2011: Adversity And Opportunity

Given the fast-paced society we live in, the immediacy of events and information has us constantly tacking to catch the prevailing wind, which has promoted a fear of commitment that affects nearly all modes of our behavior, even buying a home.

The trepidation is not without reason. From the craziness in Washington and confusion in Albany, and even here at home, it is no wonder that the housing market experienced a year that won’t soon be forgotten—and for all the wrong reasons.

For example, the federal government continues to struggle with the housing dilemma, but this problem will likely be solved from the ground up, not from the top down. At this point, the housing issue is so intertwined with the other issues affecting the ailing economy that it appears no amount of legislation will serve to right past wrongs. We are simply going to have to ride out this storm.

The sluggish economy has promoted the continuation of the wait-and-see behavior on the part of buyers. The fear to commit is based on several factors, the more significant of which are buyers waiting to see if the market has indeed bottomed out and the difficulty in getting financing. The result has been the near-comatose levels of housing activity in all market sectors with one exception—foreclosures. As Robert Kennedy once described 1962, 2010 for the housing market was “a very mean year.” In fact, the only positive that could be drawn from its conclusion from a housing perspective is that it’s ending.

It goes without saying that the market is still trying to absorb the effects of the housing crash—one recent report on the market indicated that Suffolk County is number one in the state in terms of the number of homes in pre-foreclosure, and Nassau County isn’t far behind. This is not exactly the kind of notoriety the region would like to publicize.

But there is opportunity that awaits those in the market for a home. The current economic conditions are—inadvertently—promoting shorter-term mortgages. Many an economist is advocating the purchase of a home based on the historic low interest rates that are still in effect. This climate is prompting shorter mortgages, such as the 15-year model, to come into vogue, with even shorter terms available. With the current glut of available housing product, the fact remains, it’s a buyer’s market.

“The rates are amazing! We are seeing 15-year mortgages under 4 percent,” said one real estate expert. With interest rates being what they are, the monthly payment is now within shooting distance of the 30-year equivalent, which would likely have a higher rate. Let’s be optimistic and assert that the overall savings from the shorter term loan, which will be demonstrative, could help fuel the economic recovery.
At the same time, not-for-profit housing interests are still seeing a steady stream of homeowners looking for ways to prevent foreclosure. Non-profits have been successfully working to shore up soft market areas by acquiring foreclosed properties, rehabbing them and reintroducing for owner-occupied efforts. It has been successful, but unfortunately the scale needed from a funding perspective to allay the market of its issues is simply not possible.

But that’s not to say we should stop trying. 2011 represents a new year with new opportunities. The Wall Street Journal recently noted 10 reasons to buy a home, among the noted was this: “Sooner or later, the market will clear.”

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.