The Pros and Cons of Trying to Time the Market

In many circles, when conversations about buying and selling homes arise, the concept of “timing the market” invariably emerges. Some people will swear by the practice, citing example after example of instances where buying low and selling high has worked for them, or for people they know. Others will say that timing the market is not only impossible, but that the best time to buy or sell is when you’re ready to buy or sell. Period.

So, what is fact and what is fiction? Can the market be accurately timed, so as to mitigate spending and maximize profit? Or are those who seem to have an uncanny knack for buying when homes are at their lowest price, and selling them at the highest points, just incredibly lucky? Unfortunately, despite entire books being devoted to the practice of learning how to time the market, it’s most certainly not an exact science. But like most things in life, there are definite pros and cons to trying to time the market. Here’s a look at some of them.         

The pros of trying to time the market

Ensures Education — If you’re attempting to time the market, you’re going to have to do your home­work. You’ll need to monitor home values, interest rates, FED rates, neighborhood appreciation/ depreciation, inventory levels, and more. Overall, this works to your benefit, as you’ll be learning something new nearly every day, which can only help you to become an even savvier buyer or seller in the future. Knowledge is indeed, power.

Protects Your Pocketbook — Being mindful of what the real estate market is doing certainly increases your likelihood that you’ll get a better deal than if you completely omit market conditions from your investment strategy. Generally speaking, making an effort to time the market, although not failsafe, will make you a more informed buyer or seller, thereby increasing your likelihood of securing better pricing, terms, concessions, or conditions.

Puts You in a Position of Power — Whether you’re a potential buyer in a down market, or a seller in an up market, you have a lot more bargaining power during decidedly lopsided markets. Subsequently, as a buyer or seller, you will have far more leverage in an unbalanced market than during periods of relative equilibrium/neutrality in the real estate market.

The cons of trying to time the market

Potential for Letting Great Properties or Profits Pass You By — Trying too hard to wait to buy until home prices hit rock bottom, or when mortgage interest rates drop to their lowest, can lead to missed opportunities to invest, or to become a home­owner. Holding out for just one more price reduction or decrease in interest rates may cause you to lose out on an incredible deal.

Missed Opportunities to Make Memories — Waiting too long to buy or sell, in effort to time the market can ultimately cost you valuable time. Instead of taking the profits from a home sale and purchasing a new home when conditions are favorable, you ultimately may miss out on awesome opportunities to make new memories in your home. Consider that buyers who attempt to time the market perfectly may miss the chance to celebrate special occasions and milestones in a new home.

Market Stability Is Never Guaranteed — It’s long been said that the only constant in life, is change.  That’s undeniably true when it comes to the real estate market. There is no guarantee that interest rates, or home prices won’t change on a dime. The inherent unpredictably of the real estate market means that even the most well-laid plans for buying or selling are not immune from potential and/or substantial market swings.

Although there are benefits and potential pitfalls to consider when deciding whether to try your hand at timing the market, one irrefutable fact remains. An investment in a home is a significant undertaking. For the overwhelming majority of people, it will be one of the biggest financial decisions of our lives. As such, deciding to buy or sell is not something most people will want to go into alone, or haphazardly. With the help of an educated REALTOR,® a skilled mortgage professional, and guidance from other trusted advisors such as your CPA or financial advisor, conducting due diligence before making any decision just makes sense.