Monthly Archives: November 2014

Taking Stock

Continuing the discussion…

TakingStockAfter a busy year, all is quiet on the real estate front. The market’s been moving at a more languid pace for at least a month now. And it’s doubtful that this weekend’s ritual orgy of mind-numbing football and tryptophan-laced turkey is going to significantly alter the pattern. Or inspire a lot more of you to run out at halftime and buy a house.

It may be the busiest weekend of the year for Best Buy and Macy’s. But as far as real estate sales go …not so much. We won’t see crowded lines of people camping out at new listings, stampeding open houses or pepper-spraying each other to be first in line to present offers. (That’s reserved for the spring isn’t it? Just kidding about the pepper spray folks.)

So time to take a breath. Take stock of where the market’s at. And perhaps more importantly, take a good look at where your own goals are relative to the market–at-large.

It may be time to rethink your assumptions. Review your options. Weigh your priorities. Consider what you may be willing to compromise on, for the greater good.

Let’s start with all those buyers-in-waiting out there. Earnest homeseekers who finally succumbed to extreme buyer-fatigue after the summer and decided to put their searches on hold for the rest of the year.  Buyers who worked long and hard to find something, but for a variety of reasons, weren’t quite able to pull it off

Taking stock of things is precisely what these buyers in the coming year are going to have to do. Because there’s going to be the same frustrating lack of new inventory, reasonable housing stock and quality listings that characterized 2014.

The Sentinel article on November 17 highlighted a few pertinent statistics in this regard. There were 404 active single family listings at the start of November. The fewest for any November in 18 years (think 1996!)  The number of active listings each month has now been lower than the same calendar month the previous year for 44 of the past 45 months!

By my count there were 325 active listings left in SC County this past Wednesday. A third of them priced at more than a million.  Not exactly music to the ears of an average buyer, with a median income, trying to qualify for a loan.

Bottom line: If you head into next year’s market without examining and tweaking your approach,  you may find yourself coming up short again.  Next week: Let’s explore a few ideas for shaking up your search.

Dialing it Down

DialingDownHere we are. Heading down the home stretch for 2014.

True. The day-to-day market seems like it has decided to dial itself back a few notches. Level itself out for a softer landing. The pace has slowed. There’s less tangible activity. And there’s nowhere near the same kind of ambient intensity that we thought we had become accustomed to as “the new normal”, just a few months back.

The overwhelming sense of urgency that dominated so much of 2014, has suddenly made itself scare. Hell, we aren’t even hearing about all those crazy first day/all cash/multiple offer/million dollar overbids in Palo Alto right now.

So… it’s an interesting time.

Whenever there’s a bit of a downshift like this, specially when it comes in and around the November and December holidays, there’s a huge temptation to sit back and put our expectations on autopilot.

Figuring that it must be time to drop back twenty yards and punt real estate into next year. Acquiesce and accept the notion that nothing hugely relevant is going to happen between now and whenever it is that the frenzy starts up again next spring.

But it’s not that easy to do this year.

There’s still plenty of momentum buzzing around from those early spring and late summer surges we had. When agents, buyers and sellers were all running around with their hair on fire. It’s hard to know what to do with all the extra adrenalin when multiple offers aren’t flying left and right.

When the market’s that en fuego response times are accelerated. Negotiations are quick. Escrows are short. Days on market fly by. Listings come and go in the blink of an eye. Life decisions are made innanoseconds. And money talks because it’s so good at squeezing all the timelines.

It’s always now or never. Or worse yet, it all has to arrive absolutely, positively yesterday.

So maybe it’s a good thing the market is giving itself (and us) a break. Let’s spend a few columns reflecting on what we know now that we couldn’t have known when we started out this year. Let’s also begin to formulate our educated guesses for the coming year.

We’ll track the trends. Point to the patterns. And once again try to hack the meaning of the marketplace in search of a real estate version of the “Theory of Everything.” One that explains why we can’t always explain why the market does what it does.

Stay tuned.

Life Along the Continuum

blogphoto2Realtors are given intimate access to lots of life lessons by virtue of their work. We are blessed with opportunities for insight into the good, the bad and the ironic of human nature – simply by doing what we do.

Everyday we are invited into people’s homes and lives.  Asked to play a role in the life transitions our clients choose to navigate. Or in the transitions that unexpectedly arise to choose them.

As long as we keep our eyes and hearts open, we get to work with all the biggies.

Marriage.  Growing families. Birth of twins.  Job promotions. Career goals. Coming of age.  Empty nests.  Divorces.  Second marriages. Health challenges.  Assisted living.  Death of parents.  Loss of friends..

For better or for worse. Richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.  And everything in between.  These are all the reasons people move.  And why homes are bought and sold. Life transitions are what home-lives are really about.

YThe essence of home isn’t rooted in the notion that people should stay put forever and resist change as long as they can.  It lies in people trying to find the most appropriate means and comfortable ways to shift their center in relation to life’s inevitability.   Not to change really isn’t an option.

