Poll: Non-“Owners” Only: Why aren’t you buying a home?

Please vote in this poll using the sidebar.

Non-"Owners" Only: Why aren't you buying a home?

  • Can't afford to, waiting for prices to drop. (32%, 143 Votes)
  • Could afford to, but waiting for prices to drop. (58%, 257 Votes)
  • "Ownership" doesn't fit my lifestyle. (5%, 20 Votes)
  • The media scared me. (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Other (specify in comments). (4%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 443

This poll will be active and displayed on the sidebar through 10.20.2007.

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Rational expectations says:

    Just relocated to SD area and waiting for prices to drop. We could afford 20+% down on something nice now, but believe in buying at a good price, and prices right now are still absurd. Markets should clear sooner than this, but buyers and sellers have different expectations.

    By the way, I assume the owner of the blog knows that this survey is totally unscientific (nay, misleading), since people who read bubble blogs are not typical, I think.

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    By the way, I assume the owner of the blog knows that this survey is totally unscientific (nay, misleading), since people who read bubble blogs are not typical, I think.

    Of course. It’s just fun to see where the readers of this blog are at on different issues like this. The polls are strictly “for fun.”

  3. 3
    anamik says:

    Saving for a down payment while hoping this insane market corrects. On the plus side, maybe the DOJ would have crushed the NAR in court by then.

  4. 4
    incessant_din says:

    We can afford 20% down right now in several areas of the country we have looked, but our own area (East Bay Area, CA) is a bit spendy. Could afford 20% on the starter homes here, and the market is moving downward. However, when you can take the same money, pay 20% down and still have cash left over when buying a 35 acre ranchette in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Texas, etc., then it becomes harder to pull the trigger. We’re waiting for a while, and building up reserves. When the right deal appears, we’ll join the ranks of homedebtors. Probably not in CA, but this correction might be sharper than I had expected.

  5. 5
    Saver says:

    Posting anon.

    Due to the unsustainable run up in prices, despite the fact that I’m sitting on > 50% of my target house price in savings, I simply don’t want to buy an asset that very obviously stands to depreciate.

    I didn’t accumulate my house savings by being a financial idiot. I apply the same number-crunching skills to the where/when to buy question.

    Despite the desperate advertising from NAR and salesmen and their friends in the advertising section of the local papers, it is very obviously a terrible time to buy, and a great time to wait.

  6. 6
    softwarengineer says:


    See the proof:


    I added this blog to the PI article last Friday:

    Seattle, Washington Household Incomes Per US Census Bureau:

    There seems to be some confusion how much Seattle households make, so here’s the facts. In 2004 the avg household income made $48,438 with 2.53 people per household (approximately 1.2 workers per household, that hasn’t changed for decades).

    See the proof:


    Seattle’s 1999 household income (bear in mind, to quote Hillary Clinton, we’ve been marching standing still on incomes since 1999, so this number is close today) is $45,736 for approximately 1.2 workers per household.

    See the proof:


    Therefore, Seattle middle incomes can only afford a $200K home/condo.

  7. 7
    laxtosnoco says:

    My wife and I have our 20% saved, but are holding off for a while because we recently moved to the area and are still trying to decide where we want to live. It also looks like prices will be flat or declining so we’re in no real hurry to plough our savings into a declining asset. Although it costs a little more than an apartment, we’re renting a house so we don’t feel any pressure to move because of strange or shady neighbors.

    The biggest barrier holding us back is that we’re thinking about starting a family soon, so we want to have enough cash saved so that my wife can take a few years off without working. We could probably make a mortgage work into the budget if it weren’t for those pesky health care premiums that will kick in when she stops working.

  8. 8
    Burk says:

    House I couldnt afford last yeat in Bothell, WA ($489,000), is now on sale list for $424,000.. Should I buy it now, keep waiting for more or offer $390,000?

  9. 9
    ballardrat says:

    Most of the people I know in the area with mortgages originated in the last 5 years are struggling financially now. Several are no longer contributing to retirement funds or even general savings. One couple who makes a bit more than we do are in the position of having to refinance this month because of a few thousand dollars of unexpected expense. They bought a year ago, with 10% down, about the same price place we were looking at. We are both above median income, and the property was well below median price.

    Additionally, our own monthly housing expenses would double, and we’d have less space and amenities and likely a longer commute. So basically we’d be adding a lot of financial risk and sacrificing quality of life for what currently looks like a shaky investment.

  10. 10
    Jay says:

    Hey Tim, here a suggestion for a future poll.

    Part 1:
    Assuming prices revert to trendline affordability (ie, you don’t feel like you’re overpaying for a home) how much will you be prepared to spend?
    a) 20%
    g) Cash Purchase

  11. 11
    Jay says:

    Oops – post got messed up, I’ll try again:

    Part 1:
    Assuming prices revert to trendline affordability (ie, you don’t feel like you’re overpaying for a home) how much will you be prepared to spend?
    a) 20%
    g) Cash Purchase

  12. 12
    Jay says:

    For some reason my post is only partially going through (cutting out most of the middle) – wierd.
    Here’s the short version: Part 1 is How much will you ultimately spend; Part 2 is How much will you put down?

