Monthly Archives: April 2011

Keys to Success!

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive e mail invitations or cold call solicitations offering “keys” to real estate success.  Comes with the turf.  Seven Key Secrets. Five Key Ingredients. Three Key Tricks of the Trade.  The Keys to the Kingdom of Everlasting Happiness and Unfettered Joy. The kind only money can buy.

Being a devout contrarian, destined to always suck-up to a different paradigm, I’m low-key about these keys people are peddling. Specially in a marketplace where so many Friedman-types are reverting to Key-nesian principals.

For me, real estate success begins with the simplest of keys. The one that unlocks the front door and lets me in. Literally.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.  Can’t show the house? Can’t sell it.

So think keys. Single Sided. Double Sided. Master. Lots of keys. Realtors handle more keys than any executive-level custodial engineer in the cosmos does.

Our relationship with keys is complex.  Love ’em.  Hate ’em.  After more than two decades in the biz, I’m convinced that  Coyote Trickster is the Patron Saint of Keys.  Makes sense. When you are constantly opening new doors into other worlds there’s  bound to be a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Here are a few thoughts culled from my own key experiences..

Remember those old style lockboxes?  I don’t miss them but do think fondly of them. Big clunky metal things. Manual rather than digital.  Dinosaurs by today’s sleek-geek standards.

They had numbered tumblers that rolled into place so you could stick a flimsy skeleton key in and retrieve the house key. Fake rock hide-a-key devices for agents.  Of course, every time the automatic sprinkler system went awry they’d rust up and freeze. WD-40 was an integral part of every agent’s survival kit.  We were often up the creek though when one of those cheap-o skeleton keys broke off in the slot.

These days we’ve evolved from “lockboxes” to digital, infrared ” keysafes”. A vast improvement. But in this era of distressed real estate, we are also seeing the reemergence of even older-style combo lockboxes that surely had their roots in medieval torture chambers.

Remember?  The shame and sheer panic you felt when you couldn’t get the combination on your high school locker to work as the bell was ringing?  One turn to the left? Two back to the right?  Holding your breath as clumsy fingers went back one more time to the left?

Try doing that when your livelihood depends on it.  After months of therapy to get over my imbedded fear of combination locks, I can open them like a champ now.   Even when anxious clients are staring over my shoulder.   And you wonder why we get the big bucks.

Then there are the hanging chads. The bane of  Realtor existence.  Those little oval label tags attached to too many keys that get jammed back up into the box.  Good luck when they get stuck inside like a piece of silverware in your dishwasher. You’re not going to get that secure keysafe open.  Pound it with a sledge hammer.  Drive over it. Toss it into a gorilla cage like a piece of luggage. It isn’t going to open.

Unclear Proliferation is when the number of keys in any given keysafe exceeds critical mass and the Agent’s head explodes. Nine different keys in one tiny key container. Deadbolt. Doorknob. Masterlock on the garage. Individual keys for each bedroom. Odd keys to all those special “bonus” spaces (wink-wink.)

Over time, Realtors learn the delicate art of futzing with ill-fitting keys. The most experienced can take the rejects that teenagers make in the hardware stores and jiggle them to success in lock mechanisms with the skill of a cat burglar.

There’s no worse feeling as an agent than showing twelve properties in the same day, handling twelve different keys, coming home and realizing that you still have one odd key left in your pocket without a clue as to which property it came from.

What do we Realtors really want?  We want a turnkey key system. We  hate to look stupid in front of our clients. And if we haven’t run out of gas on the way to the property. or gotten lost, we just want to be able to find the key safe when we get there. Don’t hide it in the bushes. Or on the side door. Which side?  Left side? Or my other left?

The Future of House Keys?   Retina Scans. Realtors will go to the front door put their eyes up to the peephole and voila.  Or a Voice Activated I Phone App.  Popeye’s pre-programmed voice saying “Open Sez’ Me!”


Any Zen Rainmakers Out There?

Middle of the month already?  Damn! Missed my shot at April Fools. Could’ve regaled you with fun stories ripped straight from the real estate pages of the National Enquirer.

Surprised Seller gives birth to four unit duplex!  Struggling Country Western singer uses woeful short sale letter to pen lyrics for chart-topping hit!  Swell of Santa Cruz homeowners invoke new rally cry: ” Can’t pay the mortgage this month…Surf’s Up!”  Experts predict “cash for keys” will soon exceed total payment of “cash for kilos” in underground/underwater economy.

