Now is time to buy, but be educated before jumping in, panelists say

Buying over renting was a hot topic amongst real estate pros at a panel discussion yesterday, with sales brokers insisting that now is the time to buy.

Stephen Kliegerman, executive director of development marketing at Halstead Property, said that locking in a 30-year fixed mortgage rate makes more sense than grappling with mutable rental rates over the coming decades.

“The only way to control your lifestyle is to own,” Kliegerman said. He argued that renting a home is akin to putting money into an investment that never returns. “Why would you want to pay off your landlord’s mortgage instead of paying off your own mortgage?”

Kliegerman spoke on a panel that was part of a residential real estate event Observer Living, hosted by the New York Observer in the Puck Building on Lafayette Street.

During the other panel discussion, Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property, said that in 35 years she has never seen a residential market that favors buyers more than our current environs do.

“I don’t think, today, you could overpay for an apartment,” Ramirez said. “I always advise people to buy and sell in the same market… don’t focus on the ‘what if?’”

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While Kliegerman argued that buying property is superior to renting in general, he also suggested that now, in particular, is the time for potential buyers to act. He said that the 2012 or 2013 market will likely not have the same level of inventory to meet demand.

Leigh Zaph, president of Manhattan Homes, however, wrote in an e-mail to The Real Deal that buying is not the only viable option.

“Both markets are offering great opportunities if you take the time to look for them,” Zaph said. “Landlords are including a variety of incentives from no fee rentals to adding one month free, to even including a flat screen TV with their units.”

While panelists at the event were, largely, optimistic, they stressed the importance of being an educated buyer before jumping into a deal. They bemoaned shoppers who take a too simplistic look at an apartment, such as those who focus too intently on an apartment’s price per square foot.

Kelly Kennedy Mack, president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, said that the days of short-lived investments are over and that buyers need to take a more critical look at how their purchases will appreciate over time.

“The potential for a long-term appreciation of the property [is key],” Mack said. “We’re no longer in a market where people are buying and flipping property overnight.”

Additional reporting by Lauren Elkies.

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