National Inventory Down 21%; Local Inventory Down 27%; 38 on the WhiteBoard

Inman News, the online real estate news leader, isn’t one to blow smoke about a real estate recovery. REAL Trends and RIS Media were notoriously (and today, remain staggeringly) REALTOR-friendly, writing industry-friendly articles that support the persistent optimism of “it’s a great time to buy”. I will admit, Inman’s rather dark focus has forced me to frequently tune it out in order to put bread on the table for my family, because I can’t surround myself with such negativity and be productive. But growing up in a journalism household, I respect Inman’s high-integrity and focus on data over opinion. There are no “news articles” that are really hack opinion pieces. They’re not perfect. But most of the real estate industry is scared about what the data really says; Inman basically says “in the data are the answers”. They’re so refreshingly post-modern that way. 

So when the first words of Inman’s lead article today are: “U.S. housing market trends tracked by Realtor.com show a trifecta of promise: a shrinking number of homes on the market, fresher inventory, and an increase in median list price”, I think three things:

  1. Well of course, that’s REALTOR.com, and not Zillow’s, data 
  2. But all three of those are true here, in fact, in better numbers than what they’re reporting…
  3. You mean… this recovery might be for real?

Let me set the record straight: being your own boss has it’s privileges. You can make a lot of money in real estate. But gang, it’s been 61 months since the market tipped and the rules changed in April 2006.

Sixty-one months.

Thankfully I have a consumer-rich audience, not a bunch of REALTORS that I’m shouting to, so I just ask you, The Consumer, to pause for a moment and put yourself in my chair: if you worked in an industry that had been in decline for 61 months… wouldn’t you greet the news of “it’s finally in recovery” with a little bit of confusion? 

As a writer, I just sat there writing and erased a half dozen words after “with a little bit of…” That’s how confusing it is. I could have written…

Bliss.

Guarded Bliss.

Pessimism.

Optimism.

Panic.

Trepidation.

Hope.

Yep. All apply.

Welcome to my neurons. Welcome to my heart. Welcome to the dysfunction of properly advising clients whether or not they should put their house up for sale, make certain improvements, buy a certain property, look at foreclosures, wait out a short-sale, seize a low interest rate, “screw it and rent”, or boilerplate an answer as to “how’s the market” between nibbles of salad, when a past client walks up and asks. 

I make no bones about the fact that I write the last names of all my clients on a big white board and hang it in my office. Some people might think “I’m keeping score”. I’m not. I’m trying to remember that at any one time, I technically have a couple dozen “bosses”. I have the responsibility to serve them, execute skill and care, and hopefully, along the way, make it remarkable. I mean sure, the Exclusive Right-to-_____ contracts are two-way streets, yes, they’re all voluntarily entered into, but right now… I have 38 last names on that white board. Do you have 38 little micro projects that all deserve first class treatment that you need to check in on at least weekly? Thirty-Eight Micro Projects for me because they all are factors in my income, but Thirty-Eight Life-Changing Projects for the folks involved in making those decisions. Does the fact that we are down 27% in listed inventory and have over 1700 cooking pending and under contracts today impact each one of them, equally? Is this a market where all of a sudden we can breathe again and just go about working like everyone else and trust that we’ll get paid, rather than carefully managing the debt to income ratios and hope that we only-barely owe five digits on Tax Day (oh yeah, that’s my 3 pm)?

Can we let our guard down at last?

Pretty personal.

Maybe uncomfortable. 

But yeah, everything in real estate is a business decision. Everything. 

So when you track data as religiously and systematically as I do…

When you correctly predicted the 2009, 2010 and 2011 sales years within 95% accuracy…

When you correctly predicted the double dip…

When you called the shot on the inventory declines…

…and when you’ve lived under a shroud of market-wide pessimism for more than half a decade, and almost every day since I turned 30, and shoot, for that matter, every day of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s lives…

The Negative News Outlet that serves as our voice of reality calling out a trifecta of promise… that gives me more than a little pause.

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