Clearly I’ve also missed my shot at April Fool’s Day 2.0 as well.  The 15th.  Tax time.  Our annual opportunity to render onto Caesar that which Caesar is going to use to make late payments on his own negatively-amortizing debt.  Mort- gage.  Comes from French words.  Just another name for death-tax and nothing left to lose these days.

No excuse for my lapse though.  You wouldn’t believe me anyway. Even if I said I was still recovering from the harrowing listing appointment I had out at Pajaro Dunes on the very same day that folks were running for the hills fleeing the threat of the Tsunami. There I was sitting on a couch bragging about how I could pull in more potential buyers to view the flood of places for sale out there, when I noticed neighbors outside, scrambling for their cars.  A Surreal Estate moment for sure.

Does it say something about us as human beings that so many people were racing up to the Summit while so many others were alternately hurrying down to the beach for front row seats? Sounds kinda like the real estate market doesn’t it?

Buyers and Sellers and Agents running around like chickens. Fools rushing in. Others rushing out. Me? I’m just trying to find a little middle ground. Some semblance of  equilibrium. As opposed to a mega-dose of librium ordered from www, and slipped surreptitiously into the local water supply.

We’re on the eve of the next installment of real estate stats – soon to be released. The March Numbers!  Bound to get all the spinmeisters jockeying for position. Yammering  hues and cries. Plenty of sound and fury signifying… what?   Signifying that it’s no longer so easy to tell what the market is doing.  The talking heads have stopped making sense.

When we try to check for a pulse out there, whose necks are our fingers touching? Necks stretched too far?  In the noose? Necks retracted turtle-like into their own shells?  Erstwhile ostrich necks looking for convenient holes to hide and look the other way in?

Is that the carotid artery we are feeling? Or the jugular vein?  Is  oxygen-rich blood flowing up toward the collective brain.  Or is all the depleted stuff heading down towards heavy hearts?  Are we in the midst of an inhale or an exhale? Or simply still holding our breaths?

Where are we on the Kubler-Ross 5 Stage Cycle of Economic Grief anyhow?, Denial? Anger? Bargaining? Depression? Acceptance? Depends on who you are and who you talk to.  We’re spread out across the board.

There used to be 8 Million Stories in the Naked City. Now there are 8 Billion –  counting Facebook and Twitter. So what’s your story?  What are you telling yourself about the continuum of beliefs you are wired into.

Are we at the bottom yet? Past it?  Prices going up? The long predicted double dip finally upon us?  Are we kicking the can down the road further? Dragging our feet? Did the recession really end in the summer of 2009?

Maybe this is a great time. Are you one of those who genuinely sees opportunity in difficult times?  Flipping foreclosures? Making a ton of bucks? Listing lots of short sales and experiencing a meteoric rise in your career?

Maybe you are scared to death but doing your best not to let anyone see you sweat.  Maybe you are a zen rainmaker going about your personal tea ritual, sending balancing ripples out into the universe.

Maybe you think this is another Great Depression. Or just one more cycle of up and down like all the other cycles that came before. A familiar reincarnation of the early 90’s.   Maybe you think this is the Mayan Calendar of Real Estate. The Singularity.  The defining paradigm shift signaling a change in the world forever.

We are swimming in a sea of stories. The narrative thread has unraveled.  Tangled and wrapped itself around the tower of Babel.  We’ve lost the plot and we are all searching for a new kind of calculus. One that will make all the stories add up into something believable again. Numbers that don’t make us dumb or numb-er.


Tiptoe Through the Tulipmania

Welcome to the cognitive blog of dissonance called Real Estate of Mind. That’s right, the royal we  (me, myself and I) sit back all week and soak it in like a sponge. Then “we” try to wring it back out to you in a way that trips the light fantastic on the razor’s edge of realty, deftly tiptoeing through the leftover mind fields of tulipmania still dotting the landscape.

Call it an odd form of drip marketing.  But please feel free to follow the bouncing neuron until you hear your own synapse crackle and pop.

Rumor has it that there was an actual buyer sighting in the Aptos Hills on Tuesday! Another in La Selva! And three spontaneous buyer “outings”  were reported on the west side of Santa Cruz the very next day!

They’re there. They can run around but they can’t hide forever. They are going to have to flush themselves up to the surface sometime. When and if enough of them decide they really do want a permanent roof over their heads.

We’ve got good news and bad news for you Sellers in our studio audience today.
First, the number of single family transactions closed in March was significantly higher than those that blossomed in March of last year –  164 real deals vs.128!

