Friday, August 6, 2010


It's a powerful word that blame. It implies that things aren't always as they first appear. It suggests some outward, untoward force may be the root cause of an issue, or somehow be responsible for adding to an outcome.

You'd have to be living under a rock in Victoria right now to not know that home prices are falling fast - or you'd have to not care. It's quickly becoming an issue for real estate industry associations, like the ones that represent REALTORS® or the builders of the products they sell. These are government policy savvy organizations; organized, collaborative and intelligent. They know how government works and they employ people whose primary responsibility is to lobby government to adapt policy and legislation to make it easier for them to conduct their business. Fair enough. It's a time honoured tradition in our system of government.

But this is just disingenuous and misleading. By taking advantage of the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the newly rolled-out HST, Royal LePage agents remove themselves (and by default all other real estate transaction services actors) from having to do anything about the situation. Blame the government. Apply pressure for policy changes (this is step one in what will be a long series of real estate market bail-out requests, mark my words). Maintain the industry status quo.

Home prices are extremely high. Home ownership levels have never been higher. Prices are now falling because extensive supply outstrips weak demand. Prospective buyers move to the sidelines because, hey, the longer they wait the cheaper the house gets - it is a no-brainer. Agents have a tough time making a sale. They want us to believe its not their fault and they want us to believe their commissions aren't out of line.

Here's the thing though. The HST is ultimately good for all independent business people as most agents are. They are now able to write-off the full 12% portion of their sales taxes paid against the full amount of HST sales taxes they collected (previously, they could only write-off the 5% GST). In the past, they just paid PST out without collecting any and didn't have a corresponding tax write-off. This occurred throughout the entire real estate industry. Simply put, the HST has decreased the business operating costs for agents, lawyers and builders alike. These are the groups that would have, should have and very likely were supporting this tax policy change in BC. And now they are crying foul.

Government didn't educate the people about the tax, instead letting the naysayers have a free run with all kinds of negative information - some true and some false - leading to widespread confusion amongst the public. Tough sh&t, I say, for the business people who have done a poor job of educating their clients on the changes, despite VREB president, Randi Master's claims to the contrary:..."we have tried so hard to get the message out." Cry me a river. I don't recall seeing the special advertisement in the Times Colonist titled The HST and resale homes, what you need to know, do you? The VREB has nothing about the HST effects on the resale market in the two most logical places here or here on their website. Try harder guys.  

The only rational reason I can think of why industry actors didn't want you to understand the HST effects, was an effort to effectively garner a 7% increase in pay without disclosing their costs went down (it's not actually 7%, it will be all over the map depending on the business volume and operating costs etc, but operating costs decreased across the board for these business people because all of them benefit from new tax write-offs on the operating side of their balance sheets).

So to all of those agents, builders, lawyers, inspectors and appraisers out there who want to cry foul over the HST miss perceptions: shut up, drop your fees or spend the difference educating YOUR clients about why the HST doesn't impact your product. Don't expect my tax dollars to do it for you.

The last point in my rant goes like this: I don't actually care what Royal LePage agents say they believe their clients think about the HST. I want to hear whether or not prospective home buyers believe the HST impacts the resale market, how and why. Where's that supporting evidence? They couldn't even drum up an "agent's friend" to give an anecdotal piece of "prospective buyer" BS evidence to support their claims for their press release. And once again, the Times Colonist didn't bother to make a phone call outside the VREB office either. This whole issue is trumped-up poppycock.      


Leo S said...

Nice lowball: 714 Connaught St.

For some reason it is marked as BOM but has a sale price on it.
57 days on market, started at 499, dropped to 489, and now sold for 440.

Leo S said...

I believe the level of ignorance out there though. I've met quite a few people that also believe they changed the minimum downpayment to 20% for all houses. And these aren't uninterested bystanders, these are people that are actually saving for a house and thought they now needed 20% down. Amazing.

HouseHuntVictoria said...

From the last post:

Skeptic said...