  13. 13
    The Tim says:

    Jay, if you have > or < symbols in your post it could be screwing it up and interpreting it as HTML code. Try using &gt; and &lt; for greater than or less than.

  14. 14
    James says:

    Buy on the day that entering http://www.zillow.com in the URL field takes you to the same page as http://www.zillwho?.com.

  15. 15
    Jay says:

    Ahh. That explains it.
    Thanks, Tim.

  16. 16
    rose-colored-coolaid says:

    My wife and I are waiting until we can buy a comfortable home (say SFH 1500 sq ft) mostly on one income. That way we can start a family and not live in financial fear like everyone else.

  17. 17
    Joel says:

    I should note that even though I can’t afford to and I’m waiting for prices to drop, even if prices weren’t so high I couldn’t buy because I don’t have a 20% downpayment saved up yet.

  18. 18
    econ101 says:

    dont hold your breath for the prices to go down too much. they never do go down as much as you think they will, and even when they do, 9 out of 10, those who ‘wait’ get priced in on the recovery, rather than on the ‘low’. Unless you’re watching prices every day, you should buy when the news is full of ‘prices falling’ news, and not when the news stops coming or when you “think” (or “gut feel”) that the bad news is going to stop coming….

    People MULTIPLY much faster than they die. Forget that at your own peril, Mr. I-have-20%-but-I’m-waiting-for-prices-to-drop…

    Good luck.

  19. 19
    Jay says:


    I think your advice is overly simplistic as well as optimistic, but I expect no less from someone whose name is Econ101. You should take Econ 201 and you will realize your advice may be fine in a garden variety cycle. This is not a garden variety cycle. This is not just a down real estate cycle. This is a credit/debt liquidity bubble on a global scale and it is reversing. The resulting deleveraging and liquidity contraction will effect financial markets to an extent you have not even begun to consider. You don’t have to believe me on this one. All you have to do is wait a bit and reel in disbelief. Real estate is not the cause, it is a symptom. The cure will not be pleasant and in the process real estate will pay the piper much more than you currently think.

  20. 20
    Mike2 says:

    dont hold your breath for the prices to go down too much. they never do go down as much as you think they will

    How is that possible? There are homes a stones throw away from where I’m sitting right now that have asking prices 40% below the last purchase price. I never anticipated that homes listed for sale through a Realtor would be available for this steep of a discount. Though the fact that they are not selling indicates that they are still overpriced.

    If these homes were truly priced below market value an investor would jump in and do a quick fix and flip. Not happening.

  21. 21
    uptown says:

    “dont hold your breath for the prices to go down too much. they never do go down as much as you think they will”

    Don’t use the median average price to measure price drops, you have to go back and look at comps.

  22. 22
    Egat says:

    Can you post some zillow links to those houses? The wife and I have just started looking and haven’t seen anything close to that yet. All we’ve seen are reductions in asking that are still well above last sale price.

    Also, in response to the poll, we’re not buying yet because my wife is still in school. She’s got about a year left, but we’ve started looking for a starter place we can afford on one to 1.5 incomes. Once she graduates if we find a place that has everything we want at a price we can afford we’ll end up buying with the intention to be there ~10 years.

  23. 23
    johnnybigspenda says:

    I wonder if the NA housing market will be more like the European market has been for the past 50 years? ie. prices so high that almost everyone rents. In a way it would make sense. America started out as the new frontier… now we have our own ‘new frontiers’ like Mexico and China… so maybe they are the new America and we are the new Europe? (And 40 is the new 30 and pink is the new black.. I don’t know..

    In any case, this globalization stuff sure is messing with the text books… tough to predict anything these days…

    Crystal ball anyone?

  24. 24
    rose-colored-coolaid says:

    It’s easy to figure out the perfect time to buy.

    Wait until you hear good news from Florida. Then wait 9 more months. Then start shopping around.

  25. 25
    patient says:

    You can’t be 100% sure prices will return to reasonable levels if you wait but you can be 100% sure that you will be royally ripped-off if you buy now…That’s more than enough reason for me to be patient. Another is as someone else mentioned the ability to be able to get by with one salary. It makes a huge difference in feeling financially secure and have the choice to stay at home when the kids are small.

  26. 26
    B&W NIkes says:

    Maybe in a hundred years renting will be the norm, but for now N. America has lots and lots of space to grow into which is not true for most of Europe. We have so much space we even waste it routinely. Unfortunately, most Americans are more scared of modest shared wall homes than they are of snakes and rats. Maybe as that changes over generations we can expect to increase the number of available housing units through infill and efficiencies. One would hope that packaging land and dwellings into reasonably size pieces instead of supersizing it could make it more affordable. In the meantime, it’s not a stretch to say we are experiencing a heck of a ponzi scheme where too many people are encouraged to assume lifetimes of debt to buy more than they will ever need at artificially high prices with money they will never have. It’s going to be an epic hangover, it was quite the party.