That puts us 40 transactions ahead of 2010’s 1st quarter results.  I guess we can say, with the certainty of big bold font that SALES VOLUME IS UP IN 2011!!!   There’s a headline we can hitch our wagons to!  Giddyap!

The bad news?  Sales have increased but the median price has slipped well below $500k – three months in a row.  We’d have to ask Sherman to fire up the Way-Back Machine and chauffeur us to 2001 to see the last time prices were mired in the $400’s. Of course, a decade ago we didn’t see it as “mired.” We were happily moving up.  Not ratcheting our way down.

And condos? Uh.  Not a pretty picture on the stat charts.  One more unit actually closed this March than March of last year.  A score of 29 to 28 if you are keeping track for your rotisserie real estate league.  But the same marketplace managed to suck the oxygen out of the prices on those condo sales.  Without cabin pressure, the median fell to earth and hit $250k. You definitely have to recede to the turn of the millenium to find that price point.

A reminder to those who always ask the question: “Are condos a good investment?”  One answer is: “Yes and no.” The real answer, like anything else market-oriented is: ” Depends on when you buy ’em in relation to when you sell ’em.”  Timing. timing, timing (not location, location, location) is God when it comes to real estate.  You might want to friend the 4th dimension on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Condo sales & prices generally trail the single family market up. When the cost of regular old houses graduates beyond the level most people can afford, more buyers begin to look at the next best choice –  condos/townhomes/puds.  Suddenly demand skyrockets and overwhelms the supply. Condo Sellers are in luck.

Conversely, condos lead the way down, when the price of single family homes  drops.  When, people can afford it, most would rather own their own piece of the rock  instead of sharing it with strangers.

Condos appreciated much faster than single family homes did in 2005-2006. A great investment for those who got in and out at the right time.  But as March’s median tells us, some who thought they knew when to hold are now learning what it’s like to fold.

Just a few more realty bytes to digest as brain food for thought: The median for single family homes peaked in 2005/2006 at $790K.  Condos peaked at $572K in 2006. Last month 40 to 50% of the closed sales were distress sales. With more on the way. An increasing number of purchases were all-cash. Less lenders. Less tortuous qualifying. Even with exceptional interest rates.

Expert economists are now revising the revision of their formerly revised opinions.  They say the real estate market will continue to weaken till the end of the year, before we see a modest recovery.  Now if they can just define ‘modest recovery’ in terms everyone can understand, the prognosis will mean something.

In the meantime, let’s go back to the good news and bad news of the moment. Sellers, think of yourselves as one collective body. One group mind. One global consciousness.  What would make it a better market for you?  More sales? Or higher prices? You only get to choose one.  Which one are you willing to take?  Name your poison.



I confess.  I never quite know how to take it when some of you take me too seriously.  Not that real estate isn’t an all-too-serious business these days. But if everyone starts taking everyone else too seriously, it could go viral!  We might miss that last little bit of endangered humor that’s hiding out there, cowering under a rock.

Last week, we discussed an exceedingly odd phenomenon that’s been occurring. Properties put on the market by Sellers going out of their way to make homes hard to see and/or make showings they do get, less inviting for prospective buyers.

Almost like they don’t really want to sell them at all!  Almost like they are just going through the motions to satisfy some other strange agenda!  Almost as though they think the showing process itself should be a kind of modern-day Spanish Inquisition! Trial by fire, weeding out true buyers from those masquerading as such to indulge their penchant for kicking tires!  The premise?  Prospective buyers should be judged guilty until proven innocent and of pure intent – by first surviving the experience!

We speculated what the underlying psychology might be but didn’t come to any conclusions.  We just left it as one more contradiction in a growing list of contradictions. Symptomatic of a marketplace turned inside-out and upside-down by recent events.

But one of you picked right up on the theme without missing a beat.  An anonymous entrepreneur claiming to be a lifelong Santa Cruz tenant immediately e mailed me a 50 page catalogue called Buyer Be-Gone (Products to Make Sure Your House Doesn’t Sell.)

Apparently he has been waiting for just the right moment to step up and promote his wealth of experience. And this is the right marketplace – with so many ambivalent sellers becoming more ambivalent each day. I suspect ulterior motives. An April Fools joke perhaps. But I’m just going to pass on some of his offerings and let you be the judge.

PREEMPTIVE STRIKE:  Buyers will Be-Gone before they even get there: Insist on 24 hours notice prior to showing.  Purchase one of our cheap answering machines guaranteed not to work. Can’t get ahold of you? They can’t show the property.  Also comes with free Mobile App that diverts calls to an automated message declaring voice mail cannot receive any new messages.

