I have a client who has been on the verge of buying since February. We have looked at a lot of properties we liked, and made two below-market offers, but listing prices are expensive and nothing he has seen has set his hair on fire to pay list. We are looking at rentals tomorrow, and that may be that, but it does raise the question here: are we slowing down?
Is it certainly a question I get asked elsewhere, whenever I do radio tapings to flog my book, because expert hosts in other cities have already seen a slowing. Sometimes, as in D.C. or Florida, it’s been a painful one.
So I will start with the disclaimer I always start with, that if real estate agents could really and truly predict markets we would be running hedge funds. That having been said, let me whip out my crystal ball and tell you where we will be in five years:
1) A new ultra-luxury, 60-story condominium will rise on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Just to cover all the bases, it will be named the Tribeca.
2) A 25-year-old Florida developer (who at this point is just a nobody) will be on the cover of every national magazine for his magic touch with Miami residential-to-office-to-residential-to-hospital-to-work/live conversions. Buyers will still complain that his buildings do not offer enough parking. He will be off celebrating Lindsay Lohan’s birthday, and not care.
3) Between the snowbirds and the flippers, Arizona will vote its fourth property-tax relief bill in as many years. School districts will try to find exotic ways to compensate for the lost revenue, such as selling old homework to Time Inc. for recycling and charging parental admission to Pee Wee football games.
4) Mortgage rates will be at 7 percent, or they won’t. Regulation Z will make it impossible for customers to tell what they are truly paying anyway.
5) Zillow.com will launch “Your Neighbor’s Renovation,” its most successful feature yet. One click will enable you to see directly into the kitchen next door, and buttons on a form will allow you to complain to your girlfriends about your neighbor’s taste in countertops. If you subscribe to the (not-yet-launched) Zillow Premium, you will see pop-up balloons telling you the price of all the separate components of the renovation, with a footnote explaining that the site is in beta and only three of every four balloons are actually accurate.
6) One in every five adults in California will have their Realtor’s license, a new record. There will be news reports of discord in large families, as newlyweds fight over whether to steer the referral fee to his first cousin’s stepsister, or her younger brother’s mother-in-law. Fortunately, there will be enough bloggers so we don’t miss a minute of this.
7) The innovative “MySmell” will allow you to experience your new apartment virtually – over the Internet you’ll receive a package that includes the aroma of your freshly buckling laminate/wood flooring, the paint that covers the bad spackle job to cover the cable installation in the corner, and the dirt under the foundation of the condo that will block your view in two years. First-time buyers can also sign up for the smell of the Ben and Jerry’s double-chocolate pint that you’ll drown your sorrows in when you discover your bathroom marble is chipped.
8) A survey by Money magazine finds that 12 percent of Americans sell their own homes FSBO, using the aid of such new services as Sell-R-Aid, a company which helps you build a 3-D model of your Colonial in Magic Sand. In response to news of this market segmentation, the National Association of Realtors takes its own poll, which puts the number of DIY sellers at 8 percent, with a 75 percent dissatisfaction rate.
9) Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner run a 5,000-word essay in The New York Times magazine, exposing through extensive use of anecdote their shocking conclusion that brokers sometimes lie.
10) HGTV and the Food Network will merge, giving rise to shows about financing kitchen renovations (“$400 a day with Rachael Ray”), speculating in the restaurant industry (“Flip This House of Pancakes”), and the science of home décor (“Good Paints with Alton Brown.”) The top-rated show is a food/shelter porn crossover: “Molto Mario’s McMansions.” The Freakonomics guys will be refused a show, on the grounds that they can’t cook: they will be off celebrating Lindsay Lohan’s birthday with some hot-shot Miami developer, and not care.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson, and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”
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