Many of the homebuyers we worked with in 2004 and 2005 had a sense of urgency about their process—almost a fear that the “baby boomers” would buy up all of the affordable homes in Southwest Florida. If that happened, they reasoned that they would never be able to afford a home here. It was a tumultuous time in the Florida housing market, with prices soaring by the week. Homes were purchased, and sometimes “flipped” within a month for huge profits.
Once the bubble burst, homebuyers pretty much disappeared from Southwest Florida. Sales came to a near standstill, and some “flippers” began the long walk down Foreclosure Lane. A very high percentage of home sales were under “distress” conditions. Many homeowners who were unable to sell ended up owing more on their mortgage(s) than their homes were worth. This further fueled the foreclosure and short sale scenario.
Too many developers and home builders turned to Bankruptcy Courts; Wall Street and Banks turned to taxpayers for a bail out. The housing industry and the mortgage industry dragged the national and world economies down with them. A large number of brokerage firms went out of business, and real estate boards lost many of their licensed Realtors. Home values were cut in half, or worse.
Now, in 2011, some of us see a light off in the distance. We hope and pray it is not attached to an onrushing locomotive. We think it is the light of recovery and stability in the housing market. We will know more a year from now.
Homebuyers have returned to Southwest Florida—largely from the Midwest, Northeast, Canada, and Europe–but they seem quite different from the buyers of 6 or 7 years ago. A sense of desperation is lacking for most current buyers, who are willing to be patient and look at all options before making a commitment. Many are looking for a home for themselves, rather than a flip for a quick profit. They see this time as a great opportunity to “pickup” a really nice home at a bargain price. They don’t expect home prices to double in the next few years, and are taking a long term approach to the ownership of real estate.
For those of us Realtors who have survived the first decade of the 21st century, this is a refreshing time to be in the real estate business. We are getting back to basics, and it feels like we are back in the “real world”. And maybe, just maybe, some of those “baby boomers” are still headed this way.