FAKE HOSE-BIB: Fool the Agents.  Convince them to put their lockboxes on what looks like the real thing. After they are gone, simply slip fake hose-bib off the handy exterior wall mount.  Dig a hole in the garden and bury the lockbox. Replace fake-hose bib and repeat same. As often as necessary.

KEYS TO NOWHERE:  Purchase this new I Phone App showing the location of all local hardware stores and key-making kiosks that have proven themselves incapable of making copies that actually work.  Locks that don’t turn, don’t turn into sales.

PETPOURRI: Buyer Be-Gone’s equivalent of new car smell.  Handy spray can that duplicates and distributes the distinctive aroma of Old Dog Smell.  Apply ten minutes prior to showing for maximum effect. Also available in Old Kitty Litter.

SECOND HAND SMOKES:  What do you think they do with all those cigarettes they collect at the beach on clean-up day?  We buy, recycle and package them in five-pound bags.  All the stale butts you will ever need.  Each order comes with a free decorative ash tray and a 30 day supply of inhalers. Want to turn off prospective buyers? Smoke ’em out.

TAKE THE PLUNGE:  Cheap plungers, made in China. Six for a dollar. They don’t actually work, but place several next to each toilet in the house and watch them flush buyer fears about the old plumbing right to the surface.

FAUX FINISH:  Apply our special line of faux mold paint to the inside of closets, behind dressers, along baseboards and underneath bathroom sinks.  For most effective results, we recommend black.

NIGHT AND DAY:  Sturdy blackout blinds, made from recycled plastic trash bags.  Guaranteed to darken any space and make any room feel small and depressing.  It’ll be curtains for prospective buyers. Don’t miss your window of opportunity.

DIM BULBS:  How many Realtors does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Have fun watching and counting after you purchase a large supply of our burned-out bulbs, packaged to look like new. No matter how many times they try to screw and unscrew them, you’ll still screw up the sale.

Other Items:  Rusted Fifty Pound Hazardous Waste Drums for Backyard Staging,  Handy Stick-on Foundation Cracks. Bulk Termite Droppings,  Wide Selection of Cracked Roof Tiles,  Limited Supply of Edvard Munch prints of “The Scream.”  Special Eerie Doll and Owl Collections Available Upon Request.


Strange Rites of Passage

When you work in real estate inexplicable things come up that often boggle the mind. Things that throw you off kilter for weeks, trying to figure out the answer to the age-old question: “What were they thinking?”

Sometimes it’s best to avoid going there.  Practice good mental hygiene.  Don’t over-think whatever it is “they” might be thinking.  Stop trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense.

But…of course…this is Real Estate of Mind.  Dedicated to the exploration of both the sacred and the profane. The undiscovered country where brains suffering the post-traumatic effects of real estate regularly unravel to sort themselves out.

We keep some of them in specimen jars on the shelf.  Someday we’ll open up the secret vault for public viewing.  But in the meantime…what should we mull over today?  What odd bone of contention has real estate tossed up for us to chew on?

How about this?   In a market where it is incredibly hard to sell a house, why are so many places so incredibly hard to get in to see?  Why so many stumbling blocks? Strange rites of passage buyers have to go through just to earn a peek?

Maybe I haven’t plumbed the full depths of my dog-eared copy of Real Estate for Dummies yet, but isn’t there a relationship between offering something for sale and actually letting prospective buyers examine the goods?  Don’t they have to get to first base first, before you can expect them to make it home?  Why so many blatant cases of Seller IDD (Intention Deficit Disorder?)

In the good old days, the frequent phrase on the MLS was:   “Offers Subject to Inspection.”   It meant certain properties couldn’t be viewed until you wrote an offer.  That’s right! The dubious opportunity for Buyers to write blind offers on places they hadn’t seen.

Not a particularly appealing sales m.o. in the here and now.  Better suited for markets like 2004/05 when frenzied buyers were willing to offer almost anything for any place under any circumstances, just to get their big toes in the door.

Nowadays, there’s a more insidious version of “subject to” rising up from the quicksand. For lack of a better name, I call it:  ” Showings Secretly Subject to Offer.”

Tough to describe. One of those things that makes one say:  “I’m not sure I smell what the Rock is cooking  here.”   There are way too many places, ostensibly for sale, that when push comes to shove and prospective buyers come to town, it turns out they really don’t want to show themselves after all.

So what’s up? Why are increasing numbers of people putting houses on the market without committing to the basic notion showing them?

