I believe I have set a record. It has been a full seven days since I have posted here, and somewhere around day four of my sabbatical I stopped worrying about it. Circumstances were simply beyond my control, and a blog post last week simply wasn’t in the cards.
My father had an uncanny knack for ignoring the things he couldn’t do anything about. I think it’s a guy thing, and I hated him for this. I, on the other hand, am an obsesser. I tend to take a trip to crazy town every time I sense I am not driving the bus.
The truth is, I’m a worrier by nature. I worry when I am too busy, and I worry when business is slow. And when things seem to be chugging along according to the divine plan, I worry that I don’t have anything to worry about. Now, in fact, I am worrying that I just ended a sentence with a preposition.
I am seeing a lot of people like me in this market. This morning’s requisite Chicken Little article in the San Diego Union Tribune is one fine example. “Housing prices sink,” trumpets the headline. Sure, sales for July were up 10.5% in San Diego County from last year, but where’s the fun in that? Prices are down, so fortunately we still have something to worry about.
Nearly 41% of the sales, they report, involved foreclosure sales. This is bad. Or is it good? We know that the mortgage mess has left us with a legacy of distress sales, and these distress sales will be with us for awhile. The fact that the foreclosed homes are selling in great numbers should be welcomed; our market won’t reverse course until we complete the cleansing process, and this is going to take some time and additional price decline. We can worry about this, or we can acknowledge it and move on.
“Foreclosure” has become the new f-bomb. New foreclosure listings are still outpacing foreclosure sales, says the article, and we are reminded that this should be cause for concern. I will argue that it is what it is, and focusing on the nature of the sale is a lot of wasted fretting at this point. We will work through the distress sales in time; we will work through them because they are a symptom of an epidemic, an epidemic of irresponsible lending practices, which has been isolated and quarantined.
This is mainly because getting a home loan today is as simple as threading a needle wearing a ski mask. The lending pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and obtaining financing leaves today’s buyer feeling a little like Michael Phelps but without the endorsements. There are plenty of people who want to buy in today’s market, at today’s prices, but for whom the door has been closed due to tighter underwriting standards. This is bad, and it is good. It is a matter of perspective.
If we weren’t so busy using the f-word, we would be acknowledging that traditional listings are also outpacing traditional sales. Our market is equal opportunity. Market times in the I-15 corridor are generally running 60 to 80 days, depending on the community. This is bad if you are a seller and only remember 2003. On the other hand, if you had the pleasure of listing a home for sale in the mid-’90s, life is not too shabby. And the same goes for prices.
Time to unwind and rewind
Perhaps agents, sellers, buyers, the whole lot, should maybe stop worrying so much. We can fight our circumstances and obsess about our little paradigm shift, or we can deal. If we take a step back, this market is not fundamentally different from any other. There are people who want to buy homes for the lowest possible price, people who want to sell homes for the highest possible price, and agents who want to make a living assisting them in the transaction.
What is different is that our circumstances are forcing us all to push the rewind button on our thinking. Being a real estate agent, for all but the exceptional few, has not historically involved out-earning a Hollywood A-lister. The past half-decade, a time during which anyone who could find their way to the testing center and successfully fill in the bubbles on a Scantron was guaranteed a six-figure income, was an anomaly. Homes have not historically been our singular investment vehicles. To our parents and grandparents, their homes represented security and shelter, not a mega-lotto ticket. The fact that many saw their “investments” double in three years was an exception, not the rule. And home buyers have traditionally had to work and save toward this end and demonstrate that they could ultimately afford the American Dream, rather than having the dream handed out as freely as potsticker samples at Costco.
I couldn’t blog last week because this week I am one daughter short. In a few short days, I saw my own paradigm shift in a very big way. We pushed a personal rewind button of sorts. Operation Dorm Delivery was a success, but while we have spent the past 18 years preparing for this day, nothing can entirely prepare you for the reality. Life, like the real estate market, is cyclical. Now I have less laundry, less arguing (“Clean your room, and release that headlock on your sister!), and a smaller grocery bill. And I have more time to blog.
It’s good, and it’s bad.