Bargain hunters: Time to go house shopping

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While banks, homeowners, and home builders are bemoaning the status of the real estate market, bargain hunters may have a chance to get more house for their money. Depending upon the metro area, house shoppers may be able to take advantage of prices ranging from 10% to 17% lower than just a year ago in some of the most depressed real estate markets.

A few metro areas have seen a slight increase or no noticeable change in real estate values from a year ago. But some areas are definitely hurting. The metro areas with the biggest one year pricing drops include Detroit, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tampa, and Miami. If you're looking for a property in one of these areas, you definitely have a lot of choices and a lot of power during negotiations.

Of course, bargain pricing in the real estate market is no excuse to buy more house than you can afford. But now may be the time you can afford more house than you could one or two years ago. Buyers looking for investment properties could benefit as well from the lower prices in the housing market. One word of caution for those buying rental properties: Make sure you have the money to pay the mortgage even if the property isn't rented. A bargain priced duplex or apartment building isn't such a bargain if it's vacant and you can't pay the mortgage.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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