Friday, July 4, 2008

Selling Our House

So what about selling our Carlsbad house? We know that the housing market is in freefall right now, the bubble well burst and prices tumbling -- but what about our area? Eric Janszen's article, “The Next Bubble: Priming the Markets for Tomorrow’s Big Crash,” in the February 2008 issue of Harper's showed how bubbles build, burst, and drop a little below what they would have been had there been no bubble, then slowly rise back to normal. Property appreciation, he argues, historically tracks average inflation -- about 3.5% per year. Using his illustrative curve, I estimated that we had bought our Carlsbad house when the bubble was midway to its peak, that now after the burst we were halfway back down the other side -- in other words, right now we might be able to sell our house for the same amount we purchased it for, but if we wait it will sell for less, and it will take many years before normal appreciation will bring the house back to its present level.

Could I be sure? Not easily. One thing Bend has all over SoCal is the transparency of the real estate market. bendbb, the anonymous (to me, at least) owner of the Bend Economy Bulletin Board has set up tools to track listings and housing prices in Bend, and has even created a nifty mapping tool to let one view listings in any area of Bend. Nothing like that exists for San Diego's real estate market, so I can't see how prices are doing. (I did ask a member of our real estate team, a bright fellow who writes for the San Diego Business Journal, whether similar data were available for our market and he responded with a link to where I could download a 20MB Access file. I'm not a database jockey so it wasn't much help.)

But this much I could rely on: the ball is falling down, so we need to sell now or plan to wait a long time before it bounces back up to today's level.

So Mrs Elliott and I proceeded to tart up our house: cleaning, uncluttering, painting, new skins on the kitchen cabinets, new granite marble where the formica once was, and a new sink, flowers everywhere. We know the drill: stage the house so it looks pretty. The hardest part was not boxing tons of stuff and hiding it, which did take two solid weeks of boxing and taping. No, the hardest part was getting my 17 year-old daughter to get her freakin' room clean enough to show. Teenage girls do resist anything resembling house work, but I gotta give her props: once she gets started, she doesn't stop until she's done.

We brought out the realtor -- the same fellow that sold us this house four years ago -- and listed the house at pretty much the price I thought it would be, the price he thought it would sell for. That was on Wednesday of last week. On Saturday we had two offers, both the same price, both the bottom of our selling range.

But sometimes you take what you're offered.

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