Well, he was correct, even though the cause and effect might have been jumbled a bit. And what does that have to do with real estate or anything else in today's world? My son's words uttered over 40 years ago came to mind as I thought about how jumbled and entangled our real estate market is today. We talk about a market economy but the distortions in the marketplace have become more and more pronounced over the last decade or more. And there is plenty of blame to go around. So, this essay is not about whose fault it is, but more about what went wrong and where do we go from here.
When owning a home became more important than being able to afford it -- and I'm not just talking about individuals or families with low income. I'm talking about the effort on the part of the Yuppies -- remember them? -- to demonstrate how upwardly mobile they were by buying a home well beyond their means believing it would impress their friends and give them the appearance of greater success than they had yet achieved. I am talking about anyone who purchased a home without thinking about what if my income goes down, or I or a family member becomes seriously ill, or the economy goes south. I am talking about those who bought homes with interest only loans, or ARM's that would be well beyond their ability to pay in 5 years. Need I go on? You get the picture.
When it's real, real dark you can't see the moon. How about when new foreclosures are being filed at the rate of 100,000 per month, it's hard to see a future when the laws of supply and demand drive a stable market. When Short Sales are flooding the market as homeowners who are in financial distress find that the equity they expected to have in their home has been washed away or blown away by the bursting of the bubble that drove home prices way beyond reality over the past few years.
The housing market has had its ups and downs over the years and the sages of the business tell us confidently that this is the third or fourth downturn in the market during their career and they weathered all of them. I am the eternal optimist and I believe we will weather this one as well. But I am also enough of a realist to know that until the glut of properties on the market at non-market- driven prices is dealt with, a stable market will be hard to achieve.
The old adage, 'the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get', seems relevant. As more agents begin to focus on short sales and foreclosures, the supply of short sale and foreclosure property seems to increase so that the net effect is that we have more distressed properties on the market today than we did yesterday. It seems obvious to me that it is imperative that we focus on the source of the problem rather than the results alone. We must reduce the supply of new foreclosures and short sale listings if we are to ever catch up and get back to some approximation of equilibrium in the marketplace.
I believe EVERY REALTOR® who intends to stay in this business owes it to themselves and to their colleagues to become an expert on Loan Modification. Not as a source of income but as a value added service to our communities and to our profession. Let the word go out in every community that we as REALTORS® are willing to pay it forward by providing any homeowner in trouble with their mortgage sound advice and guidance about how they can stay in their home. That may only consist of giving them a link to the Making Home Affordable website . Hopefully it will be more robust than a simple referral. Of course we should not go beyond our knowledge and expertise or provide legal or tax advice. But we can help them to believe that help is available. Tell them they can call 888-995-HOPE and ask for help. Tell them they don't need to pay big retainers to someone to do it for them.
When it's real, real dark you can't see the moon. But if we do our part to clear the clouds of confusion that exist we may collectively begin to reduce the supply of foreclosures and short sale listings and thus make room for the market to achieve some degree of stability.