We are seeing more “positive” real estate reports published these days. As a matter of fact, the most positive reports since the crash of 2008.
The last quarter of 2012 was a big quarter for property owners who were tax averse or had a great sum of wealth tied up in their property or both. The looming threat of the 2103 increase in capital gains, was too much to bear for some. A number of sellers dropped their asking price by millions to avoid paying additional taxes (perhaps in the thousands) to the government. The reality is, many of those sellers were finally motivated to price their homes at market value after years of wishing, wanting, hoping for the price they would’ve, could’ve, should’ve taken in 2007.
Buyers have been waiting patiently on the sidelines for sellers to get real with offering prices. It seems that the threat of increased taxes, only trumped by death, was just the elixir that brought motivation home to roost for many. Quite clever, that Uncle Sam.
So, while Manhattan and The Hamptons are seeing record sales, many other parts of the nation are seeing increased sales as well. California, Arizona and Florida have seen increased values and numbers of sales, but coming back from a 50%, 60% or even 70% drop in value was inevitable. Even as my friend, Alison Rogers, writes in Time Business about Home Prices “Jumping”, it’s not happening in every market.
Jonathan Miller posts about the Pre-Covery (a term shouted out by my other friend Phil Faranda, one of the sharpest tools in the shed ). Read the Jonathan Miller post and the Robert Schiller NYTimes piece for more insight.
The way I see it, business has maintained a pretty healthy level of activity as we have arrived into 2013 and I believe it is going to be a good year for many in the market, but for different reasons. We are still left with three basic groups in today’s real estate economy; The Good or the “Haves”, The Bad or the “Holder-On-ers” and the Ugly – the “Have-Not’s”.
The Good (Haves) may have lost some of their net worth during the last 5 years, but still have plenty of assets at their disposal. They know that many property values are down to 2004/2005 levels and the cost of borrowing money at historic low levels. The Good know now is a good time to invest. While many sellers have been resilient, holding on to their 2007 asking prices, the Good have been even more resilient. They walk through homes, take notes, ask about length of time on the market and price history (or more often tell the agent about them based upon their online research). If the price is out of line, they don’t bother to make an offer, unless its a one-of-a-kind, gotta-have property that has particular appeal to them. They don’t need a recovery.
The other sub-set of Haves are the young, responsible up-and-comers who were too busy either finishing school or getting their career started during the fat-and-happy days. They didn’t get caught up in the Irrational Exuberance. They watched home prices escalate rapidly in the ’00′s thinking they may never be able to buy a home and are now delighted to buy their first home from a bank or a motivated seller at prices they saw 8 years ago.
The Bad (Holder-On-Ers) are just holding on for dear life. They were either able to move laterally in their career or are still there, watching company blogs and listening for the next round of layoffs…kind of like my older buddies waited for their number to be called in the ’69-’72 draft. Many of them resisted using their homes as an ATM during The Roaring ’00′s and are able to pay their bills and get by. Some were hoping for retirement or an easier pace of life by now, but the depletion of their investment accounts and loss of value in their homes has made that unattainable. Maybe they would like to move, but can’t afford to sell their house, buy a new one and the jobs that were once plentiful are now scarce. Left wondering why the stock market is back up to 2007 highs and their investment accounts and property values are not, they feel stuck, waiting for something to get either better or worse. They are hoping for a recovery.
The Ugly (Have Nots) have lost the life they once new, only a few short years ago. They not only over refinanced on their home (or homes) at the peak of the market, but they lost their ability to pay for it when the job market crashed or their company went out of business. Some of them were making $200k a year as a sales rep for just showing up and now can’t get hired for $75k, even though they learned to tap dance to Yankee Doodle Dandy. Many of them saw their credit lines shut down, their credit card interest rates double or triple and they are drowning in a sea of lack. Not a fun place to be. Others are making decisions for them right now. Maybe they were granted a loan modification and since then, have failed to keep up with new payments. They’re either just waiting for the bank to take their home or it already has and now they are renting. Dazed and confused about how the last 4-5 years could have happened. They are praying for a recovery (and filling out their Peace Corps application).
One thing is for sure: the economy is getting better – incrementally - for SOME , but not for all. Fortunately for us, the Hamptons has more of the Good…and Wall Street bonuses are unfolding….and spring rental and sales season is here…and the snow is melting…and life could be much worse.