When people spend hours surfing the web or driving around neighborhoods looking for three bedrooms rather than two, bigger backyards, proximity to schools, more privacy, less grass to mow, deeper connections to nature, shorter commute times, fewer stairs …   they are really just participating in the evolution of life and the grander scheme of things.

Realtors have front row seats to the entire drama. Theirs is a perfect vantage point along the continuum.  They get to watch it all unfold while the clock continues to wind down.

And that’s something incredibly rare these days.  The gift of the big picture.

More and more, the world seems intent on compartmentalizing life.  Diminishing the whole. Breaking things up into smaller bits.  Deconstructing them into disparate fragments and fodder for the digital age.

Our right-brains selves that connect us to the larger, analogous flow of life, are losing ground to our left-brain selves – whose aim, it appears, is to Balkanize everyone and everything into separate realms of existence.

It’s sad to hear people talk about seniors like they are from a different planet. (Is that the octogenarian seniors who are really our parents? Or is it those of us who just earned the dubious honor of purchasing cheaper tickets at the movies? )

It’s also sad to hear people talk about millennials like they are from some different time in history.

Like all of us are somehow different populations of “other” people simultaneously occupying alternate universes instead of co-existing together in the here and now.

Trans-generational living was once the norm.  Families transitioned through all of life’s changes and stages together as a whole. Children were born into households that had parents and grandparents and often great-grandparents living under one roof.

Aunts and uncles lived next door or nearby. Cousins were playmates.  Children learned from all the adults in their tribe. They saw all of life’s stages unfold up close and personal.  They witnessed death and integrated the memory of it.

People didn’t stray so far from home.  Society/Culture wasn’t as fluid or transient as it is now. An appreciation for the continuity to life was communicated it’s  most visceral human level.

Somewhere along the way, that quality of life left the building.  It deserted our homes and our towns. Migrated to the suburbs. Met a dystopian future.

But that’s not the end of the story.  My own optimism about the future has been buoyed in recent years by the choices I am watching my clients make more consistently in the face of change.   Next week we’ll talk more about that.

Demographic Shift

Blog1Today 10,000 people in the US will turn 65. In another 5 to 7 years, that number is going to take a quantum leap further into the stratosphere. All the while more people are going to be living longer than their parents did.

How does this huge demographic shift and upward migration along the timeline relate to thoughts we are wrestling with and decisions we are making (or should be making) today? What does it all mean for the future of real estate?

Homes are the biggest assets most of us will ever own.  They also serve as the all-important physical, emotional, psychic centering places for our lives. So it makes perfect sense that homes often occupy center stage in so many of the larger life discussions people have.

But here’s the thing… there’s not really much of a mindful, open,  broad public dialogue happening about the rapidly changing nature of the age or the loosening fabric of the culture.

It’s more of an isolated web of separate discussions that’s taking place among small, compartmentalized groups of friends and family members. Or between a steady stream of inner voices loudly talking inside each person’s head.

All looking for some larger voice recognition pattern to fit into.

This is my own small attempt to connect the thousand disparate  threads of the same conversation that is already happening. Now more than ever.  If it sounds familiar, welcome to the club.  Go to to catch up and join in.

Change. There’s nothing more certain.  The entire universe is constructed by it, around it, through it.

Any single thing along the continuum we choose to call real or permanent only exists as the whisper of a fragment.  The shutter of a quick snapshot taking place in an interlude between infinitesimal moments. A short stop along the periodic table while elements transforms into energy and then back again.

We are all verbs that like to harbor the illusion that we are nouns.  Narratives that keep trying to get a fix on our own story by incorporating some kind of abstract calculus as a plot device.

Even though we are all creatures of change and there’s nothing more certain, there’s also nothing that resists the “idea of change” more than certain parts of our brains do.

Those neural pathways are like well-worn deer trails. The more they get used, the more embedded and fossilized they become in the underlying strata.

When that happens, they hunker down and start to operate on survival mode. Dig in and fight to preserve themselves.

Why do so many people stay in houses that they actively dislike? Or places that just don’t work for them either now or specially in the future?  Because the prospect of change is so scary.

The known known, no matter how unpleasant, is often less frightening than the unknown known.  That as yet unqualified spectre of change that feels like the shadow of your former self is about to step off the dark edge of a precipice into a bottomless abyss.

We convince ourselves that without the same accustomed neural pathways in play, we won’t know who we are anymore. With our ego structure gone, we’ll have to start all over again like a stroke patient learning how to walk and talk like they used to. Or in this case, intriguingly, perhaps in a brand new way.

And that’s where we’ll stop. With the tiny idea that change could be an introduction to something new rather than fearful.  It might be something to embrace rather than resist. By opting for the default position of choosing not to change.  Kicking the can down the road until life inevitably steps in and does what it always does… makes the choices for you whether you are ready or not.