Now it’s official because the New York Times said so.

Maybe It’s Time to Buy That First House

Five or 10 years from now, when the financial crisis has ended and housing prices are up smartly once more, we will look in the rearview mirror and realize that we missed a golden age for first-time home buyers.

Then, everyone who sat on their down payment savings accounts for a few years too long will kick themselves for not taking advantage of what may turn out to be the buying opportunity of a lifetime for those who can qualify for a mortgage.

Unfortunately, we do not know when this golden age will begin, because we will be able to identify a bottom to the housing market only with the benefit of hindsight. But as it does with the stock market, the moment will probably arrive when everyone is feeling the most pessimistic.

That moment is certainly getting closer. Housing prices have fallen drastically from their peak levels in many areas of the country. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are already close to 5.5 percent, and this week there were suggestions that the federal government might try to drive them down to 4.5 percent, a truly incredible figure to be able to lock in for three decades.

Meanwhile, first-time home buyers have the same advantage they have always had, which is that they do not have to sell their old place before buying a new one. That is an added advantage in areas where many available houses simply are not moving, because the people trying to sell them will not be bidding against you.

If you’re hoping for a recovery in the housing market, you ought to be cheering on the first-time home buyers. When they purchase homes, their sellers are free to move on or move up, stimulating further sales.

But if you are a potential first-time buyer yourself, or lending or giving the down payment to one, you are probably as frightened as you are tempted by all the “For Sale” signs that have become “On Sale” signs. So let’s quickly review some of the still-grim pricing data in certain areas — and consider the reasoning offered up by first-time buyers who have forged ahead anyhow.

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