This is not a good time to buy a house because prices probably have peaked and mortgage interest rates are exorbitant, Saul B. Klaman, president of the National Association of Savings Banks, said today.
But some of the members of the National Association of Realtors disagreed at their convention here, warning that buyers cannot expect the usual rate of appreciation in the months ahead.
"It's certainly OK to buy now to acquire a place to live where you want to live, but buying more space than you need in a remote area doesn't seems to make any sense today just to fulfill an ego need," said David B. Doelman of Portland, Ore., at a press conference.
Doelman's view was supported by Ralph W. Pritchard, incoming president of the Association, who insisted housing prices will rise in the 1980s because of the current stifling of housing construction and demand.
Claudia Chappel of Bethany, Okla., said that if interest rates come down, demand will increase and prices will go up sharply. "The best time to buy always is two years ago but nobody ever can do that," she added with a smile.
Participants at this national conventional are choosing their words carefully in assessing the realty and housing markets after recent upheavals in borrowing rates. But Klaman made a strong case against "discretionary buying with an expectation of inflation-plus appreciation." He is an economist, whose experience covers several previous downturns and cycles in the housing market.
"We have cause to pause in looking at both new home and existing home purchases today unless the buyer is being transferred from one city to another or must buy for some other reason," Klaman said.
He explained that his gloomy view goes beyond that of most other realty and housing experts because the "events of October" have left the money markets in "disarray and confusion. I think we are headed for a classic housing and mortgage and credit crunch."
Klaman and others -- including Oakley Hunter, chairman of the Federal National Mortgage Association -- said that houses no longer should be bought as a hedge against inflation but as a place to live on in a longterm investment. Experts expect housing starts to decline slightly. Klaman even held out hope that some day interest rates may fall as low as 10 percent again.
But economist Kenneth Biederman pointed out that inflows into savings and loan institutions have been weak in recent months. Biederman is on the staff of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
Jack Carlson, an economist and executive vice president of the National Association of Realtors, insisted that the Carter administration and Congress must be "held accountable" for today's inflation. But he also predicted that short-term and long-term lending rates will peak in the next 120 days and that the economy will be out of the recession by spring or summer.
In an earlier convention session, Washington broker G. M. (Mike) Brenneman said that local government moratoria on condominium conversions, such as those in the District and Montgomery County, are the "single biggest threat to private property rights."
"It's a sneaky form of erosion which is gaining momentum in cities in even less-urbanized areas such as East Tennessee," he added. Brenneman, who is active is condo investments, sales and resales, said a "significant part of our population is being shut out of home ownership."