Sending Up Thought Bubbles

thought-bubble-blackThings are getting better.  Every day  in every way?  No, that might be stretching the bounds of recent good fortune a bit too far.  And God Knows, we’ve sworn off anything that even remotely smacks of exaggeration or irrational exuberance for at least another seven years.

Nope. We’re not going to go down that road anytime soon.  But things are getting better nevertheless.  Whether we don’t like it or not.

Even if there are tons of buyers out there clenching their jaws. Gritting their teeth. Grinding their back molars in frustration.  Muttering under their breaths.  Sending tortured thought bubbles up into the stratosphere.  Issuing silent screams to a seemingly distant God and an utterly mystifying marketplace  that just doesn’t seem to care that they are back. And now…finally…..want to buy.

Yep. Things are busier.  But not nearly as busy as the growing ranks of would-be buyers busy railing about the supreme injustice of a market that should theoretically be welcoming them with open arms. And open doors and windows of sublime opportunity.  Rather than punishing them with what feels like some kind of passive-aggressive withholding behavior.  A depressing no-show act that’s keeping anything decent off the market. Out of sight and out of reach.

If you are an eager first time buyer or just a regular “organic”  buyer that can fog a mirror, generate a pulse and easily qualify for a home loan and a purchase somewhere in the vicinity of the mid level price range of  – $500k to $750k –  you’ve probably experienced humbling events and suffered some gross indignities over the last six months.   As infinitely patient as you’ve been, no matter how many times a day you check your property search engine, so far through the first three weeks of 2013 – nothing much seems to have radically changed the status quo of buyers’ woe.

– The number of bank owned properties coming on the MLS has diminished. Fewer choices.

– The number of short sale listings has diminished – and those that are coming on as short sales seem to be carrying some particularly ugly baggage with them. Fewer choices.

– The foreclosure flip market is drying up.  Less investor cash types plucking tarnished gems off courthouse steps, doing quickie makeovers and offering them back up to other folks who would rather not do the work themselves. Fewer choices.

– The sad fact that many mid-range properties languishing on the market for more than a few months  are simply too painful to look at or are irreparably tarnished by unfixable inspection issues, clouds on title or completely dysfunctional sellers.  Fewer choices.

– The sad fact that a high percentage of properties coming on new are located in suspect neighborhoods or on busy streets or have steep slopes or no sun or have just way too much deferred maintenance.  Fewer choices.

The sad fact that the few relatively good properties coming on in good locations with a little soul and a bit of curb appeal and nice lots – are being besieged by multiple offers.  Many of them tendered by all-cash buyers that other well-qualified people simply can’t compete with.  Fewer choices.

More than 23 years in real estate and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a market with fewer choices.  So many Buyers that want to buy but such a painfully slow and tortuous drip of homes coming on – one or two at a time.

Back in the early 90’s there were times when 1500 single family homes were for sale. All addressed up. Ready to go.  But you could shoot a cannon down any street with five or six for sale signs on it and not hit a buyer.  They weren’t just scarce. They were all but non-existent.

These days any random cannon shot down any decent street is likely to nail a dozen buyers like bowling pins.  But it’s not just here – Stockton – the foreclosure capital of America – has a shortage of  homes for sale.  Las Vegas itself – the ultimate fool’s paradise of boom and bust –  has less than a five weeks supply of homes available.

Next week we’ll discuss the reasons.

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