Most obvious scenario?  Tenant Occupied. Why would any self-respecting tenant cooperate fully in a process that could result in a 30 day notice?  That’s not Human Nature 101.  Any agent who has shown houses occupied by renters understands 1001 ways they can subtly vibe buyers and ruin the mood.

What else? Short sales. If a Seller knows that there’s nothing coming out of it other than another chapter in a long tale of woe, there’s not a lot of incentive to roll out the red carpet.

Then there’s the fishbowl effect. Not a single soul likes living in a house that people come tromping through, poking heads into closets.  It’s an uncomfortable experience. Some sellers start out with the best of intentions, but wilt quickly along the way.

Perhaps in some cases it’s deeper.  A factitious disorder of the mind similar to Munchhausen’s Syndrome.  People exhibit symptoms of selling.  Hire an agent to create a lot of attention.  If the house sells, they’ll stop getting the attention they desire. So they make up excuses not to show it.

For some, resistance to showing is a form of passive/aggressive behavior.  Sellers are angry that the market is lousy.  It feels personal.  All those looky-loos not stepping up to buy are stealing their equity.  What better way to punish them than the “Ole” trick? Hold it out in front of their noses and then pull it back as soon as they show interest.  They’ll see who’s boss!

And finally,  maybe its all part of  the elaborate wish-fulfillment fantasy many Sellers have ingrained. There’s always one imaginary buyer out there.  Willing to step up. Pay cash. No questions asked.  The logical extension of this one-in-a-million chance at the lottery is:  you only have to suffer the inconvenience of showing your house once – to this same exact right buyer.  You can edit out all the other unwashed tire-kickers before you even have to make the bed or do last night’s dirty dishes.   One showing. One perfect offer. Priceless!


Time Flies…

OMG.    Almost the end of the first quarter already?  Time sure flies when you are having…whatever this is. I’m sure someone will invent a term for the magnus opus of malaise we’re caught up in. Some clever meme that sums it all up.  Maybe we’ll vote it in as word of the year  – joining other worthy winners from our recently checkered past – subprime (2007) and bailout (2008).

In the meantime, let’s quote Kenny Rogers (the way-back version) and say that we’ve “just stopped in to see what condition our condition is in.”

So what is or isn’t happening in real estate as far as we can tell?

Number of Sales? Steady or flat – depending on which implied meaning your bio-rhythms favor at the moment.

Steady as in not going “down” in the first two months of this year compared to last year  – January (94) and February (96)?  That’s good right? Not falling off the face of the earth.

Flat as in nowhere near the surge we were hoping to see when we bought into last year’s optimistic projections for this year.  The worst over. Recovery just around the corner.

And certainly flatter than flat when compared to December’s closings (127). But then there is never any shortage of excuses for poor sales in January and February.  Dog ate my contract. Grandma died before I could qualify for a loan. It’s raining and no one buys a house in the rain. Even though January sales had no trouble peaking at 154 and 160 in ’04 and ’05.

The more immediate question is…are we going to see the same rebound in March this year that we saw last March (128)? Hold on to your short sales folks.  The jury is still out. But my gut tells me, we’re going to be disappointed. Get ready for more loose lips talking double-dips.

Median Price?  Whoa. What happened? After floating between $500,000 and $550,000 most of 2010…the median suddenly hit the wall in January and fell to $430,000.  A slight uptick in February to $450,000…But where have all those tulips gone? Long time passing I’m afraid.  I think we may see a median closer to $500k for March’s closings, but they’ll be issuing a whole lot more AARP memberships before we ever get back to the $700k median prices we saw circa ’05 – ’07.

Make a note: If you are waiting patiently for it all to come back around to the glory days in order to make a more graceful exit from the market, make sure you’ve got plenty of survival food stocked.

Quality of Inventory?  Lousy.  Very little new coming on that’s exciting.  And exciting these days means:  great house, three price notches lower, move-in condition, motivated seller prepared to deal even further.  Most of the inventory consists of over-priced, lukewarm, left-overs from last year and a steady stream of depressing places addressed for distress.

Multiple Offers? Yep. A surprise in such a decidedly tough marketplace. The majority of choices are so poor that buyers are jumping at anything reasonably priced that embodies a modicum of quality, charm and nice setting.  “Organic” buyers trying to buy “organic” listings are incredibly frustrated by this trend. They don’t want to compete. It calls into question the very notion of a “buyers market.”