Recently we have been hearing from a number of real estate agents and clowns like Phil Soper of Royal Lepage that HST is a big factor in declining real estate sales. Take a look at these stats for July sales across Canada. (source: here)

July Sales YOY by City
(HHV note: numbers below are negative)

Vancouver 45%
Victoria 44%
Calgary 42%
Edmonton 42%
Toronto 34%
Halifax 33%
Regina 28%
Ottawa 27%
Montreal 26%
Saskatoon 18%
Winnipeg 13%

Look at the big drops in Calgary and Edmonton, a province with no HST! Even Regina and Saskatoon had drops and they are in a province that had the best economy during the recession and no HST.

So why has demand dropped throughout Canada?

- new mortgage rules affect 1st time buyers
- investors now have to put down 20% instead of 5%
- interest rates have risen (both fixed and variable) from record lows
- demand was brought forward for years and now the buyer pool is pretty shallow
- the affordability wall has been hit and there are only a few fools left who will buy
- the word is out that real estate is slowing down and buyers are moving to the sidelines
- buyer confidence is shaky and this years poor stock market performance has folks nervous

Agents can live in denial and try to convince you that this is just a temporary setback but savvy buyers won't fall for this. The boom is over!!

HouseHuntVictoria said...

Fred Carver keeps up his nonsensical real estate misinformation blog with this dandy piece of confusion.

Here are his key points:

Title byline: "July 2010 Oak Bay Real Estate Activity-Indicates a Buyers Market in the first half of 2010 in Oak Bay."

End note: "These Stats indicate Oak Bay Real Estate is currently a Sellers market, meaning little room to negotiate for Oak Bay home Buyers."

So which is it? Fred doesn't help us understand any better because he combines sold-pending with sold-completed again, harmonizes the first six months of sales volume data and then applies that number to total current Oak Bay SFH listings and still comes up with 11 months of active inventory.

But my favourite part of his confusion is in his data, that shows Oak Bay SFH prices have dropped 8%, but he tells us: "Prices are holding steady in the first 6 months of 2010". That was June, this is August. I guess there was a lot more room for price negotiation in July.

Robert Reynolds - GBA said...

I was listening to CBC radio this morning in the car and Phil Soper head of Royal Le page was being interviewed and the way he chose his words was quite entertaining to listen too. You could literally hear the script in front of him.

One of the spins he put on this report is that "The HST is the leading non-macro economic factor in the decision to buy a house"

There is no mention of how much of an impact it is having in real terms. How about giving us an idea of the percentage of the people who are concerned about it vs the Macro economic picture. If only 10% of people are concerned about the HST, and 90% are concerned about the jobless rates, who cares if it is the highest ranking non-macro concern. If it is just a drop in the bucket, who cares if it is an especially large drop.

I know it is the job of these people to make their industry look good, I really can't be mad at them for trying to do their job. I'm more upset that other than the wee corners of the internet there is no one calling them out on their BS.

CBC should be asking harder questions, the TC should do some real research. A channel should get an opposing view rather than giving free marketing air time to a realtor.

jesse said...

So the GST/HST credits are for owner-occupiers only or for investors as well? Just curious.

jesse said...

If Realtors don't like the HST they should lower their total commission by about 7% and sell 7% more houses. See? Demand problem solved in one fell swoop!

You're welcome.

a simple man said...

from Dan In Victoria, a poster from the blog...wish he would stop by here. he is a local contractor.

"I knew this was coming, but in a way I hoped that it wouldn’t and the fairy tale could go on.
We’ve had all the houses that were for sale on our street taken off the market, the high hopes of my neighbours cashing out has turned to a “oh oh”
I have taken considerable flack at the suppliers for my beliefs, pointing and laughing “what a frikin idiot”that guy is a moron. By a lot of the other contractors.
Sadly its started, my friend who runs a housing site here has said “Danno, shes getting bad”
Another one is comtemplating laying off his crew and putting the tools back on.
I hope that all the young families that got sucked into this mess will be okay…..
The only calls I’m getting now are for people who are looking for work. Anything. Please.
We’ll see what it looks like in a few months.
I think here in Victoria its going to be grim."

Marko said...

Fast foward to the 30minute 30 second mark.....'Leary_Exchange/ID=1560230541

Alexandrahere said...

What really gets to me about real estate commissions is the 6% (or 7% if they think they can smooth you over) on the first $100,000. It was arrogant of them to start this practice, and it is high time that they eliminated it. The commission should be no more than 2.5% on the total sale.

