will suit those needs.

Finding the perfect house, especially when inventory is short, is next to impossible. Compromise where you can. That said, don’t let haste push you to compromise on must-haves that will significantly impact your quality of life.

2. Actively watch the listings

Speaking of quick sales: With houses often turning around in days in desirable areas, spotting a potential fit quickly is key. Choose a real estate app or website and check it regularly.

More: Check out our picks for the best mortgage lenders

Even better, set up notifications so you’re alerted as soon as a property meeting your criteria hits the site.

While a great real estate agent will send you relevant listings as they hit the MLS, even the best agents can miss things. Being proactive on your end can make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Watch out for signs of a quick flip

Sure, it’s nice to walk into a house that’s been recently remodeled and see all the “new” features. You’ll need to be cautious, however; there’s a good chance all those “updates” are only skin deep.

In case you haven’t seen the hundreds of shows on TV about it, house flipping has become hugely popular. Folks will buy up older homes, do a bunch of superficial updates as quickly as possible — generally with the same low-end finishes as every other flip — then sell at an inflated price.

Meanwhile, the plumbing is still 100 years old and there’s mold hidden behind the new paint job.

Look up the house’s listing on Zillow or another real estate site; the sales history is often listed here. If the house was sold within the last year for way less than it’s selling for now, it’s likely a flip. Be cautious and get a very thorough inspection.

4. Never skip the inspection, even if you lose the listing

It’s become disturbingly trendy to waive the inspection contingency as a way to stand out for competitive listings. This is a no-good, terrible, very bad idea.

The home inspection is the part where a professional comes in and points out all the things that are wrong with the house, including potential safety issues. Without an inspection, you’re buying a potential ticking time bomb of problems.

Things are going to break or go wrong that you don’t anticipate even with an inspection. But not knowing about a roof, plumbing, electrical, or foundational issue? That could be catastrophically expensive (not to mention dangerous).

5. Don’t let rates scare you off

Look, I get it. We had mortgage lenders offering record-low rates for a decade. So the current rates seem astronomical — especially if you’re already a homeowner with a sub-3% rate.

Sadly, that’s the reality now. And it will continue to be the reality for many years.

Yes, the Fed has signaled that it’s likely done increasing rates. There is even some talk about possibly lowering rates this year (not holding my breath on this one, personally). On the off chance that rates do drop, I wouldn’t expect it to be a significant decrease. And I seriously doubt we’ll get back to sub-3% rates anytime soon — if ever.

In other words, if you put off buying a new home because of mortgage rates, you’re going to be waiting a while.

Getting to the other side

Buying a house is never easy. But millions of people do it every year — and you can, too. As long as you’re prepared, patient, and flexible, you can navigate even 2024’s rocky housing market and find your next home.

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