The year isn’t quite over, but I am ready to say goodbye to it. I find myself looking back and thinking about how different my business was this year, mostly because of the devastation in the form of foreclosures all around me.
I made more money than I thought I would and I spent less. My mindset at the beginning of the year was to prepare for the worst. I went through my monthly business expenses and cut them.
I canceled a few services, and in areas where I felt I was spending too much I figured out how to spend less without starving my business.
Then I went through monthly household bills and managed to save a few hundred dollars each month just by bundling some services, changing providers and in one case changing the frequency of service.
My strategy for this entire year has been to be flexible. The market changed and I recognized that I needed to change with it.
Everything I experienced happened before anyone wrote advice on how to handle it, because that is how it is for those of us who work in the field. In some cases the news stories about the housing market lagged a year behind what I had already lived through.
Last March I survived the great fire sale of bank-owned homes. The banks reduced the prices on the foreclosures to the point that some of the homes were getting 40 or more offers. It was a good strategy and moved a lot of inventory, but it was hard on buyers and their agents. Those 16-hour days I put in were mostly a waste of time.
In June I listened to a news story on television about how banks had discounted foreclosures and some were getting multiple offers. It was old news for me, and sadly I do have some scars from the experience.
It didn’t take me too long to figure out that I couldn’t make a living selling $50,000 foreclosures. When I did figure it out I dropped some buyers, including one who I had already shown 10 homes to.
By May or June I also began to notice that I had too many listings in one neighborhood and that sales were much slower there than in any other part of the city.
When contracts started expiring I did not renew them and did not take any more listings in the area. It was my close attention to the local housing statistics that made me aware that I was headed in the wrong direction. …CONTINUED
I aggressively pursued listings in other areas and ended up selling three of them in rapid succession. Two were on the market for less than a month before they got offers.
I made some mistakes, but I learned from them and have a whole new set of questions that I ask my sellers. When I look back on the year it seems more like five years because there were so many changes and so much happened.
There are new rules, new laws, a new appraisal system and too many changes to lending regulations to even track. I call my favorite lender once a month and ask him what I should know.
Clients, friends, neighbors and even the local media are asking what next year will bring. Will prices go up? Will they go down? Is now a good time to buy a home? Is it a good time to sell a home?
If I were to make a prediction I would predict that 2010 will be as chaotic as 2009 has been.
And my strategy for 2010 is simple. I will be flexible, and that means no long-term financial commitments or expenses that I am locked into. It means keeping a close eye on the numbers for my local market, neighborhood by neighborhood, and always being ready to make changes as the market dictates.
I am ready to say goodbye to 2009. It is a year that I will remember for a long time, mainly because of all the people I know who have lost their home or who are in the process of losing a home.
I took hundreds of photos of vacant homes, both inside and out. Most of the images have not been processed.
They document the year that 2009 has been, and I don’t think we should forget what happened. They will be processed when I can detach myself from the devastation and when I can stop seeing the pictures so clearly in my mind.
I still hold out hope that I won’t be adding hundreds more in 2010, but I have no expectations and am ready for anything.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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