Buyer Psyches? Almost every buyer will tell you it is an incredibly good time to buy. They’ll parrot the fact that prices are down and interest rates are great…just before they tell you that they aren’t in any hurry. Translation? They’re scared to death that the market is going down further and aren’t afraid it is going up anytime soon.

Seller Pysches? Almost every Seller will acknowledge that the market has gone down quite a bit from the peak – with the exception of their own house, which has gone down a lot less. For one of a variety of good reasons: extra improvements they’ve made, an appraisal from two years ago, because they really need the money.

Seller Capitulation?  Slowly. Not surely. Unsteadily forward in fits and starts as individual Sellers continue to work through the different stages of their grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  The majority aren’t there yet.

Biggest Fantasies?  First the Chinese were going to come over and buy up all the real estate. Now it’s a new generation of Facebook millionaires poised to kick the market into high gear – any day now.

The Big Three?  Same as they’ve been. Same as they will be:  1) More better jobs. 2) Easing of the credit crunch. 3)  Significant reduction in the shadow inventory.  Without multi-tasking some resolution on all three fronts we’re going to be right back here at the end of the second quarter of 2011, wondering what happened.


The Conundrumming Circle

Welcome to the weekly conundrum-ing circle I call Real Estate of Mind. A small corner parcel lodged deep in the leaky brainpan of the collective psyche.  A place where everyone who is anyone is invited to wander in. Grab a spot on the spectrum of disbelief. Add their own crazy real estate conundrum to the growing mix of discord sounding out around us.

Ah, the cognitive dissonance of it all.  The crush of so many simultaneously conflicting ideas and experiences we are being asked to squeeze into our synapses without any foreseeable sense of resolution residing on the horizon.

Hoping against hope that the myriad contradictions won’t reach critical mass.   and explode our heads in another Big Bang. A giant aftershock following the Bursting Bubble that kicked this whole new parallel universe into existence in the first place.

But here we are.

We’ve got a real estate market where there are more people walking away from “home” than there are coming towards it.  More folks standing upside-down. Fewer sitting right side up.  A “subprime” phenomena climbing into the realm of higher demographics. Gain in equity getting flip-flopped into the dumping of debt.

The end of the recession getting pulled back to the summer of 2009 even as the bottom of the real estate market gets pushed forwards to 2012.  A double-dip in home prices  weaving its way into the notion of a real estate-less, job-less economy trying desperately to check itself into recovery.

Less low is the new high.  Less slow is the new fast. Cheaper is the new expensive.  Lose-lose is the new choice. Denial is the new crack. Perception unmakes the new reality. And kicking the can forward is the new dragging our
feet. There is no new normal. And the laws of physics from the “old” normal don’t apply.

And now that real estate is down, the piling on has started.  The former celebrity of Real Estate now the object of shame. Cover stories about the end of homeownership as we know it.  All the justifications about why renting is better than owning. The future of Fannie Mae and Freddic Mac in doubt. The great incentive of the Mortgage Interest Deduction up for debate.

And revisionist history says that it was our lofty dream of universal homeownership that went awry.  It was our very best intentions that morphed out of control and got co-opted by the money-changers right under the noses of all those sleeping regulators.

And we’ve got lots of sellers who feel like they are giving their homes away. And lots of buyers who aren’t seconding that emotion. They just aren’t buying in.

At the same time, we have lots of people who literally can’t give their homes away.  No matter how hard they try. No one answers the phone. There’s no way to reach the ghost running the machine. No one can actually figure out who owns the paper underlying all those homes that aren’t worth the amounts written on it.

And there’s a theory that consumer spending has increased because people who have stopped making their mortgage payments suddenly have thousands of dollars more a month to buy things with. And they’d rather have something to show for it than nothing.

And there’s no short in short sale. Not much closure in foreclosure.  And a whole lot of fault in those notices of default as the fickle finger of blame gets pointed willy-nilly in every direction.   The final consensus of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Is that it is everyone’s fault and no ones fault at the same time. We all drank the kool-ade.

So every Saturday, the conundrum-ing circle gathers in search of a few consistent patterns in the arrhythmic pulse of the marketplace. Beating the layers of information beneath the surface to thresh out some hint of meaning.  Trying to apply some semblance of rhyme and reason to an out of sync phenomenon that doesn’t want to yield up any of its own top secret algorithms.

As someone once said –  the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction needs to make sense.    Real estate?  Don’t hold your breath.  It doesn’t look like it’s going to start making sense any time soon.  My suggestion?  Better make up a good story for yourself.  Hunker down and stick to it.   “This” is going to take a lot longer than we thought.