The second thing that irks me is this. At one time, when you put your house up for sale, the sale included the house, outbuildings, built ins such as dishwashers and bookcases,and anything attached to the walls such as curtain rods, blinds and such. If the purchaser wanted to get the fridge, stove, w/d, garden equipment, drapes, etc. that would be a separate agreement. The agreement could be set up in different ways such as paying a separate price for these items or lowering the price of the house and including these items at a specified amount. Real estate agents should not be making a commission on the sale of these "extra's". The vender should be paying a commission only on the purchase price of the house alone. The purchaser should only be paying taxes on the purchase of the house and not any of the "inclusions" Your property tax should be an assessment on the value of your house and your fridge, stove, curtains, washer, dryer, lawnmower, etc. etc should not be included in that assessment.

jesse said...

"Real estate agents should not be making a commission on the sale of these 'extra's'"

Well if they negotiate for you, yes they should. Put into the contract "appliances and fixtures etc. to be negotiated separately" if you want. Realistically it won't save that much. Probably a lot of owners don't want to bring much along with them anyways, especially if the appliances are old. They have to pay to get rid of them unless they're assumed by the new owners.

That said, relatives of mine bought a place in Malaysia and were surprised to find all appliances and fixtures in the unit gone when they took occupancy. It wasn't in the agreement so the previous owners took them, even the kitchen exhaust fan embedded in the ceiling. Caveat emptor and read the fine print.

WiseInvestor70 said...

Job losses up in Canada

Alexandrahere said... would take too much of my time to explain it all to you. When you get a little experience under your will learn and will no longer need explanations. If I were a novice though, I would see where you were coming from.

Marko said...

There are probably more homes in Victoria where I would pay the seller extra to take the appliances, blinds, etc. versus leaving them. Getting rid of old appliances and crap is very difficult these days due to all the environmental regulations, and it is also very expensive, anyone that has ever ordered a bin for a reno would know.

Trying going to the Hartland dump these days, if they catch you dumping a mixed load with some cardboard or steel or like 20 other things you are pretty much banned.

Even newer appliances aren't worth the hassle of moving, storing, and re-installing.

People use to get their computers repaired, now you just go buy a new laptop for $400 instead of repairing your 4 year old one for $200.

patriotz said...

Real estate agents should not be making a commission on the sale of these "extra's".

Anything that is included as part of the sale of the real property, i.e. the transfer of the title, is not an "extra".

Anyone who wants to sell the appliances, etc. themselves can simply exclude them from the listing.

I agree fully that the current commission structure of 6% of the first 100K and 2% or whatever on the rest is completely ass-backwards and provides minimal incentive to the agent to get the highest price for the seller - which is what he's being paid for.

The agent should get nothing on the first 80% of the listing price and then 10% or so on the rest. Perhaps when the time comes for me to sell, which will be a long time off, this can be negotiated. I'm pretty sure that by then the RE sales monopoly as we know it will be dead and buried.

Marko said...
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Rhino said...

^It might not be that they don't understand the offer but that people don't trust you yet. Real estate agents rely heavily on their network and referrals. Another $6300 on the mortgage is not that big a deal for people if they know they have an agent that's been in the business a while and they can trust. (even if that is just the perception and not the reality)

Marko said...

$6,300 might not a big deal to someone who bought in 2002 and is selling now; however, certainly was a huge deal to someone who bought in 1991, had to make bigger payments on the extra $6,300 for 10 years and then had to sell in 2000 for less then what they paid in 1991.

a simple man said...

Hi Marko;

As an objective observer, there are a number of reasons why someone may not hire you:

1.) You are young. When making what is likely the largest purchase of their lifetime a lot of people, rightly or wrongly, want the grizzled vet who knows the business inside and out, not a greenhorn.
2.) On your website you state that you and your dad have completed five projects and that this gives you a unique perspective. My first reaction was "What? Five houses?". I would not put that tidbit on your website.
3.) You have exceedingly little experience in the real estate world in comparison to many (see 1)
4.) In your website you provide degrees that are not associated with RE - which makes me feel like you are a part-time realtor, which many people do not want. By the way, don't list a degree that you do not have yet - wait until you have written your thesis and defended it in front of your committee, done your rewrites and walked across the stage (please, please don't tell me it is a non-thesis masters).
5.) Many people have the perception that normal rate realtors will not work with a cut-rate realtor, limiting their possibilities (again, this may or may not be true, but I know a few realtors that would rather swallow glass than take a client to a cut-rate realtor).

