This week we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King and with his memory as a backdrop I’m reminded of what in 1963 recording artist Sam Cooke wrote in response to the rising tide of a nation tired of racial inequality, “It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know… change is gonna come.” His words rang true then, as they do now, change is coming; it’s happening; it’s happening in a hurry; the ships leaving port and you better have your ticket before it passes you by like a Sandy Koufax fastball. What’s happening you ask? The economy is rebounding and building undeniable momentum. I know you doomsayers are rolling your eyes right now, but change is hard to accept but sometimes we just have to accept the inevitable and go with it. When real estate market first began its long slide in 2007 I was at a “Power Group” roundtable of top Realtors in our community. And although I have been selling real estate since 1990, there were plenty of agents far more experienced than I. Many were talking about how our business was going to change; how we needed to do short sales and become foreclosure experts; begin contacting the various banks and develop relationships with them so we would be positioned for the upcoming tsunami of foreclosures coming our way. I left that group depressed, shaken but none the less defiant. I was not going to change my business to that of foreclosures and short sales I swore, because frankly, I didn’t want to. I wanted to sell regular homes, to regular people. Helping buyers buy the right house, the first time, and sellers to get the highest possible price, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of hassle. Determined to be the lone tree leaning into the wind, I dug my heels in. The depression I felt was not that the good times were over as much as there were so many people telling me I had the change my business from what I so enjoyed to something I had no desire to do. Marathoners will tell you there’s a point in any race that you mentally hit the wall. Where the challenge to continue is overwhelming and the will to finish is the only thing that keeps you going. After nearly 22 years of selling real estate, 2011 was the wall for me and I found myself in a battle to survive. I leaned on my savings to stay afloat; my health suffered under the stress of the difficult real estate market and economy to the point where my blood pressure soared and April found me in the hospital with a coronary blood clot at age 49. When asked about how I was doing and the state of the market, I would say honestly, “I’m doing better than most,” which while true, wasn’t saying much. I would often say, “We’re all in the same boat: pitching out water as fast as we can to stay afloat” and everyone to a person agreed. But, there was no way to quit; no place to go and no place to hide. The market had taken down many a good Realtor and taken many a great Realtor to the edge of an economic abyss. It was no longer about survival of the fittest it was just about survival, one day at a time. Like the runner, just one step in front of the other. I just had to keep on going. Yet despite the challenges thrown at me, 2011 ended pretty strongly for housing sales across the nation and in particular California. I posted relatively solid numbers by most measure. As it turned out, I actually enjoyed handling short sales, successfully negotiating them in record time. I sold my listings at higher prices than any other Realtor in my “farm” and started 2012 brimming with optimism. But it wasn’t easy to keep my head up, because change is hard. I’d had to adapt really push against a lot of adversity. Sales master extraordinaire Zig Ziglar says “People don’t change their mind; rather they make new decisions based on new information”. I’m here to say, there’s new information and it’s good, really good.
On Thursday and then again on Friday of this past week, RealtyTrac, the online California foreclosure tracking service proclaimed the following: “Foreclosure filings hit a 49 month low”. They went on to say, “December Default notices (NOD, LIS) decreased 19 percent from the previous month and were down 23 percent from December 2010; Scheduled foreclosure auctions (NTS, NFS) decreased 12 percent from the previous month and were down 24 percent from December 2010; and bank repossessions (REO) increased 10 percent from the previous month but were still down 12 percent from December 2010.” In other words the shadow inventory pipeline has been dwindling, is dwindling and will continue to dwindle. That begs the question: if the distressed property pipeline isn’t being refilled, how much longer can the market be called a distressed market? The data on the economy shows by every measure that the recovery is picking up steam and like a snow ball rolling down a hill, is getting bigger and badder than ever. Consider this: unemployment numbers have been steadily improving. Yesterday it was reported that manufacturing is on a tear; auto sales, durable goods, retail sales – they all continue to post stronger numbers, homes sales are up and even home developers are more optimistic than they’ve been in years and are ramping up housing starts. Sure there are still storm clouds but believe me, this recession is over and we are accelerating towards better times ahead. Yes change is hard and for all the doomsayers who’ve been predicting our country’s demise, the train is leaving the station so you better get on board now or you’ll be left behind. David Lebental, owner of PNL Benefits, a small business insurance brokerage in Torrance, Ca regularly reminds me that, “life is not a sprint but rather a marathon”. I began by quoting Sam Cooke where he sings, “Change is gonna come”, but I left off this part, “oh yes it is”. And as tough as this concept is for everyone on the housing sidelines to accept and resist it as you may, any champion marathoner will tell you, once you push through the pain, it really gets easier, and with any change, at some point you capitulate and accept it. But to make it easier for you, try applying Zig Ziglar’s thoughts on change – you’re not changing your mind, you’re just going to make a new decision based on new information. See you in escrow.