  27. 27
    patient says:

    I’m from western Europe. People in general (except the upper class by heritage) have totally bought the idea of slaving for the man to low salaries that just covers taxes and basics as housing. I think the US is built and populated of people who wanted something else. It’s in the backbone of the country and I don’t think it will change.

  28. 28
    Alan says:

    I could put 20% down on a house that I would be happy living in, but I wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage on the remaining 80%. It has taken me a decade of saving and investing what I currently have. It would be devestating to lose it all (plus some) if housing priced dropped 30% (which is think is pretty likely). Luckily I don’t have any regret for waiting since I moved here relatively recently and owned for nine years prior to my arrival.

  29. 29
    econ101 says:

    Yeah Jay – you’re right. These guys who saved up but aren’t buying should wait until the prices drop 50%…

    Nevermind what I said.

  30. 30
    TJ_98370 says:


    Something to consider – Passive income from my conservative investments have been generating returns equaling between 15% to 36% of my gross salary for the last year or so. Why would anyone in their right mind trade those kind of returns to put a down payment on an asset that is very likely going to depreciate in the near future?

  31. 31
    Jocelyn says:

    Um, I just like renting.

    Even if I had the money to buy a house with 100% cash, I’m not sure I would — in a good market or not.

    I do not want a yard or a garden. I do not have (or want) kids or a dog. I see no sense in sharing walls with no genuine independence (read “condo”).

    And I like having a property manager take care of the plumbing, etc.

  32. 32
    TJ_98370 says:

    In the interest of accuracy, I used the term “passive income” incorrectly in my previous post. I should have used the term “portfolio income”.

    Passive Income

  33. 33
    Old Ballard says:

    Buying before the end of summer 2008 would be a huge mistake. You have everything to gain if prices do drop 10 to 50% and nothing to lose if prices remain flat or only rise 2 to 3%. It will be ten years before we see the same kind of price increases that we’ve seen over the last five years. I’d wait till after the 2008 Presidential election. If a Dem gets elected things could start to get better. If a Rep gets elected it’ll be more of the same and things will continue to decline.

  34. 34
    Jay says:

    Old Ballard,

    Not to be overy political, regarding Dem vs Rep victory, I think it’s more like this:

    Dem gets elected = housing declines

    Rep gets elected = housing declines

    It just won’t really matter at this point. It’s already baked in the cake. It might even be worse with a Dem victory if new tax increases and protectionism further derail an economy already under stress. It was protectionism that contributed to the the 1930’s being a depression isntead of just a deep recession.

    On a different topic:
    Will people holding off buying now miss the bottom as so many real estate agents keep suggesting?

    a) Who cares if you miss the bottom by a little, ie, prices decline 15-20% (30-35% inflation adjusted) and then rise 5% before you buy?

    b) It won’t take a rocket scientist to pick the bottom – just watch inventory. It will peak, then fall, then bottom out, then begin to rise. When it bottoms out real estate agents will quitting the business and stop saying real estate is a great investment and houses only go up. I bet a monkey could pick the bottom. Real estate agents are saying you can’t pick the bottom just to try to scare you into buying now.

  35. 35
    Z-man says:

    I currently rent in Seattle because I like the financial security. ie. I have a significant enough portfolio that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night with the downside risk.

    Ironically, it seems the less money saved you have, the easier it is to make a decision to buy (if someone is willing to lend you the money) and simply walk away.

    OT: I don’t understand these foreign housing markets comparisions. Can someone help me? As a casual observer of several foreign markets outside NA, it seems that we are unique in the existing home/resale market. In some of these countries, homes are passed from generation to generation, and the real estate market is basically new homes. Mortgage equity withdrawals are also not as prevalent. We are clearly the most dynamic real estate market in the world with people having an mortgage for seven years prior to refi/selling. What do you think the implications are for our real estate market in comparison?

  36. 36
    Ballardite says:

    My rent is 1/4 what my mortgage would be…I invest the difference…why in the world would I buy.

  37. 37
    melonleftcoast says:

    Hmmm. I’m surprised that more people have not chosen the “Renting does not fit my lifestyle” option. My husband and I are planning on moving around a bit to enjoy different places and don’t plan on staying somewhere more than a year or two for the next 4 to 5 years.

    According to this poll, 90% of poll responders want to buy a house right now. Are there really that many people eager to stay (i.e. buy a house) in Seattle? That surprises me. Maybe Seattle is special after all. :)

  38. 38
    fred says:

    Stale wages and skyrocketing expenses make it near impossible to come up with a DP for Seattle area houses and a good rate.

  39. 39
    alex says:

    I hope we *make* prices drop by publishing the results of this poll (however unscientific it may be) to as wide an audience as we can!!!

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