THE DICKENS YOU SAY?

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Or, if I was the Great Decider-er, maybe I would say it is the better-er of times and it is the worser-er of times. Either way, it’s still the Tale of Two Markets here, in the decidedly surreal world of real estate.

Dickens has the story right. The words ring true: “…it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Two things happened this past week, that brought my angst-inducing astigmatism into sharper focus.

The first: On Wednesday, I wrote an offer for a client on a new listing in Soquel. Bank-owned. Seven quick offers. Two short days on market. Competition. Overbids. Client’s adrenalin pumping. Racing to write the offer. Racing to get the pre-approval letter. A familiar flashback. Shades of 2005!

The fears and doubts of the multiple offer game. What can we do to please the Seller? Make our offer look more attractive? Did we offer enough? Now, we wait for the mysterious ‘asset manager’ to render a decision from on high. Might take 3 or 4 days. Or a week. That helpless feeling. Something you have absolutely no control over welling up and washing over. And so we wait. Doesn’t feel much like a buyer’s market, like it’s supposed to be.

The second thing: On Thursday I met with the Seller of a listing I put on a month ago. It hasn’t sold. A few tire-kickers. No offers. He’s worried about the growing no-shows. Should we have put it on the market earlier? Are we going to have to lower the price? He is freaking out a little more each day as another drip of Chinese water torture hits him in the head and kicks him in the ass.

We thought we had it right. We looked at the comps and knocked the list price down another $25k to make it even more desirable. And yet.. Nada. No hint of adrenalin in the air. Just a few Agents calling to ask why the seller is selling. Or wondering what his “motivation” is. Or whether there is “flexibility” in the price. Doesn’t feel much like a market on the way up, like it’s supposed to be.

Small moments in the larger scheme of things. But representative of the mixed messages the meta-market is sending. Are we really gaining traction on what still feels like mighty thin ice? Are we (pick one): At the bottom? Near the bottom? Past the bottom. On the way up? Or just getting set up for the next big dip?

I finally figured out why this is all so hard to figure out. We don’t have one real, real estate market anymore. We have two. And both happen to share the same MLS circulatory system just like Jekyll and Hyde co-existed in the same brain. Our two markets are like parallel dimensions occupying the same space and time. They look similar at first glance. They overlap in some ways. But they are wormholes apart in other ways. And the spit confuses the hell out of us, because we keep getting them mixed up. Mistaking them for each other. Or wanting one to become the other. Or fearing one is becoming the other whether we want it to or not.

There is the Distressed Real Estate Market. And there is the “Regular” Real Estate Market that keeps saying it isn’t distressed.

Bank-owned Properties, Short Sales and any number of other situations lumped under the umbrella of pre-foreclosures made up more than 40% of the sales last year. Almost half.

Spring has arrived (a little early) for all those Real People who own those non-distressed properties and see themselves as being the Real, Real Estate Market.
Time for the real buying to begin. Any day now. Those real sellers are waiting for you real buyers.

For those basketball afficionados out there, old enough to remember when there was both an NBA and a separate ABA, this feels like then. There were two different leagues playing the same game but also playing slightly different games. What was clear to all who could read the writing on the wall, was, sooner or later they were going to have to merge. There wasn’t room for both.

Well sports fans, these real estate markets are going to have to merge too. I’ve already accepted the three point shot. I just hope we don’t get stuck playing with a red, white and blue ball.

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