The Housing Bubble:
Has It Popped Already?
Article published originally
January 2006 © by Temple & Kerstin Williams
Boca Raton, FL, updated
-- (Note: this article, predicting the real estate crash of 2007-2010, was originally published in 2006).
Experts call real estate a local industry. When analysts slide Cleveland, Ohio, under their microscope, it does not reveal what’s happening in Los Angeles or Boston.
Still, if a “hot” real estate area cools off, who’s going to argue that it does not have larger implications? Boca Raton, Florida, may have some valuable lessons for the real estate industry as a whole.
Within Boca Raton, a “typical” subdivision -- the Boca Country Club -- characterizes the area. This popular subdivision of 945 homes, nestled in over a dozen separate and distinct communities, epitomizes life in the paradise of south Palm Beach, Florida.
Buyers choose from hi-rise condos, town and coach homes, attached courtyard villas, and detached estate homes. Many of the communities have their own clubhouses, while others offer small private pools in every home.
An 18-hole championship golf course threads its way through the Boca Country Club. The links are part of the world-famous Boca Raton Resort & Club, recently purchased by the Blackstone Group. Blackstone, a public company, has a well-deserved reputation as a savvy real estate group.
So how’s the Boca Country Club doing? Like dozens of other subdivisions in the Boca area, it has sizzled with sales for five, price-popping years. Until now.
Absorption Rate’s Crystal Ball
Real estate experts watch “absorption rates” closely. It’s a time-tested yardstick. Homes “go to contract” in an “average” amount of time. Recent history determines exactly how many, and how fast. Simple mathematics determines, over a year, how many homes can be “absorbed” in a particular market … if the immediate past projects the immediate future (which it often does).
In the year prior to Hurricane Wilma, which ripped through south Florida in October, 2005, 64 homes had new owners at the Boca Country Club. At any one time, between 8 and 12 homes were up for grabs. It took less than 45 days, on average, to find a buyer willing to go to contract. In some cases, homes went to contract in a day or two. Prices continually bounced higher at the rate of over a percentage point per month.
That’s the immediate past.
Here’s a snapshot of the present: 61 homes are for sale at the Boca Country Club as of this writing. That’s a record, almost five times higher than it was in the bad old days of the early 1990s, when IBM deserted Boca Raton and left its housing market in shambles for almost a decade (IBM has since returned, albeit much smaller).
On average, houses currently take 278.6 days to go to contract (up from the low 50s prior to Hurrican Wilma).
Given the current number of listings, 145 homes would have to sell in the next 12 months to “absorb” the homes with For Sale signs. That would be almost three times more than normal. It will not happen.
One of three things will occur. Only three things can occur. Either prices plummet and buyers rush in. Or sellers take their homes off the market. Or it’s going to take a lot longer to sell a home.
Prices will not plummet in hurricanne-ravaged Palm Beach. Why? Because it costs a lot more to build a house than it used to. Roof tiles, wallboard, lumber, steel, washing machines and water heaters … everything costs more in a new house. And the osmosis of those rising prices drags up the pricetag of used homes.
Prices may not rise as fast as they have in the past five years – no more double digits – but they will not suddenly reverse. The battleship of rising prices does not turn on a dime. Not unless the preconstruction boom goes belly up, which seems unlikely (but stay tuned).
Watch out for 2008, however. That’s when capital gains jumps from 15% to 20% according to current legislation. A 5% hike on a big-ticket item like housing could get a lot of sellers to rush into the market to beat the deadline. Supply and demand. Housing prices suffer. The rush for the exits may have already started.
Will Sellers Stay Put?
Sellers faced with fewer buyers may pull their homes off the market. It’s a pain to keep it in show condition, and strangers rummaging through your kitchen and bedroom gets very old, very fast. It takes time, however, for a listing to “expire” -- most listing contracts are for 6 months or more, with 1-year the norm.
A real estate agent may suggest in a listing presentation that your home will sell for more than you imagined, and in just a few weeks. They may even hint that they have a buyer ready and willing, right now, this very minute. Often, this mystery buyer disappears once the listing is taken (as an aside, offer an agent who suggests a buyer in the wings a single day, one-show contract).
Regardless, it remains surprisingly hard to cancel a listing contract once you’ve signed the bottom line. The listing agent will sadly explain that it’s his or her broker’s decision not to release the seller. Your home remains on the block until the listing expires, and if you sell your home to anyone who saw it while it was listed, you owe the broker a commission even after it expires (there’s a time limit of six months to a year on this, depending on your listing contract).
Today, it seems likely that more homes will be listed on the market, not fewer. A record-shattering 61 homes are for sale at the Boca Country Club right now … powerful proof. So it does not look like inventory will pressure buyers into reaching for their wallets anytime soon.
