How the Grinch stole real estate
Once upon a time, there was a great country that extended from sea to shining sea. The country was dotted with beautiful homes, large and small, expensive and affordable, new and old. Everyone in the beautiful country wanted to own one of the homes, and from high atop his mountain, the real estate Grinch told them they could. Unfortunately, almost everyone believed him and eventually owned a home, and that was the beginning of the end.
If we all lived in Whoville with the merry and warm-hearted Whos we might not be in this position today. But we Americans were sold a bill of goods by the lending institutions, government agencies and Wall Street, and we were only too happy to buy what they were selling. Adding to their fiction was our own greed and natural human desire to have something we might not be able to afford.
I’m not sure when, but somewhere around the beginning of the new millennium, we lost our moral compass when it came to finance. Maybe it had something to do with 9/11 and the whole life is too short theory, or maybe we just started watching too many TV shows about the beautiful and the rich. Whenever it happened, it turned our heads into believing our homes were no longer a place to live, make memories and celebrate holidays, but they were cash cows to squeeze money out of and flip like pancakes.
Every real estate decision we made in those heady days related to what we can do to increase the value of our property. Make sure to use granite on those countertops, stainless steel and sub- zero will bring a better return on your money, everyone expects a media room, and you can never lose money on waterfront in Florida. Now that we’re looking through the eyes of a new decade, all of the must-haves of the previous one seem gratuitous and extravagant.
As we’ve all been hearing, the financial downturn may actually be a good thing. It has certainly made us rethink our priorities when it comes to real estate and provided us with a new way of thinking that will inevitably change the existing culture. There will always be individuals with the means to invest in real estate which is essential to a healthy market, but no longer will the average teacher and office worker be jumping in looking to make a quick killing. Families will always buy homes, only now no one is telling them to go for the stars when in fact the little 2,000-square-foot moon is what they can really afford. First time buyers may need to wait a little longer to achieve their dream and some will never achieve it. We will, however, emerge from the slump we’re in smarter and stronger. The signs are already there.
So have we the people of the great country learned the error of our ways? Will the morality stories of the holiday season span the rest of the year, or will the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge in us forget as soon as houses start selling again in record numbers and prices start to rise? Life is a continuing struggle and the desire to own real estate may be the ultimate struggle with temptation. Wishing everyone a peaceful, joyus and financially stable holiday season.