Market April 16, 2012

A Busy Spring Doesn’t Mean the Market Has Recovered

The cyclical nature of the real estate market has always seen a peak in activity in the spring months. We are busy. This is causing a misconception that the market is “turning around” or that we are finally witnessing a recovery. I see many colleagues and sellers alike announcing that the market is back or similar sentiments.

While I am a member, I have never been one to parrot the NAR ad slogans in the media, and I would warn those of you who think that we have turned the corner to exercise a measure of caution. Consider a restaurant that is busy on a Saturday night. There is a line at the bar, all the tables are filled, and the waitstaff is hustling to fill orders. You might conclude that this is a successful place. However, check back on a Monday lunch or Tuesday dinner. They may not be doing so well then, and you can pay your bills from one or two good days.

The same lesson goes for the real estate market. We can’t judge a year based on two or three busy months. We are supposed to be busy in the spring. There should be multiple offers on select, well appointed and aggressively priced properties. But it remains to be seen if a busy April translates into closings in June.

Understanding this will help people avoid mistakes borne of irrational exuberance. Assuming it will always be this way, thinking that our problems are behind us or making plans based on optimistic projections are the very types of mistakes that contributed to our housing collapse. I am seeing sellers resist sensible price adjustments or rebuff buyers because they think another is right behind them. And all too often, when a home remains unsold in the late summer, they wish they could get a mulligan for the buyer they rejected back in the Spring.

I think it is great that we are busy now. I think it is wonderful that people are making offers and contracts are going out on properties that I have listed. But before we start raising prices or strong arming well meaning buyers, let’s do what smart businesspeople do and plan for the worst while we hope for the best. If we are in the early stages of a recovery then it is a fragile time that will not grow from hubris or overconfidence.