Sept 11 – It’s all about perspective

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Nine years ago today I left my office to be with my wife Gail. I had just spent an hour or so watching the  9/11 debacle unfold on the TV in my conference room at Kelly Carlos Office Center. I was in a meeting that fateful morning with a gentleman that owned a restaurant building on route 41 in Estero.  It turns out he was a former steel worker  that originally worked on the construction of the World Trade Center.  He spent some time on his cell phone talking to his  family in New York before we all left the conference room. I remember him telling us before we left that both buildings would have to be rebuilt above where the planes hit. Little did we know that both buildings would come down in a few minutes.

Sept 11

Kelley Carlos Office center was only a few minutes from my home. Gail called crying and pleaded with me be with her as we watched the tragedy unfold. I got in my car and made the five minute drive to our condo at Harbour Isle.  At this point in the morning of Sept 11, we did not know if the US was at war, under constant attack, or if these were isolated terrorist acts.

As I drove down Iona road I saw a crew of about 8 workers trimming hedges along the road.  I looked at the workers and I was actually surprised, “How could they go about their work when all this was happening?” was the irrational thought I had.

What did I expect?  That everything would come to a stop?  I wasn’t thinking, however, I was just looking at everything from my perspective; and I was transposing that perspective to the world around me.

Sept 11

Sept 11

Back in the early eighties I traveled a great deal to Japan and Korea.  I made three or four trips each year on business.  One trip was during the summer. After arriving in Seoul, I had a few days of business meetings which included dining out every night and socializing with assorted suppliers. On the third day, about six of us were having an early dinner at a large quiet restaurant when a man in our dining party sneezed.  Then someone in the next table sneezed; after a few minutes there were ten to fifteen people sneezing. There was some scattered nervous laughter as this odd communal sneezing rippled throughout the restaurant.  It was not until we finished dinner and were walking outside that  someone told us that it was tear gas from a few blocks away that  had caused the sneezing episode. We didn’t believe it. After all, no had one smelled anything unusual.

A week later when I arrived home I was immediately accosted by my friends and family with questions  about the massive riots in Seoul; the city being shut down with curfews, and massive police presence.  For the week that I was there I never heard about or saw any riots or even a peaceful demonstration. In fact I didn’t remember even seeing any police!

Unless you ARE the story – you are on the outside of the story.

I remember what I used like to tell my kids – don’t judge someone or something by your perspective, your viewpoints, or your priorities.

Whether it is hurricanes in Florida, poverty in Venezuela, riots in Korea, or indeed simply what’s going on in Florida’s turbulent real estate market: your perspective will shape your opinions and your “facts”.

My friend Keith  got back from New York City a few weeks ago – I remember one of his Facebook posts; it said something about not being able to tell we are in a economic crunch  by walking down Broadway and being infected with the pulse, the excitement, and the brisk business going on around him. Sometimes it helps to get outside your box and see things from another perspective. Keith came back invigorated.

I have been trying to give my clients and readers  a sense of what’s going on in our real estate market. But what I do not really have a sense of – is their perspective. I do understand, however, that it is certainly different from mine.

My perspective is all I have folks – so a few comments about our market:

From my perspective we are busy. We are selling more houses, listing more houses, and fielding more inquiries form buyers than ever before. Most purchases are on the low end, but I see ALL areas on the uptick.  We are growing our business by expanding our coverage. This week we opened up an office in Clermont and look for us by the end of this month to have an office in Lehigh Acres as well.

The downtown office will be busier as the new Oasis sales prices are announced, and we add more local retail product for developers like Lennar, who are obviously convinced enough in the return of the retail market to start building again.

Financing is still a challenge. Most houses are still selling for cash but the percentage of financed buyers is increasing. Interest rates are low – but credit terms are tight. Market America Realty and Investments, Inc. is bringing in lending partners that understand how to make loans in this environment – and I expect we will be doing more and more “retail” deals this season.

When interest rates increase on mortgages, look for an increase in financed homes. Many buyers have no sense of urgency now – in fact these buyers have been rewarded for waiting as interest rates continue to tumble and housing prices are  increasing modestly, if at all. But many experts predict that buyers today will react to a perceived increase in mortgage interest rates – and when that happens, sales will increase as buyers try to lock in their rates before the rates increase further.

Commercial properties are starting to be dumped on the market by their new bank owners. Many institution are unloading their loan portfolios to acquisitions that are prepared to foreclose and get the assets back to the market place. I see more short sales in the commercial area being approved. At the CIP (Commercial Investment Professionals) meeting on Friday there was record attendance and the brokers are starting to react to the increase in activity by banks. I am looking for commercial agents to join our reformed commercial division because of this increase in activity.

The REO (Foreclosed Home Sales) business is continuing to spread. We continue to add lenders portfolios and more assets for us to manage. The REO side of our business helps us attract buyers for the retail side.

In our market there are pockets of the market that have fared better than others.  The McGregor corridor is one example.  Demand for family homes along the river remains high, for example, and three bedroom pool homes are gobbled up quickly in Cape Coral.

On this anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of how important perspective is, and I am reminded of how fragile status quo can be. We cannot control things like planes flying into buildings, oil spills, or hurricanes.  What we can control is  how we perceive our market and our surroundings and how we choose to react to the things we can’t control.


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