Nine culprits in housing’s chill

NO. 9 BUILDERS
If only developers built more affordable homes.
Obviously, that might satisfy some bargain hunters. Plus, in the long run, those starter homes create a new flock of first-time buyers entering the homeownership track.
But low-end housing is a low-margin business, and despite all the talk about creating affordable housing, it’s an endeavor not widely embraced by city leaders or their homeowning constituents.
So builders gleefully chase the prime move-up market, which makes selling used homes trickier.

NO. 8: MEDIA
As you know, we only publish bad news. And it’s scary enough to bet one’s life savings on a home – but even more unnerving when the headlines are bleak.
But wait! Apparently in this cycle, it’s the opposite!
To some observers, the media’s repeated announcements of the stunning post-recession recovery have made buyers think they can still steal real estate bargains … while the same news drives seller’s price expectations too high.
Ah, the plight of the messenger!

NO. 7: ONLINE VALUATIONS
God bless Zillow, Trulia and their online, independent real estate information machines.
They’re total game changers when it comes to house shopping, arming owners and house hunters alike with reams of valuable information.
Except when it comes to the automated house valuations these sites publish.
Just because estimates are computerized doesn’t mean the valuations are anywhere near accurate. These errors can scare off shoppers as sellers feel empowered to keep asking for higher prices.

NO. 6: BUYERS
Obviously, this summer chill wouldn’t be here if shoppers could only see the true value that remains in the housing market.
Why do house hunters look at lofty home prices, (up 50 percent off the bottom in some communities) then recall the last housing debacle and worry?
To be fair, shoppers should know why they are delaying a purchase. If it’s a bet that prices will be lower next year, they should weigh that probability vs. the possibility that mortgage rates will go higher.

NO. 5: BOSSES
Nothing drives housing like job growth, and the region is enjoying its fastest hiring spree since the turn of the century.
But bosses in all industries have kept the mid-recession, penny-pinching mentality well into the recovery. So every cost, especially labor-related outlays, is kept in check.
While I appreciate that frugality, the constant financial micromanaging in an era of record corporate profits does nothing to instill overall economic confidence, which is a drag for many consumer-driven niches, including real estate.

NO. 4: GOVERNMENT
The root of everything that’s wrong with America’s economy. Or so I’m often told.
Bureaucrats and politicians should get out of property owners’ development rights except when current owners don’t like what the developer plans down the street.
Mortgage rules should be loosened, except not so much as to cause another catastrophe.
And a free economy should exist, without politically preordained winners and losers. Except that the mortgage deduction – tilting ownership over renting – is a good thing, yes?

NO. 3: LENDERS
Anybody know what business these people are in these days? That bad joke “only people who don’t need money get loans” seems well suited.
The gall of these bankers: to demand that mortgage applicants have verifiable employment, a steady income stream and a history of repaying bills!
Yes, mortgage qualification standards have been loosened a bit in the past year or so. Still, considering the resilience in the housing market, you’d think bankers would want more home-loan business.

NO. 2: SELLERS
It’s not 2013, and that seller’s market won’t be back soon.
Look, this pricing formula does not work: Take the last comparable sale, add 5 percent (or maybe 10 percent if you’re sure you have better view/backyard/paint/appliances/whatever).
Be warned, the free market has a cost. When demand says “no thanks,” prices must be trimmed.
Perhaps wannabe sellers should visit a nearby new-home project to see what’s offered in their valuation range. Remember, builders are in one business: selling homes quickly.

NO. 1: AGENTS
We’ve already tagged the misguided buyers and sellers, and each of these relatively unsuccessful groups was likely getting advice from a real estate pro. Who’s managing the expectations gap?
But what I really don’t get is all the negative agent talk, especially in social media circles.
Like any American, real estate pros are entitled to political and societal views. But frequent public questioning of the stability and morality of the region, state and nation doesn’t do much to build homebuyer confidence.
Agents don’t have to be blind cheerleaders. But if the real estate industry won’t paint the picture for homeownership, who will?

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