With all the action we’ve been having, shouldn’t prices have been going up by now?

We’ve been through an unprecedented four years, and Rob Dawg said it early on – forget all previous assumptions and expect the unexpected.

First let’s review the easy reasons why pricing will languish:

  1. Potential sellers waiting in the wings, anxious to get out.  There are 165,650 underwater homeowners in San Diego County, plus we have a steady flow of baby-boomers heading for their final destination.  Every time we see a little pricing pop in a neighborhood, these potential sellers will want a piece of it.  When two or more list their home, they will likely thwart any pricing momentum.
  2. Short sales will undermine pricing momentum until somebody does something.
  3. Economy/Europe/Politics/Deficit, etc. will cause buyers to stay cautious.  There is no widespread economic recovery, and stagnant wages and unemployment will limit pricing.

Let’s call those the ‘easy three’ reasons why pricing with struggle to increase, and include some evidence.  Lately we’ve been hearing that housing has bottomed out.  Consider Rich’s graph below (from his latest post) that shows how the inventory count changed course in August, which is unusual.  Sellers must be getting a whiff of the opportunity, and the more listings we see, the more cautious buyers will be:



  1. Buyers have full access to the comparable sales.  This has never happened before – the realtors kept a tight grip on the pertinent pricing data earlier, and during the 2003-2007 era, all that mattered was that you bought before you got priced out forever.  These days, the buyers are coming to their own conclusions, and being conservative with their estimates of value – and you can’t blame them.  They will pay a fair price, about the same as the last guy, or maybe a tick more, but that’s it.
  2. Realtor gimmicks and sleazy techniques are turning off the buyers.  Those who might pay a little more than the last guy will be the buyers who felt like they were treated right.
  3. The presentation of homes has improved, but still far short of what could be.  There are still too many listings with few photos, lousy photos, or no photos, there are few professional open houses and even fewer video tours, and trying to show a house hasn’t improved one bit – and it may have gone backwards.  Buyers cool off in a hurry, and this new trend of inputting listings onto the MLS but not showing them for a week or two is killing deals.
  4. We keep hearing pundits talk about pricing in simple terms; up or down, good or bad, buyer’s or seller’s market, etc., but today’s homebuyers know that pricing issues are more complex.  They aren’t going to be influenced by lazy talk.
  5. Ben said he’s going to keep rates low through 2015 or as long as it takes, so buyers don’t feel any big rush.  The American Dream ain’t what it used to be, and people have a new appreciation for the benefits of renting.  Generally, there is a new ambivalence towards homebuying, and a determination to not overpay.
  6. Buying the right house, at the right price, is prevailing.

You could make the case that you should buy now while there are still this many hurdles, because if they got cleared out and we had a pure marketplace, we could be off to the races.

There are a number of possibilities that could change everything.

Somebody like Google could start the PublicMLS, banks could stop allowing short sales (or only pay 3% to dual-agents), or the law could run through the whole industry.  I keep hoping that the truth and transparency will prevail, but it is slow in coming!

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