I remember when the big Y2K bug was the big story. Seemed like it was on the news every day during the last six months of 1999, warning me about my computer crashing and the airports and businesses would be shut down. The nation was in a panic and the media loved it. I remember New Year’s Eve 1999 (well, I remember most of the night anyway). It was a blast- people thought the following day would be chaos so they wanted to have fun and celebrate like crazy while the electricity was still working. And then midnight came… and the lights stayed on. And life went on as usual. And the media went on to the next big story.
This is how the national media works- find something (anything)to latch onto, create sensation around it, present it in a “Must-See” format, sell ads. Everything seems credible when it’s broadcast across the country- but it’s not.
The national media is not an educational forum– it is a collection of for-profit organizations charged with making money. And they make money getting people to watch so they can sell ads. How do they do that? They create sensational stories. Watch the news for a month and you will have seen at least a dozen ways to “prevent disaster” in your home and at work and on the road and etc etc…. The American news feeds paranoia because fear sells. That’s why we went to war in Iraq, that’s why horror movies can be so lame and still make millions, and that’s why there are foolish real estate “bubble” theorists.
The national real estate market is a farce. It is the home of Loch Ness and that big Snowman. You cannot paint an accurate portrayal of the real estate market with broad strokes because real estate is about communities and the human condition within them. Even within cities there are different economic and societal conditions that affect how desirable different neighborhoods are. Even from one street to the next, values fluctuate with the condition of the homes, the aesthetics of the area and the homes. Driving through a neighborhood and seeing children out front playing can give a sense that the area is safe, families walking down a sidewalk holding hands can reflect a feeling of community togetherness, and noticing people gardening and painting the trim can cause us to feel a pride of ownership present in that area. And these are things that cannot be expressed in the one-size-fits-all assembly line that is national media.
Right now, today, in every market across America there are people making money buying and selling real estate.
If a city has strong job growth and low unemployment then it will fare better than another city three states away that has high unemployment and the big steel mill that’s shutting down. Describing a national real estate market is akin to describing a global real estate market.
Salt Lake City right now has the best real estate market in it’s history. Last year prices rose around 15-20%, so it’s a good time to sell. And yet there is a good selection of homes on the market and prices are expected to rise about 10% this year so it’s a great time to buy. Good time to sell and good time to buy- that’s as good as it gets.
There are areas of Texas and New Jersey that are seeing hot real estate markets and great price increases, with many homes selling. There are areas all over the country that are seeing good activity in the real estate market, but you don’t see that in your national news. When the real estate market was supposedly “hot” the last few years- the national news fed the beast and real estate-related TV shows were springing up almost weekly because that’s what was selling at the moment. During that time Salt Lake City’s real estate market was slow and home’s weren’t appreciating or selling well.
This is also why Zillow can never be a true evaluator of a home’s worth. It’s just a set of numbers- just like the national real estate market is a bunch of averages- both make for good entertainment, but neither are credible enough that I pay attention to what they say.