Silver Bullets are good for killing werewolves. Not much else.
Ask anyone in the real estate industry and they have a buyer who is sending them scared-stiff links that “prove” the real estate recovery is not happening like everyone says it is. Some gloomy desk-jockey-number-cruncher is usually quoted with a gloom and doom rubric “5 million more foreclosures” and “21% of American’s underwater” and “it’s now moving to prime mortgages.” The agent response to this phone call or email is usually just as incendiary… they sometimes reply with back issues of the Stat Pack as an attachment. Clashing gospels and dueling clanging gongs creates quite a racket.
The reality is that the economy is a giant gumbo of variables. Within 36 hours this week, all of the following were headlines: Colorado Jobs numbers much worse than expected; National Jobs numbers beat predictions; stock market near 18 month high; mortgage rates expected to rise as Treasuries stops buying servicing; mortgage rates at low for the calendar year; auto sales down 2%; retails sales unexpectedly up; nation’s consumer confidence goes down. Broncos have had a good week for free agents and the Rockies bench is looking pretty deep this year, too. All of these are true. None of these mean a thing on their own.
WHAT MATTERS NOW:
1.) Leverage: The most counter-intuitive aspect of the market, interest rates are staying below 5%. No analyst can say exactly why, everyone merely ventures a best guess. Most everyone is scratching their heads as to why they’re not going up. The Federal Government has been the wholesale market for treasury-backed securities, longhand for saying, they’ve bought the servicing rights on Fannie/Freddie mortgages for the better part of the last year. So if you’ve seen complaints about why the underwriting on mortgages got nutty, that’s a prominent clue as to why: the government put a trillion dollars of skin in the game on that one… Go figure they would prefer tighter appraisals. That treasury-backed securities practice has a budget that is probably out of gas around the first-of-April. After that… it’s back to the same private money that previously was buying servicing left-and-right up until mid-2008 when they saw the crisis about to break. The thinking on the street is that private money will be hesitant (to put it mildly) to buy servicing rights. Never mind that today’s mortgage has higher costs of origination, higher appraisal standards, higher consumer intelligence and 20 pages of additional disclosures attached to it making it one of the safest and best documented forms of paper wealth in America; these banks have been burned before and are expected to be either cautious or complete non-participants. The investment angle for banks is that they 1.) could make them a lot of money in the long-term based on the few players likely to play and 2.) make their shareholders jittery over the next 90 days and drive their stock value down in the short-term. Can you see the morass mortgages are? The bottomline: they’re low now! They may be going up, but they’ve rarely, in their American history, been lower (within 0.15% of the all-time bottom at this writing). Seasonal demand usually creeps them up in May and June anyhow, so a lock now is not a bad thing. Buying power right now (a.k.a. leverage) is almost unprecedented.
2.) Location: Where a home is greatly influences the value. Relocating buyers (#3 on this list) tend to prefer newer construction and so do the raised on Hi-Def & Wi-Fi generation of buyers. But values have held up well in the foothills. Year to date sales in some of the older areas have been abysmal. After a strong end to 2009, downtown has started off very weak. That might change as the more traditional downtown buyer begins to appear with the pedestrian-friendly, warmer months ahead. The months on market numbers vary wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Sellers, you can’t take chances if you have a year of inventory. No one’s going to pay near your price if that’s the case. Buyers… do you really want to buy where you’ll be surrounded by for-sale signs for another year?
3.) Relocation: the biggest drag on the Colorado Springs market has been the national market. Somewhere Else, USA used to be the friend of the Colorado Springs seller. The Pentagon-based Air Force Lt. Col. usually had made $100,000 in 3 years and sold their house with multiple offers. They could come west and buy pretty much whatever they wanted. With the onset of the market downturn nationwide in 2007, our market correction (which began in early 2006) deepened significantly. Reliant on the infusion of wealth from other markets, our over $350,000 market has suffered. Well strangely, of the 5 price-brackets to seen an increase in sales the last 90 days over the previous 90-day track (Nov. to Jan.), all of them were above $325,000. Some of that is local, but some of that is also the effect of other markets around the country having bottomed out as well, and their buyers are now able to buy here.
In closing, March 2010 dawns with more promise and hope then March, 2009. Hard not to. It remains a market of opportunity. Whenever there is opportunity, that means there is risk somewhere. Make your decisions wisely.