How Low Can We Go?

And the dips just keep on coming…

Turns out this isn’t the Catfish Recovery afterall. One of the creative metaphors swimming around out there. Refers to a real estate market sustaining itself in the murky depths at the bottom of a stagnant pond.

Nah. This is the Baskin and Robbins Recovery.   The one of Double Dips and Great Recessions 2.0.   Do they make triple dip cones?  I scream, you scream, we all scream for …. Neapolitan anyone?

I’m just hoping we don’t go for the Chubby Checker Recovery.   Remember the Limbo Rock? Chubby chuckling  “How low can you go? ”  in demonic undertones.  Participants lined up for St. Vitus gyrations set to an Apocalypso beat.  Trying to  underachieve the continuously lowered bar of their own expectations.   “Great to dance to Dick.  I give it a 9.0 on the Richter Scale.”

Anyway, this is one of those times when real estate throws  “location, location, location” out the window.  Before the window closes .  When’s the last time you heard someone use that sage piece of advice ?  Who cares where you are buying, if you aren’t buying in the first place

The popular corollary to  “location, location, location” has always been: “I’d rather have the worst house on the best block instead of the best house on the worst block.”

Problem is that they all feel like the worst house on the worst block when the shadow inventory of scary “things to come”  looms  larger in the boogeyman-infested closet of our vivid imagination.   Walked through one of those bank-owned distress properties lately?   That awful fishy smell is also a metaphor for the market we’re in.

Ah, the bad good old days before our unrelenting greed got us into trouble.

A rapidly appreciating market cures all ills.  At least for awhile. Tough to make a mistake in a market shooting through the roof.  The choices are simple because the results are either going to be great or less great.

Second story addition?   Go for it.  Spent too much on the remodel?  No problem.  A little appreciation over time covers it.  More termite damage than you anticipated? Last month’s rise makes up the difference.  Flat out bought the wrong place?  Voila!  Just sell it for a profit tomorrow and go pick yourself out a new one in the grand scheme of musical houses.

It’s all good. Or so it seemed…at the TIME.

That’s right. TIME.    The 4th dimension is the operative gambit here.  It’s when that’s most important at this point on the space-time continuum. Not where.  And most people don’t have a clue when to say when –  not knowing whether the market is coming or going.

Instead of shooting through the roof it feels like the market is somehow shooting us all through the foot.  If not here? Where?  If not not now??? See what I mean.

So we are retiring Location x 3. Putting it out to pasture.  Giving it a gold watch and moving it down the list of popular coinages in the realm of real estate.  Looking for a worthy replacement to trot out in its stead to assume the mantle of conventional wisdom.

How about Fear and Greed?  The simple juxtaposition of two seemingly opposite (although both negative) aspects of human nature.  Qualifies as one of the longest running threads in real estate. In almost continuous use since Adam Smith first began strumming our neurons with his “invisible hand” of the marketplace.

But I’m going to simplify things even further since we’re in such a pinch.  Let’s just say that Greed is the FEAR of not having enough.   Make that little alteration in the alliteration and we are simply left with FEAR.  Naked FEAR.  FEAR as the sum of all FEARS.  FEAR that FEARS nothing but itself.   FEAR with a sprig of loathing thrown in like parsley on the side.  FEAR in the time of cholera – or the great flux, as some might say.

There’s a mindfulness meditation certain Buddhist schools practice. In this impasse they might recommend sitting in your real estate office or in your listing or in your car in front of some new place for sale, simply repeating:  “Feeling Fearful. Feeling Fearful.  Feeling Fearful. ”
A worthy mantra. By definition, you can’t repeat a mantra too many times.  That’s the whole point. You’re supposed to keep repeating it over and over again.  Say it loud. Say it often. Say it like you mean it.

Through acceptance rather than denial comes transformation.   Ok. We’re human. We’re feeling fearful.   No judgment.  Just acknowledgement.    Holding it in gives fear life and longevity. When you begin to name that which isn’t supposed to be named, you-know-what’s grip weakens. And we are free to move on.


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