Despite your earlier shenanigans, for which I have long forgiven, I think you are a good guy, so take these as constructive criticism to sharpen your sword.

Marko said...
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a simple man said...

Hi Marko, like I said, these are just points that can help you better hone your site so it more accurately reflects your experiences and beliefs. And to demonstrate how you are different, which I do appreciate (especially as an almost certain home-buyer in the future - I have owned four previously). I know I would appreciate your buyers package very much as the money saved would pay for other things, like activity fees for my kids for 5 years, which is important.

As far as putting your educational background on the page, I see nothing overtly wrong with it - however, whenever I do see someone with a higher degree selling RE I always wonder why they are selling RE instead of being and engineer, professor, etc.

Anyway, congrats on being a groundbreaker in Victoria. I am sure you may need a flack jacket in the next year as you will definitely get shelled from other RE agents for breaking the covenant. Good on you. I have a feeling that you will become a grizzled vet in a precocious fashion.

Wood driller said...

Been following this blog for quite awhile. Never really thought I could add anything worthwhile so I have kept my yap shut.
Marko has provided me with a few/lots of laughs over time...
but you have to start somewhere.
We were all green at one time.
But one thing that I always remember is someone who ummm stretches reality. Don't do it.
Hope I can add positively to the discussions here.
Cheers Dan.

Marko said...
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Marko said...
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HouseHuntVictoria said...

Marko, I don't think you need to equate full-time with time. I think when people look for a REALTOR®, they seek someone who is knowledgeable and not distracted by other commitments. In other words, they are in the real estate game exclusively. Which, in a lot of ways, you are. You help build and sell homes, that's your background, and should the opportunity arise in the future, it will be part of your future too, no?

If you have another job, never talk about it, and make sure its not somewhere where a client can overhear you offer fries with that.

Marko said...
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a simple man said...

welcome, wood driller. You wouldn't be "Dan in Victoria" from the blog?

Fred Carver is actively deleting any comments on his website that do not agree with his analyses - even posts as "neutral" as a link to the vreb recent stats.

Marko, you want a good example of what not to do?

Leo S said...

Marko blaming lack of interest in his realty services on the public not understanding his commission structure.... attached to a post making fun of realtors for blaming the lack of sales on the public not understanding the HST. Priceless.

A simple man already went through most of the reasons likely contributing to the lack of interest. The lack of experience is obviously the most important, and working on 5 homes doesn't equate to experience in the real estate industry, even if you do write long-winded posts claiming it does.

Also your seller packages table does nothing to explain what you offer. For someone with no knowledge about why 1% realtors might not attract viewings the difference between full service and full service exposure is completely opaque.

Finally, it's not like cash back on the commission is something new. Tons of realtors from 1% realty do that. Like this guy:
Or the guy I'm currently set up with:

Marko said...
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Marko said...
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PainInThe said...

Leo S: Not nice enough. Wait until prices hit 50% off. And then wait a little while longer.

Prices in Las Vegas now 60% off peak. NO SIGN OF BOTTOM YET.

Leo S said...

In terms of service for my clients, what are some objective things an experienced Realtor can provide that I can't?

Knowledge of every neighbourhood in town, more experience negotiating, more contacts in the industry, etc. Of course everyone has to start somewhere, but don't pretend that experience isn't worth anything.

As for the full service thing, that Effler guy does explain it fairly well in the first question of his FAQ halfway down this page:
I think that's a good start. Advertise mostly the Full service option, and add a note that if you really want to make sure every realtor will bring clients then go for the +exposure.

Marko said...
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a simple man said...

Hi Marko - ok, we know you are more enlightened than the average realtor, but your essential question is this - how are you going to communicate that to the masses that don't read this blog?

And we are all beginners at everything at some point; don't let that detract you. Happy painting W's.

Animal Spirit said...

One of the regulars over at (which is an excellent source of news and great for general discussion) has raised the question of how much high end prices will go down...

Housing downturn

Alexandrahere said...

