resource for real estate crystal ball

OCwaste2 used Ask the Experts™
Is there a resource, either online or not, that has some type of where this real estate market is heading to?  I'm contemplating on purchasing a home, but I'm a bit confused about the market in the Southern California area.  If I ask a Realtor, they say buy, buy, buy, but not really sure if they're advising accurately or just trying to make some cash at my expense.  I understand that there is another wave of foreclosures coming through by mid-year or close to the end of the year, but trying to see if I should gamble?
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Plenty of resources, but these usually only address a general trend which tends to be based on speculation. If there were a crystal ball that really worked like you wanted it to, everyone would be using it and its overuse would render it useles. It's exactly like the stockmarket. If someone says buy, buy buy, and evertone rushes out and does it,  then the shares are going to rapdily devalue...
You can read about general trends, and it's something to bear in mind. But bear in mind also that general trends, even if true, are only general. When you zoom in on localities, trends can reverse in certain pockets and increase in others. The only way is to watch closely what's happening, and keep an eye open for future developments that may make an area more or less desirable. New roads, communication infrastructure and a new shopping centre can help revive the economy of an area, which can make it more desirable. Then again, if the value was due a rural and peaceful environment, then such developments may affcet that value negatively.
So you need to develop an awareness of how an area is going to develop, and also, what is happening econmically in nearby commercial centers. At the end of the day, yourself in the position of various buyers and ask yourself, why would I move here, and will I be able to sell it again when I want to move on?
As Jason said. "There is no crystal ball.
But fortunately you do not need one.
I presume that you are buying a home, not a house you expect to get rich on.
Look at your situation. Does it make sense to buy a home. Your finances and work load determines the answer, not the housing market. Do you have the money? Is owning better than renting for you? Do you have the time to keep the home up. Is the location what you want it to be?
The answer is to be found in you, not the market.
>The answer is to be found in you, not the market.

That's some very Yoda-like advice.  :)

Never gamble on a house.  You won't win.  All of those TV shows showing people flipping houses and getting _not_ reality.  They were part of the cause for the housing bubble.  Get-rich-quick, and over extend your credit, and appealing to gambling addictions.

If you need the house, get it.  If you want the house, get it.  If you want an investment that will make high-yields...don't buy the house.
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Note that during the stretch of years that the real estate market was thriving, most speculators made money. That's the reason it went on for so long and rose so high. It was only during the eventual bubble-busting phase that those who jumped in later seriously lost out.

I did very well. And the last house I bought is at a valuation a good 50% above my purchase price. It definitely lost value in the market over the past two years, but that's only because it rose to a ridiculously high valuation at its height.

As it is, I can hardly care less about my home's "value" because I bought what I wanted at a price I felt good about. I personally think that "homes" should be bought on those two fundamental elements. That's not at all what a speculator might think though.

So, you need to decide whether you're buying for short-term financial gain or for long-term personal gain. Your choice of action should depend on your motivations. As noted, "The answer is to be found in you, not the market."

There are normally 2 ways to make money from something
1. Rely on the market to increase the net worth for you.  Which can work ,but why buy a house?  Why not buy old postcards or invest in gold etc.  These at least have the benefit of not putting all your eggs in one basket.
2. Buy something far enough up the supply chain that you can add value to it.  So if it is a house buy one that is in a poor state of repair that you can then refurbish.  Or pay someone else to refurbish it.  But once again why a house?  Why not a sofa?  
>why a house?  Why not a sofa?

A house can appreciate by market conditions.  You can also improve the house via renovation.

A sofa will only go downhill as soon as you accept delivery.
no, that's my point. you can renovate furniture and resell it for a profit.  with your risk spread over a larger number of items.

What if it's an antique sofa?
And what about stamps? It beats me why people are prepared to pay so much for a tiny piece of paper.
Maybe you should skip the real estate, and just buy a crystal ball.  :)

...and renovate it.
It beats me why people are prepared to pay so much for a tiny piece of  paper.

I had to laugh at that - people using large green pieces of paper to pay for smaller pieces of paper.

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