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2011, the year of the first-time buyer

Anyone in the real estate sales game will tell you that first-time home buyers are a great demographic to work with — and that they can’t have enough of them to work with.

In any market, the first home buyer experience is largely consistent, and it’s a rare such buyer who isn’t overflowing joy to everyone around the closing table.

In the recently deceased bubble years, first-time buyers lined up for the $175,000 homes vacated by “move-up buyers” mortgaging their life away to get that $400,000 home in that new development of McMansions outside of town. Now, those buyers are upside down and happy just to still have their homes in the face of layoffs and economic uncertainty. Many first-time buyers went the adjustable rate and even interest-only financing route, only to suffer shipwreck as poor money management and erstwhile employment caused them to fall behind. As 2011 dawns, the foreclosure rolls reflect these departures from the ranks of homeowners.

2011, however, represents a watershed for the patient first-time buyer. In the cases where the math works out that owning makes more financing sense than renting, the scenario couldn’t be better. Truly historic low mortgage rates are set to extend throughout the peak summer sales season, a steady stream of new listings (both urban and suburban) as well as a significant inventory of reasonably priced foreclosure homes make this year one worth paying serious attention to if you’re “in the market.” Never mind the “it’s a great time to buy” advertising — be sure to make the decision for home ownership on your terms, not theirs. But it would not be wise to play the wait-and-see game at this point.

The national economy looks to be on the right track, and locally conditions are good (see Zillow.com’s recent ranking of the Lancaster metro area as the 7th best place to buy in 2011. Most of Central PA is similar).

As we scan the market for homes to show, I’m constantly struck by the sheer number of home options these buyers have — and I’m also reminded of how that contrasts to the scant inventory available to similar buyers only a few short years ago, when people were driving neighborhoods scanning for new “for sale” yard signs and making offers at midnight, only to lose out to others paying over list.

This year, it’s the revenge of the first-time buyer. Get your house ready to show!

Jeff Geoghan is a residential real estate agent and founder of the Jeff Geoghan Realty Group in Lancaster County. He also hosts “YourLancasterHomeTV.” He holds a Green designation from the National Association of Realtors and blogs about homes and green issues. Contact him at [email protected].

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