Marko? Give it a break. Any realtor that reads your comments will be lhaf. I haven't got much use for most of them. However, for the most part, they are greedy little people, but I certainly wouldn't say that you would beat them out on an IQ test. In fact I would bet in favour of their intellect for the most part.

HouseHuntVictoria said...

In case you wonder why I can be so vitriolic towards some journalists and media outlets (OK, most, if not all) this article titled: Getting real: Bull run coming to an end for Canada's housing is a perfect example of why.

Gary Marr finds a couple, who may end up being a wide example of a great many couples who have bought real estate in the past few years across Canada, underwater and losing money in their two properties and in a forced sale position. He tells their story fairly and doesn't pick on them. But yet, he still can't find a quote (they're out there) or even extrapolate that this couples' experience isn't unique and is exactly why the market is, and will continue, to correct, if not crash.

Gary's thesis in a nutshell: people are losing money in residential real estate in Canada, but the market can't undergo a US-style correction and will just simply return to inflation rate price increases.

His job isn't to make predictions, sure. But he doesn't even come close to "telling it like it is."

Mindset said...
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Mindset said...

Hi All,

I am guessing that most of you have read this article:

This information sure seems to make everything that has happened over the last few years easy to explain. First low interest rates create a huge value increase in our biggest assets (our homes) which creates a false economic boom. When interest rates stop going down, we have a 2007 crisis, and the start of a North American meltdown. Remember late 2007 in the stock markets and housing and their effect even in 'untouchable' Victoria here?

But then, somehow, magically, Canada dodges the housing bullet and our markets rebound. For anyone following world housing assets and thinking critically, it was nothing short of shocking. Shocking that is, until you understand that in an 18 month period from the end of 2007 to June 2009, CMHC increased loan guarantees by 210% ($138B to $290B), and lent so much money out that the last years’ amount was greater than the sum of their entire 57 years of lending history combined.

Oh, and while CMHC was throwing money at the housing market in record breaking piles (we will now guarantee the entire purchase price, zero down, and for longer than ever, 40 years), the banks didn't lend any new money or loosen any of their lending rates at all (banks aren't interested in speculative lending, and smartly stayed out of this lending only 0.01% more money from 2007-2009 than the previous year).

Ok. Nice theory. But let’s look at what we know and see if we can validate the Interest/CMHC theory. What happened when they increased interest rates and tightened CMHC rules (this spring)? We get a housing market slowdown we haven't seen in a decade (and not just a 44% decrease here, but over 40% decrease in sales in Vancouver/Alberta/etc). Nothing else has changed that could have caused this, and we all know that HST doesn’t effect resale.

It's pretty easy to understand the last two bubble cycles once you know where the entire rally came from. First Interest rates, then CMHC. Take the money out, sales stop.

In my opinion we were duped into thinking that we were somehow being smarter or more fiscally responsible than our US neighbours. We were told in 2007 that we did not have a sub-prime problem, WHILE our government was firing up a sub-prime engine. Unfortunately, it looks like we have a sub-prime problem now.

When you’re honest with yourself, the meteoric rise in housing prices just felt too good to be true, and unfortunately you know what they say about that.....

Mindset said...

Sorry for all of the deleted posts previous to my post above... I was getting posting failed messages even though they were being added to the site...

Leo S said...

The difference between list and sale price narrows (%) further when you move to townhouses and condos.

So either, all the 1300 some realtors in Victoria are completely incompetent and can't negotiate.


There isn't much room for negotiating when the market is going well, and that's about what you can expect.

Hmm, now which scenario is more likely? Of course, for mr bravado marko, the first is the case...

Commission is based on making the deal happen, not making the best deal happen for the client.

Indeed, and since you don't change that commission structure, there is exactly zero reason to believe that you will do it differently. How about you make your commission conditional on negotiating at least x% off the listed price? Now that would actually be putting your balls on the table instead of just talk.

I tell you, "listen, you can go to Trail Appliances, I know this great guy or you can buy them online

Once again, everyone else is stupid and doesn't know these things? Only Marko knows about the internets.

Neighbourhood knowledge - Grew up in Fernwood, went to Oakland’s, Lansdowne Middle School, and graduate from Victoria High school.

Ha. I grew up somewhere too, that doesn't mean I know anything relevant to selling real estate. Same with the rest, you've just described half the realtors in Victoria.

