Looking at the Bottom of the Barrel

barrelWhat was that tag line  we used to see on posters promoting Rasta bands at the Catalyst way back when?   All Killer – No Filler?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could channel a little more of that sentiment (and mojo) into the real estate inventory these days.  Seems like no matter how many times a day you and I and I go onto the MLS to check for new listings or download search engine e mails…nothing much new “of value” comes on. Just the same old same old.

Tired inventory.  Picked-over inventory.  Stale-inventory.  A warmed-over re-hash of all the stuff that didn’t sell last year.  Including a strange menagerie of distress properties.  Dubious short sales you can never be sure of and a smattering of REOs the banks are slowly pinching out of their systems…starting with the worst first.

The sum total?  An uninspiring catalogue of places.  Most of which aren’t qualified enough to move anyone anywhere.  As in: Move buyers in. And move sellers out.

(Quick disclaimer:  Individual Sellers, don’t get bent out of shape here. I’m talking about everyone else’s listing except yours.)

I guess we could say it’s All Filler…Very Little Killer in real estate land right now.  Not many killer views, killer yards, killer locations.   Or to lower our expectations just a little more… not many plain old, modest, middle of the road killer houses packaged up in nice presentations at reasonable price points. Specially right there in the sweet spot zone between $600k and $800k.  I don’t know about you…but it’s killin’ me.

Most Agents understand.  They’ve got clients calling too. Buyers ready to buy.  Or who think they are.  Buyers becoming increasingly frustrated with a market that doesn’t seem to offer anything up that fits their needs or price range.  And by extension, Buyers frustrated with their own Agents, who become more suspect each week when they fail to turn over enough rocks or the “right” rocks to uncover that special hidden gem waiting out there. Somewhere.

The same Buyers who don’t understand why it is so hard to buy in a Perfect Buyers Market now that it has rounded past the bottom and started morphing into a Sellers Market – at least for the few decent listings that are making their way into the market in the “zone”.

Yep – it isn’t a Perfect Buyers Market.  But it still could be a good one.  There are certainly incredible interest rates.  And prices are certainly still way down from the peak (remember – the Median Price almost hit $800k for a brief moment in time back in the boom days).  Those are two of the defining characteristics of a Buyers Market.

What’s missing?   Great places that people actually want to buy.  I think some people call it supply.  Or maybe “effective” supply would be a better term.

I keep having the same deja-vu  experience.  Clients who’ve been looking forever, pouring over the on-line pictures of homes for sale, who keep calling and asking to see places they forgot they already saw a year ago.  Houses that didn’t work then and aren’t going to work after another 365 days on market and a minimal price reduction.   I call this  “Deja Viewing”. Stare at the MLS long enough and homes start repeating themselves over and over.

So when’s this slow tortuous drip of new properties coming on going to end?  When do the floodgates open? I feel like a kid staring at the classroom clock.  Waiting for recess from a hard lesson. The minute hand isn’t moving. The fabric of time is frozen.

Groundhog Day already came and went this month. Another shadow appeared.  Another six weeks of winter.  Was it the shadow of a huge shadow inventory that we’ll see someday relatively soon?  Or was it the shadowy logic of would-be sellers planning to hold back putting their places on the market, for as long as they can?

Either way, looks like the winter of our buyers’ discontent (vis-à-vis the market’s lack of content)  might run through part of the spring.  Hopefully not the summer and fall.  And hopefully the shadow will be banished for good by next February.  We  can’t keep kicking the groundhog down the road forever.


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