Most Likely: A Stagnating Market
Sellers will suffer through the stigma of stagnation. They stand at that precipice at this very moment. Because a disconnect between buyers and sellers has appeared. A huge disconnect.
While many sellers currently believe that they can sell their homes in roughly 2 months, the absorption rate suggests a lot more time is needed: well over 2 years, not 2 months. That is a real disconnect.
At least one area of real estate seems destined to gain from all this … the long-suffering rental market will start to boom. An increasing number of Boca Raton homeowners have quickly discovered that the best way to “cash out” of a home is to rent instead of buy. That lets them bank the tax-free capital gains ($250,000 for a single person, or twice that for a married couple). No blossoming real estate taxes, no overheads, and you’re just a plane ticket away from outrunning the next hurricane threat. With money in your pocket and nothing to worry about.
Which may, in fact, explain who so many sellers have surfaced recently. They can’t downsize, because even smaller, less expensive homes often carry new, revised real estate taxes in excess of their existing residence. Once the tax assessor gets hold of a sales contract, and reappraises a new home, the new home’s tax base can double or triple.
Housing Bubble? There’s no shortage of pinpricks right now. Sellers want to cash in. Tax assessors seem intent on doing the same. Smart sellers would rather rent than downsize. A 5% hike in capital gains looms on the horizon. Five times as many sellers as usual have listed their homes. Buyers seem willing to wait a while as things sort themselves out. And a lot of real estate agents and their brokers are holding their breath.
By definition, every historical event takes time before it gets recorded as fact. But the Housing Bubble does seem to have witnessed a first-class “POP".
raise the price
of their home.
Even if you sell your home "as is, subject to inspection"
can do a lot to raise its price. A top-notch Realtor® will probably hand you
a list that looks something like this:
Curb appeal sells: Do some landscaping. Plant some flowers. Remember
that the front door greets buyers. Make sure it looks new.
Decorate For A Quick Sale: Faded walls and worn woodwork reduce
appeal. Invest in a few cans of paint. Brighten up the interior.
Let The Sun Shine In: Open draperies and curtains and let the prospect
see how cheerful your home can be. Dark rooms do not appeal. One trick which always
seems to work is to replace 60-watt bulbs with 100-watt bulbs, and have your Realtor®
turn them all on, even for a daytime showing (and off after the showing).
4. Fix That Faucet!
Dripping water suggests faulty plumbing, one of the greatest fears that savvy
Repairs Can Make A Big Difference: Loose knobs, sticking and squeaking
doors and windows, warped cabinet drawers, and other minor flaws detract from
home value. Fix them. Most buyers assume there will be ten hidden problems for
every one they see.
Clutter clogs sales: Display the full value of your space by removing
all unnecessary articles. Consider storing things you don't need all the time.
Keep halls and stairways clear. Avoid cluttered appearances and possible injuries.
8. Clean Your Closets:
Neat, well ordered closets look bigger, suggesting that storage space is ample.
One of any home's biggest deal-killers remains: "Not enough closet space."
9. Bathrooms Sell
Homes: Check and repair caulking in bathtubs and showers. Make
the room sparkle!
Arrange Bedrooms Neatly: Remove excess furniture. Use attractive
bedspreads and window treatments, with freshly laundered curtains if you use them.
11. Harmonize The
Elements: FM radio or stereo on softly, TV off. All lights on,
day or night. Drapes open in the daytime, closed at night. If it's hot, cool it!
12. You Can Sell Pride
Of Ownership. Cleanliness counts. Potpourrie works. So does a nice-smelling
stew simmering on the stove. Happy buyers often tell us: "I liked the smell
of the home." And you'd be surprised how many people walked away from a "perfect"
home because "the owners were smokers."
Three's A Crowd: Avoid having too many people present during a
showing. Potential buyers need to feel at home, not like intruders being hurried
through the house.
Noise does not sell well. Let the Realtor® and buyer talk,
free of disturbances. Background "soft playing" music is okay, but the
wrong sounds will turn buyers off. Noisy children and animals are roadblocks to
and traffic, trains, and planes must be dealt with honestly,
if they are part of the deal.
Pets Underfoot? Keep them out of the way -- preferably out of
the house. Many people are acutely uncomfortable around animals. Nothing can stop
a sale faster than man's best friend, wagging its friendly tail at a prospect
with an allergy.
Silence Is Golden: Be courteous but don't force conversation with
a potential buyer. He wants to inspect your house, not pay a social visit.
17. Be It Ever So
Humble: Never apologize for the appearance of your home. After
all, it has been lived in. Let the trained agent answer any objections. That's
the job of your Realtor®.
Never Stay In Your House With House Hunters: Let the agent handle
it, and remove yourself if possible. Remember that the Realtor® has worked
many hours with these people, and knows what they're looking for, and how to work
with them. Let the Realtor® do the job without interference.You may feel that
an agent isn't showing the important features of your home to the prospect, but
the agent knows people aren't sold by details until they've become emotionally
involved with the "big picture" of your home. The presence of any member
of the seller's family can't help. It always unnerves possible buyers. It often
prevents a sale.
