Got the cash? Time to buy
Athens Plus, 18 December 2009

Is it better to buy or to rent a home? The current limited availability of financing along with the relative stability of property prices are making the decision much easier than in the past.

Buying appears particularly attractive for those who have access to bank loans, since they can take advantage of the low interest rates that are unlikely to decline any further from the present historical lows.

Additionally, even though prices may fall marginally lower than the current levels, the gain may be offset by a rise in the cost of money in the meantime. The benefit of a 1 percent drop in price will be surpassed by a likely rise in interest rates.

One category of prospective buyers is those that can finance a house purchase themselves. Their case is rather complicated: On one hand, the availability of cash makes borrowing easier - as banks rarely lend the full amount - but, on the other, this also means they have time to realize a purchase in the near future.

The prospect of the government introducing much stricter changes to the general taxation framework - particularly as regards proof of the sources of cash used for purchases - provides a strong argument for many considering a purchase soon, as the changes will have no retroactive effect.

The renting solution appears more realistic for those who do not have enough cash to finance at least part of a purchase - which is usually around 25 percent of the price. Besides, income insecurity is now greater than ever.