Hope Springs Eternal

 This is the start of spring. It is about time. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the cold, wet, snowy winter we have been forced to endure. The signs are evident that spring has arrived as the temperature has topped the 75 degree mark, parks are filled with activity, dogs are taking over the bark parks and the price of gas is on the rise, as expected prior to summer. (Note: Any excuse to give us a good fleecing.)

The best sign is the sound of the wooden bats hitting the ball outta’ here for spring practice. The excitement of Phillies fans and the Phils’ unbelievable pitching staff coming into the season is a sure sign that spring is upon us. The sign I like to hear is the sound of a hammer cracking on the top of a sale sign in front of a well conditioned, well priced new listing. Following is the sound of a SOLD rider being slid into the sale sign indicating a new buyer will bring new life into the house and make it a home. Ahh, the sounds of spring bring hope to us all.

I have been selling residential real estate for more than 26 years, so when the indicators of spring arrive, it’s time to help people buy and sell homes. Historically, families look to sell in the spring so they can get their families settled for the new school year the following fall.

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Enthusiasm abounds throughout the real estate industry that this spring will begin to shed light on the black hole that has been prevalent the last several years. We are looking for hope everywhere. With the news offering little hope of a positive change, it’s up to us to find that little glimmer wherever we can. This week’s gem stated that home sales in February were at a nine-year low and new housing starts are at their lowest level since records have been kept. Wow, that will put a little bounce in your step.

These “attitude killers” are not going to distort our attitude, slow us down and destroy the enthusiasm that has been pent up for the last 15 quarters. Great opportunities are awaiting buyers. Sellers can look forward to moving and the banks will start opening their doors and giving out money. (Just try to overlook those pesky foreclosure and sheriff sale signs sprouting up.) Remember, attitude will prevail.

Many questions are floating around our industry, including:
Will there be a new dumping of bank-owned properties on the market?
Will short sales sprout up like dandelions in my yard?
Will banks start lending money so someone can buy?
Will values start on the upswing so we can actually see the start of a recovery?

So many questions, so few solutions…but there is hope. What’s in store for the sellers?
At last count there were over 3,200 homes on the market. WOW! Many homeowners are preparing their homes for sale, which will add to the inventory. There is already over a year’s supply of available homes increasing the absorption rate to an extremely high level. This is bad news for sellers but great news for buyers.

As I have said before, this is like a beauty contest and price war all at the same time. The homes conditioned and priced well will sell. Competition will be fierce but fair this spring so only the serious need get into the game.

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I have counseled several would-be sellers to re-think their position and perhaps wait until the market shows a spark of movement. Remember, short sales and bank-owned properties are now in the mix and will be used by appraisers (for the first time) to establish value. This will undercut values but no one knows by how much. Hope seems to point toward the buyers at the start of the season. Seller’s can sell, but they MUST be in front of the market. There is no time for testing. Serious seller’s can sell in any market because the market is defined as the price a buyer is willing and able to pay and what a seller is willing to take.

Who else can provide us with some hope? How about the mortgage lenders lightening up? Our Chief Economist, Lawrence Yen, showed the statistics that indicate foreclosures are down on “new” loans that are defined as loans granted in the last 12 months. This indicates that those able to purchase are purchasing. The safeguards which, by the way make borrowing almost impossible, will hopefully loosen (but there needs to be a check in balance) so that we can move some of this inventory. There is hope.

Now that we have covered the buyers and sellers, let’s move on to the Realtors who will make this spring the success that it deserves to be. Few people realize that these folks work extremely hard to provide homes for people, assist in the sales of their homes and coordinate, negotiate and assist in the myriad of responsibilities that go along with moving people and properties.

Many Realtors have been forced out of the business, having their homes foreclosed, and taking on second and sometimes third jobs in order to take care of their families. Realtors are not insulated from the downfall of the economy. Many of the top-producing agents in their marketplace find themselves struggling to stay in their own homes. Companies are closing, franchise sales are at their lowest in over 20 years while downsizing is the word of the day.

Where is the hope? The hope lies with those who stayed in the business, are providing service to all who are in today’s market. Our own board of Realtors dropped under 2,000 and nationally the Realtor ranks dropped precipitately. Those of us left are dedicated to helping people realize their goal of purchasing or selling a home. It is challenging (an understatement) filled with unwelcome surprises by daily rule changes from banks, scalpers (buyers hoping to steal properties) and sellers who believe that their home is the only one not involved in the recession, to name a few. Whatever it takes, we will be available to provide a solution. Next time you see a Realtor, acknowledge them for being there for you.

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There are many reasons to have hope. In America we are free to buy real estate, move freely, sell real estate and realize the dream. The economy has to come back, as does the real estate market. Interest rates remain at their lowest in years while inventory is high and varied, and the weather is getting warmer, making it a perfect time to get out and get into the market. Whatever you are and whatever you do, know this, “hope springs eternal.” After all, it is The Right Direction.


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