Marko said...

US Shiller Home Price Index Chart->


Cities that had the biggest run-up had the biggest would this play out in Canada, and especially Victoria and Vancouver?

Anonymous said...

Just checked my PCS account today. Reported sales were very low last week and these were all based on offers made in July with conditions lifted in August. The latest VREB report will make the buyers even more skittish.. I suspect August sales will be even worse than July.

If you have to sell now you better price it below market or end up chasing the market down....

Marko said...

Net Unconditional Sales: 78 764
New Listings: 240 1,094
Active Listings: 4,282 3,509

HouseHuntVictoria said...

A sales to new listings ratio of 32%. Things are getting worse in August, quickly.

a simple man said...

thanks for the stats, Marko. I am assuming they are in the form of:

August 2010 to date, Aug 2009

If so, this paints a picture of trouble in the fall. Dramatically decreased sales and relatively stable inventory.

Alexandrahere said...

Good morning all: Activity has really slowed and is reflected in the stats:

Here are my pcs stats for the past week of 2 Aug to 8 Aug.


Victoria, Vic West, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Saanich East and Saanich West.
Minimum 2 Beds, 2 baths from $375K to $775K:

NEW; 22
SOLD: 15
P/C: 22
O/M: 22

A couple of the sold prices were:
4218 Carey 465K-384K down 81K
2741 The Rise 564K-510K down 54K

Some Price Changes:
A521 Michigan 659K -589K down 70K
1337 Tolmie 869K -748K down 121K

Condo's (Apartments & townhouses)

Victoria: Most areas not downtown
Esquimalt: All
Oak Bay: All
Saanich East: Most areas
Saanich West: Gorge, Tillicum & Interurban

Price range: $260K to $625K
Minimum 2 beds

NEW: 13
P/C: 22
O/M: 22

SOLD: 202-1151 Oscar $260K-225K down 35K.

P/C townhouse at 121-2345 Cedar Hill X Rd. $620K - $535K down 81K.

omc said...

OOF! the housing market hits the wall. Those #s are far worse than I would have imagined. Simple math gives us a projected monthly sales of 269 for the month based on the sale of only 78 units in the first 9 months. That makes for almost 16 months of inventory. It would be interesting to be able to break this down further into SFH etc.

Anonymous said...


I can see the VREB report for August. "Sales levels are back to the normal levels of 1988. The return to a balanced market means this is a great time to buy."

Robert Reynolds - GBA said...

Was it Mohican than was working on a model which showed price change correlated to months of inventory?

What kind of price changes can we expect from 16 months of inventory?

Marko said...

"Simple math gives us a projected monthly sales of 269 for the month based on the sale of only 78 units in the first 9 months."

We started the month of with a long weekend, it will be more than 269 sales for the month; however, even if we get to 400 it isn't good.

I have 7 properties on my watched list that I think are decent deals and not one has sold so far.....

The numbers don't give sense of what is going on in some areas. For example, Langford - La Florence Lake, only one property has sold of the last 60 listed!

omc said...

I fully understand the long weekend was in there Marko, but I would be surprised if we get to 400 sales. When DoubleAgent tried to project sales he was always lowering his projections as the month went along. From what I am seeing it may be because we are not looking a a linear trend. Sales appear to be dropping at an increasing rate.

I also don't believe we will see only 269 sales this month.

omc said...

Marko, do you have access to pending sales by address? If you do could I ask you to look up an address for me.


Alexandrahere said...

Marko....were the properties that you and your father built in the Langford area? Have any of those been start dates after March of this year? Just wondering.

Sweetrealtor said...

Always interesting to read the banter that goes on here.

After two months of lots of work and zero deals, I have five deals in the works in the past two weeks. I hope this is a sign that things are picking up and all the doomsday chatter here will just be Chicken Little clucks.

This reminds me of our last recession. Prices kept dropping and dropping - you could hardly give a property away. Those buyers who decided to purchase at greatly reduced prices were quickly rewarded with an upturn in the market. I think the buyers who choose to go into "wait and see" mode will regret it. This won't last forever! The market will recover.

Anonymous said...


Please see my reply in the next post called "Market Setters"

jsan said...
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jsan said...

Hmm posted to wrong post, will copy and paste to the correct one. Sorry.