Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Speak No Evil!

Real estate agents are having a hard time swallowing their own association's findings that housing prices have dropped more this year in Kalamazoo, Michigan, than anywhere else in the nation — 3.5 percent — according to the Kalamazzo Gazette. The paper's story details the difference of opinion:
"All signs here point to a healthy market,'' said Matt Maire, executive vice president of the Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors. "We're somewhat insulated from the national housing market. ... We just have kind of an even and steady growth pattern in Kalamazoo.''

But Kevin Thorpe, an economist for the national group (the National Association of Realtors), said this morning that further study may confirm the national study's accuracy.

"We don't see a glaring error,'' he said. "But we need to work with the state and local associations and see where the discrepancy occurred.''
There's never anything amusing about people losing money, but I have a hard time not laughing at all this fuss from my perch in Southern California. These folks are quibbling over a difference of $11,400. The natioanal report listed the median price of an existing home in Kalamazoo at $122,600 from January to June of this year, and some critics claim that number should actually be $134,000.

Out here, $134,000 is about the annual income you must have in order to qualify for a loan on a median-priced home. As for that $11,400 difference of opinion, that's pocket change. You can't even pay half your closing costs on a median house out here with $11,400.

But, if this tiff proves anything at all, it's that the housing industry is going to fight against any insinuation that it's popping, or fizzling, or hissing, or whatever. Try this. Go to an open house this weekend and ask the agent conducting it if they think there's a housing bubble. When they respond by telling you that the price of housing continues to go up at a healthy pace, then ask them this: "So why haven't you suggested that the seller wait to sell?" They'll always have an answer, of course, but I wonder how many will say anything other than a variation of the "job transfer" excuse. "They have to sell." If the agents I've encountered are any indication, there's a whole lot of sellers out there who "have to sell" right now.