Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Double Dip Fears

Lately the papers have been full of talk about the possibility of a "double dip" in real estate sales. What some experts worry about is that current economic conditions will cause real estate sales, which had started to creep up, and values, which had not fallen as far as had been feared, to go down once again. The curve would then look a little like a W (although the anemic recovery would suggest that it might be more like a U, bumping along the bottom). The worst case scenario would be a V, with two downward slopes before any rise. Should those fears affect what consumers do this spring? I'm going to argue that those worries should not determine short-term behavior. In fact, if consumers step up to the plate and buy, they will actually cause the real estate market to improve and avoid the second drop. Even if units do go down again, however, we need to look at the facts in our region. Prices didn't go way up here, and they shouldn't dive downward, either. In addition, our non-profit engines are still strong, and should keep sales from plunging. Even if there isn't call for wild optimism, normal buyers should be fine, as long as they don't plan to flip their properties too quickly. The market seems to be taking care of that possibility, as more people rent until they are secure in their jobs and locations. To make a comparison, suppose that your car was old and needed replacement. Even if you thought that prices might come down for cars in another year or two, would you wait? Really? Or would you move ahead with your life, and enjoy the peace and security of owning something you valued, knowing that giving up a little in resale value is worth it in the overall scheme of things? I would bet on the latter course. I'm hoping buyers agree this spring.