Yellow Shoes

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I think it is time that we all bought ourselves a pair of yellow shoes.

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This sign is prominently displayed in my home office, and yet whining is mostly what we seem to be doing lately. I think in some twisted way, we thrive on whining, and we revel in bad news. Always have, in fact. 

This morning I arrived at my computer to find an inbox full of irony, the first two messages in particular. To start things off, Steve, who had apparently felt the 5:00 am need for some Sharing Time, forwarded the morning lead business article from MSNBC. “U.S home prices plunge by a record”, they gaily announced. If the news wasn’t negative enough to satisfy, the “most viewed story” on the side bar declared “Middle age is truly depressing, study finds.” Tell me something I didn’t know.

Okay, I couldn’t help slowing to look at the wreck. The middle age article had this to say:

On average, (scientists) found, well-being bottoms out at about age 48 1/2 around the world.

I will let you take a wild guess where I fall in the old deep depression cycle. You are only three months off, but I digress.

Where the impending collapse of the housing market is concerned, I think we are all getting a little numb to this bit of “news.” It caused me to think back to the good times earlier in this decade when the real estate news was pretty terrific for most. If you owned a home, your equity was climbing more rapidly than the numbers on a telethon tote board. Those who worked in the industry made money and spent money, fueling a giddy economy. Here is the second irony, however. The headlines then dealt not with the wealth being created or the unprecedented numbers of people finally realizing the American Dream of home ownership, but with affordability issues and, much too often, with the perceived super-sized buckets of money that real estate agents were making. Instead of celebrating prosperity, everyone’s prosperity, if even on paper, the media chose to vilify the agents. A popular picture was painted of the agent as the opportunistic vulture serving no purpose but to suck the retirement accounts of unsuspecting home owners dry.

“If home prices have appreciated so much, why should you make so much more?” Today, instead, we hear, “If my home has depreciated this much, why shouldn’t you make less as well?” No whining here, but just an acknowledgement that they are all tough markets for the agent. Markets change, but the argument does not.

At the now-infamous Martini Bar worked leaned on Saturday night, there was a lot of whining going on. “How is the market, really?” they asked, but not in the way one initiates idle conversation. And, at the Broker Open House we hosted this morning, there were many more long faces. “How was your year?” We still like to talk about bad news, but the difference is that it is everyone’s bad news now. I saw worry in the faces of the homeowners; no martini was strong enough. I saw panic in the faces of the agents; no martini bar in sight.

There is seemingly no joy in Mudville. Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a piece on Stockton, California distress sales. It was painful. And we all watched. I think, however, for those who choose take an honest gander at this predicament we find ourselves in, you can’t help but find some good news. Valuable lessons have been learned. Painful lessons have been learned. Too many of us got sucked into playing at the high-stakes table with house money, and too many of us crapped out. For many more others, however, for whom personal circumstances haven’t mandated a sale, we only gained and lost on paper. Tables are hot and they are cold. Play with markers, and your markers might eventually be called. And markets are cyclical.

As for a little more irony, Andy Rooney’s segment compared our current economy to the Great Depression, and the message was delivered in a “get over it” fashion. When Steve and I stopped pondering exactly when he would retire, I recognized the message – as a good one. Times are tough for many; they are always tough for many. Revel in it, or return to the emotional well-being that resides on either side of 48 1/2.

Spring’s Bright Idea: Yellow Shoes

This was the next message I received this morning, and it was from Nordstrom. What a dichotomy, yet this is news I can get behind. I say we all buy some yellow shoes.

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