Even though there were more real estate transactions in my market area in 2008 than there were in 2007, less money changed hands. The data I am looking at indicates that the dollar-volume of homes sold is almost 28 percent lower than last year’s dollar volume. Home sellers felt the squeeze as did local real estate agents.
The homes that sold were lower-priced homes in neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates, and many homes in the area lost some value between 2007 and 2008. In the last couple of months sales have been up but only in the lowest of price ranges.
The banks have started a kind of giant clearance sale, and the homes they now own are starting to sell. The same thing seems to be going on in other parts of the country.
The state of Minnesota ranks 30th among states for its volume of foreclosures. We expect to see more foreclosures in 2009 than we did in 2008 because of job losses and defaults on some of the more exotic loans that were written in 2005 and 2006. Unless something changes, there won’t be a recovery in 2009.
While some in the real estate industry are waiting for a recovery, others are out making money.
There are people buying and selling homes. Young couples who got married this year, seniors who want to move, and move-up buyers who need more space. There are people who are relocating for jobs and couples who are getting a divorce. Recently investors have started buying some of the low-priced foreclosures and then fixing them up and renting them out.
Right now there are opportunities that we have not seen before and possibly opportunities that we are not seeing at all. Hundreds of agents have gone off on their own this year, started their own brokerages, and are making profits. Some specialize in foreclosures, while others continue to serve the first-time homebuyers, move-up buyers and seniors. Broker license applications are up, and there is more of a demand for the broker licensing classes and other services for brokers.
There are others who are making a buck or two off of the current crisis. One local builder now specializes in finishing homes. Local builders started projects and were unable to complete them. This company has been doing nothing but finishing partially built homes.
There is another local company that specializes in moving the stuff out of homes for banks — sometimes homeowners don’t take everything with them when they leave. Another local company specializes in winterizing homes, and business is booming. Here in Minnesota winterizing involves draining the pipes and shutting off the water. The banks won’t pay to heat the vacant homes so winterization is a must.
There is a great need for property management companies that keep an eye on the vacant houses and send out people to do small repairs. The snow needs to be shoveled and those free newspapers need to be removed from the front steps.
St. Paul and Minneapolis are home to First Look, a pilot program that seeks to link national financial institutions and local entities in restoring neighborhoods with a high volume of foreclosures.
As in past recessions, the jobs being created may not pay as well as the jobs that are being lost.
The current local cold snap and snowy weather has had a negative impact on the real estate market, but at the same time every plumber, furnace repair company, towing company and auto service garage are working overtime to keep up with it all.
There are opportunities in any market, though they don’t always fall into our laps. We have to go out and find them and recognize them when we see them.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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