“Are we better off than we were __________?” You hear politicians use this phrase all the time on the campaign trail. I remember when Ronald Reagan used it for the first time so successfully in his bid to be President. We are always asking the question if we are better than _________. Better off than last year, two years ago, before the recession. Are we better off with more money in our pocket, do we have better jobs, more safety and security, and even just more hope? There are a lot of offshoots in which you can discuss the “are we better off question.” So I applied this to real estate and in conclusion, I came to the realization that in many ways, we are better off than where we were three years ago.
* The truth is, many of our homes were overpriced and over speculated. It was not realistic to think that we would forever be able to sustain that type of growth and appreciation. Today, I think that we have a much greater handle on the value of homes and whether or not they’ll appreciate or depreciate.
* We got rid of a lot of bad eggs. No question that the real estate industry including the lending business had their fair share of unscrupulous people. I am sure that there are still a few around looking to take advantage of people, but by and large, a lot of the bad apples are out of the business.
* The real professionals are still here. There were a lot of people that jumped into real estate at the peak, hoping to make quick cash and capitalize on the market. Those people are working elsewhere now and the (real) real estate professionals are still selling homes. In fact, I think that the tougher times have made these agents and brokers better yielding a higher level of service than ever achieved before.
* People are smarter with their money. Less and less consumers go off half-cocked and make foolish purchases. They are smart about how they use their money, buy smaller homes, reduce debt, and find values.
* Some but not all regulations have been good. People will argue that stricter guidelines in appraisals have helped overall while others will say it hurt the industry. I think that making mortgage lenders get licensed in Colorado has been a good thing because it helps eliminate the fly-by-night operations.
Finally, don’t misinterpret this column; there are plenty of ways in which we are not better off than three years ago and many of them have been documented in this column. It is extremely sad how many people have lost their homes and how the economy has torn families apart. I am reminded of another phrase that my mother used to tell me which was, “from pain comes growth.” I hope she’s right and the politicians can honestly say that “we are better off than we were three years ago” sometime soon.
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