A Tale of Two Cities: Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?


Last week, I spent the Thanksgiving weekend with very dear friends in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Allisons lived in Wilmington, Delaware, until a few years ago, when they chose to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Truth be known, they got out just in time. Their home in North Wilmington sold at its peak and their land was ready to build in North Carolina. This clearly was the definition of, “timing is everything.” That said, the value of their new home may have dipped a bit, but it doesn’t matter because they are not moving.

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This is a good story for one seller and buyer whose plan came together. You can feel how happy they are just by being around them. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many who have had similar plans changed or had to abandon them altogether. The real estate market is a cycle.

Whenever or wherever I travel, whether for business or pleasure, my hosts always feel compelled to tour the local real estate market. It is a point of pride in their community. I am amazed at the depth of knowledge people have about values and peculiarities about properties where they live and work.

I learned a lot about Wilmington, North Carolina, real estate and found it to be similar to Wilmington, Delaware. There are lots of sale signs but a few sold signs dotting the landscape. Short sales and foreclosures are abundant, and values are teetering on the bottom. Speaking to a real estate friend local to the Wilmington, North Carolina, market found me hearing the words that are resounding all over America: “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.” (Let’s hope it’s not a train.)

These reassuring words ring true in Wilmington, Delaware, as well. With many in both cities suffering job losses, depreciating values, inability to get mortgages and a host of other difficulties, the attitudes seem remarkably positive. My grandfather used to say, “Not to worry about today because in a number of hours tomorrow will be here and today will be history.” Perhaps tomorrow will bring positive changes to the economy, environment and our personal situations. Look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

As a Realtor I know firsthand about many sad personal situations from good people who always pay their bills. Responsible people who would offer a helping hand to anyone in need now find themselves in dire straits. I have witnessed friends handing their homes back to the bank with a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

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The emotional stress coupled with the shame that accompanies failure is monumental. The economy has created a subculture of the new poor. They are wondering where the light is at the end of the tunnel. We are told that help is near. The government is pressuring the banks to lend again to straighten out the foreclosure paperwork debacle, and new mortgage programs are being created to open up the market. When! Is it too little, too late?

We Realtors are not eligible for benefits of any kind, including unemployment. This is the result of being independent contractors. Many are suffering but dedicated enough to help others purchase or sell a home. We provide shelter. Our ranks have shrunk both nationally and locally. Unlike slowdowns of the past, this one seems to have no end in sight.

Now more than ever it is necessary to find the right Realtor to help navigate new settlement regulations, mortgage changes and tax implications. Connect with a full time, full service Realtor to analyze your personal real estate and point out all of the options. You may have to rethink your decision for three to six months or be able to enter the market immediately.

LOOK at your tax consequence. Today’s sellers are faced with a market that can only be defined as a beauty contest mixed in with a price war. If you understand the rules of the game, play it. Today’s buyers have an inventory of unheard numbers to choose with the benefit of the lowest rate in a half of a century. Their motto is “NEXT.” If this one doesn’t work out, take me to the next.

I am fortunate to have agents who are full time, provide full service and more, and will consult you on the best route to take. Our company believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that those who are ready, willing and able to enter this market will find success. Be realistic in your expectations. The local real estate market has taken a hit. We are now selling homes for what they were selling for six to seven years ago. The peak was in 2005. We haven’t gotten quite back to those numbers, and we may not get there for years.

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Buyers must be ready to be scrutinized as though you are going through security at an airport—twice over. Financial pat downs and violations of personal information are now the norm. Take off your shoes, belt, jacket and all metal, walk through the scanner with your hands up, then ready yourself for a glove-wearing agent who has initials on his shirt. But it is no MD—it’s TSA. Mortgage processors, underwriters and closers are as close to TSA as you will find. Be patient, keep your attitude in check, and comply with their wishes. Remember the Golden Rule: He who has the gold rules—even though it was money we loaned the banks in the first place.

The American dream; owning your own piece of America is still a desired outcome for most, but that dream is fading. Some members of Congress are lobbying for the removal of the coveted mortgage interest deduction hoping to increase revenue. You have a voice, USE IT! One would have to be myopic not to see how much this would affect our economy as a whole. Home ownership would become less desirable, values of homes would drop considerably, products related to housing would suffer and ancillary services to the home would decline. My vote would be to cut needless expenditures such as earmarks, esoteric studies and redundant government services. Do whatever you can to help the housing market and it will create a synergy that will extend throughout the entire economy? Building homes employs workers who use products that are manufactured and sold by employed workers and this goes on and on. It’s all positive.

From Wilmington, Delaware, to Wilmington, North Carolina, from Maine to Florida, from New York to California and all points between, let the pressures borne on families due to the economy show relief in the coming weeks and months so that the tunnel will be gone. Moving out of the housing crisis is not just the only direction, but it is the Right Direction.

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