2009 Real Estate Guide
real estate
Winners and losers in 2009 real estate

Move-up buyers. In some markets, entry-level home sales are showing signs of increasing. If your home is on the low end of the price scale, you are in a better position to sell and use the proceeds to move up to a level at which the sales are still stagnant. "The higher-end market, in most areas, is weaker than the entry market," says Eric Tyson, co-author of "House Selling for Dummies." But buyers also need to show income, credit and job stability.

Con artists. When people become more desperate, "scammers are incredibly resourceful," says John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud for the National Consumers League. Especially prevalent this year are "mortgage relief" scams, he says. Be suspicious of anyone who asks you to stop paying your mortgage or wants you to pay them instead, says Breyault. Other warning signs to look out for are demands for large amounts of money upfront before help is given, and companies that use names or Web addresses deceptively similar to actual existing groups or programs. If you're looking for a relief program connected with a government entity, call or visit that agency's Web site independently for contact information.

Buyers with fresh data. The market changes moment to moment. These days, the comparable sales buyers use to help set a price need to be 90 days or newer, Phipps says.

Financially troubled homeowners. If you're having trouble making the payments, investigate the government's Making Home Affordable program. Under the plan, qualifying homeowners can get help with refinancing or with modifying their existing loan. In both cases, monthly payments won't exceed 31 percent of pretax income.

Cash buyers. "If you have cash today, you're a winner," says Kiyosaki. One buyer he knows was interested in several $250,000 homes selling for $110,000. The man paid $70,000 each "because he paid cash," says Kiyosaki. "Cash gets you a better discount."

Contented homeowners. If you love your house and can afford the payments, consider yourself a winner. The payment sweet spot is 25 percent to 30 percent of your net income, says Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America.

Sellers in solid markets. Not every market tanked. Some are on the upswing already. Interest rates are low now, and in markets "where value held up, it's an excellent time to sell," says Zigas. Ditto if you bought your house well before the boom-bust of the past few years and have plenty of equity.

The flip side

A roller-coaster real estate market, toxic loans, record numbers of foreclosures, a run on refinancing and economic uncertainty have left a number of homeowners, buyers and sellers more than slightly nauseous. Here are some of the folks who could get squeezed:

12 losers in 2009 real estate market
1. Sellers seeking unrealistic prices7. Builders
2. Borrowers "timing" the interest rate market8. Sellers in bad markets
3. Overleveraged sellers9. Owners who want to refinance in a hurry
4. Homeowners who can't afford their mortgages10. People who buy for price instead of value
5. Sellers who bought at inflated prices11. Buyers and sellers waiting for approval in a short sale
6. Homes and neighborhoods losing to foreclosure12. Foreclosure buyers who don't do their homework

Sellers seeking unrealistic prices. Sometimes, appraisals don't reach the level of the contract price because sellers are not being realistic about what a property's really worth," says Tyson. He advises sellers to get real about the price, improve the home's value or pull it from the market and wait.

Borrowers "timing" the interest rate market. "Lock in good rates now and don't speculate on interest rates," says Poorvu. Consumers waiting to lock in a low rate, figuring they can save more, "are likely to be real losers," he says.



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