Don't Put The Cart Before The Horse? Trying to dispose of furniture
and furnishing to a potential buyer before he has purchased the house often loses
Let your Realtor® discuss price, terms, possession, and other factors with
the prospect. They are qualified to bring negotiations to a favorable
conclusion. A smart Realtor® knows, in certain rare cases, when to tell a
buyer and seller to sit down and negotiate the final price on their own. And if
you don't think you have a smart Realtor®
well, you know where to find
them if you are reading this page.
or False? Real Estate at the Boca Country Club sells almost immediately!
BOCA RATON -- July 2014 -- The correct answer is "false".
As of this writing, 61 homes are for sale at the Boca Country Club. How long have
they been on the market? Almost nine months, on average.
that mean the real estate bubble has popped? See our article on the housing bubble for the answer to that.
Despite the number of people who want to live in Florida, things definitely have slowed down. While
prices continue to climb, sales are not on the same ladder.
Since the start of the year, less than 2 dozen homes have sold at the Club. That's about half the number that sold in the same time frame a year earlier. It's even worse than that compared to 2 years ago.
Also, the disconnect between sellers and buyers has widened. While sellers think they can move their property in a few months for increasing prices, the absorption rate suggests it takes over 2 years, for lower prices.
some Realtor® suggest they can achieve "immediate sales"
to get a listing. "I have a buyer for this home," they say. Once they
take the listing, the buyer mysteriously disappears.
many real estate agents equate taking a listing with their willingness
to promise larger-than-likely prices. There's an old saying in the real estate
business: "List To Last." Whoever has the listings relies on the nature of the market to reach enough sales to hang on to the lifestyle
they enjoy, if they sell your home or not.
But when things start to slow down, it
often leads to a frustrated seller. Some Realtor® reason
that they just need more listings to reach their goals, since they sell fewer
of them. New sellers enter the market
willing to believe their homes are worth more than the market will pay. Over-promising
agents grab the listing (at any price). They lower the price when the seller gets
frustrated. They lower it more when it proves to be "stale" because
it did not sell (at the right price) in the critical first three weeks of listing. They blame it all on the market. Eventually they make the sale. They
move on to their next overpromise.
is another way. If you want the truth, and hard work aimed at getting you the
best price, list with us. Nobody understands cyberspace selling better than we
do. And nobody does a better job of selling your home.
Buyers in Paradise.
estate Transaction Brokers, Kerstin and Temple Williams guarantee the following,
and we will relinquish our licenses as real estate practitioners if we do not
live up to each and every one of them.
1. We will deal
honestly and fairly with you in your real estate transaction.
We will account for all funds, at all times in your real estate transaction.
We will use skill, care and diligence in your real estate transaction.
We will disclose all known facts to us that materially affect the value of the
residential real property you consider buying, including those things which may
not be readily observable to you.
5. We will present all
offers and counteroffers in your real estate transaction in a timely manner, unless
you have previously directed us to do otherwise, in writing.
We guarantee limited confidentiality in your real estate transaction, unless waived
in writing by you. This limited confidentiality will prevent disclosure that you
will pay a price greater than the one submitted in a written offer in your real
estate transaction. It will prevent disclosure of the motivation you have in buying
the property in your real estate transaction. It will prevent disclosure that
you will agree to financing terms other than those offered in your real estate
transaction, or of any other information you request to remain confidential in
your real estate transaction.
list with us?
Palm Beaches has more than enough real estate associates -- it's no joke that
there's about one for every 15 homeowners. So what makes us different from other
answer goes far beyond our decades of experience
in real estate, or our knowledge of cyberspace selling and real estate in general.
starts with our unique marketing
plans (click on the link to see a typical one). And our initial comparative
market anaylsis (this links to a typical one, which is a PDF file
... PDF stands for Postscript Data File -- they can take a while to load). Both
the real estate marketing plan and the real estate comparative market analysis
point to our greatest strengths -- integrity, honesty and reality when selling
When you list with
us, we help you from the initial contact to the closing table -- every step of
the way. We don't list and hope the home sells itself. We bring the market to
you. And we help stage
your home for top dollar.
us a call. Sell your home. It will be our privilege to do so.
Mailing Address: 3755 Mykonos Court, Boca Raton,
E-mail Address: E-Mail Kerstin
or E-Mail Temple
Direct Phone: 561-241-6323
Cell phone: 561-271-8121 (Kerstin) or 561-251-6187
Direct Fax #: 561-241-6358
Office Address: Templeworks Properties LLC, 3755 Mykonos Ct., Boca Raton, FL 33487
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