It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ……

Charles Dickens, A  Tale of Two Cities,  published 1859.

I remember with some mental anquish how as a college student studying English Literature that I dreaded Dickens. I don’t know what it was that made me feel that way. Maybe it was the size of the transcripts or the titles (Bleak House, Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers) that seem to provide a premonition of  a long arduous study of  boring  English monologue. More than likely it was a youthful college mentality that seemed to be more focused on frivolity rather than serious study.  But age has its advantages and aha moments and now I think I understand the true understanding  and pleasure of literary masterpieces.  Now when I review ” A Tale of Two Cities”,” A Christmas Carol”, or” Great Expectations”, I have no regrets for my  delay of literary appreciation.

You might ask… Sam, what does this have to do with Real Estate? Fair enough. I have to say that I am drawn to the parallels I perceive in this crazy bi-polar market. Its the best of times….Its the worst of times. Excuse the paraphrase Mr. Dickens, but my aim is to make my analogy somewhat contemporary. Its the best of times for a buyer.  Low interest rates, lower than we have seen in 50 years.  Home prices are low.  Since the bubble in 2007, prices have been on a downward spiral and there are  plenty of homes to choose from.  Its the worst of times for a seller for the exact same reasons I mentioned above. Plus in a lot of cases the sellers can’t sell because they are “underwater”. They owe more on the home than what its worth. It gives me a chance to wonder. Where are we going with all of this over analyzed, statistical conflagration of  charts, opinions, and emotional diatribes?  Hell, I don’t know.

I would have thought my experience in the business would lead me to feel some sense of confidence in predicting the market. Been doing this thing for 34 years plus.   I am more confused now than when I sit down with my accountant to do my income taxes.  In the Dickens novel, the protagonists in Paris were dealing with poverty, privilege class and violent revolution with Madame Guillotine as the ultimate adjudicator. Those folks in London, though maybe not as violent in the outcome, were dealing with a topsy turvy world of social change. Starting to sound like deja vu.

We can’t escape the fact that this is an election year and because of the 24 hour cable news bloviating, my head is ready to explode with the constant harangue of candidates  telling me things are better, worse than they have ever been , that we are on are way back, or Armageddon is due about noon tomorrow. What’s an average non conformist like me to do? And what do I tell my clients?

Wait….. before we continue with this somewhat esoteric contemplation, I have to take care of  some personal matters that are for real.  I need gas in my car.  I go to New Jersey for my gas. Its 20 cents a gallon cheaper. My wife also shops at Dollar General and Giant Supermarket with a briefcase full of coupons. We keep the house at 68 degrees in the Winter and 76 in the Summer.  We are on our way to becoming pretty much self sufficient with food storage that will last  for I am not quite sure how long, but we feel that we should be prepared.  For what, your guess is a good as anyone else’s.  A few weeks ago we spent a Saturday taking the NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course because we felt that today we should at least know something about weapons. The class was full with  60 people, and I would say all about our age. Boomers who are concerned with just protecting their families and what’s left of their assets. Good class, they told Gloria and me that our shot groups were “tight”.

You know for the most part we are doing these things to protect ourselves and to save as much money as possible. For the last several years we have all heard that  as a country we are spending too much money, that we are a gazillion dollars in debt to other countries but really big time  to China. They are our bankers. And we buy a lot of stuff from them.  So we save our money, cut back on non necessities  and try to conserve fuel,  food and energy. So what do we hear now from the so called “Economists”.  Consumers generate 70% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). So if we as consumers stop spending money we are going to force the good old USA into a Double Dip Recession.  What am I missing here? I know that I can overwork cliches but I really don’t want to have the cake let alone eat it too.

Somebody is feeding us a line of baloney. The only problem is, who?

The only thing I can offer you is my gut. I think  the real estate market “feels” like its getting a little better.  I “see” things beginning to happen.  I “hear” more positive statements coming from the people I really trust.  Did I cover all facets of  Neuro-Linguistic Programming in that last statement? Thanks to Tony Robbins for that reference.  Maybe I could have added “smell”  but other than showing some really stinky houses, I don’t know how much of a barometer that is for an economic recovery.

I guess we just have to move on. What I can promise you is that I will not be pretentious or condescending if you ask me for my opinion. I’ll try to help you decide what to do about that house you want or don’t want anymore.

I can’t lay all of the blame for my early confusion to the realm of English Authors like Charles Dickens. I thought I was on my way to a more rational  view of literature by switching over to American authors. And then I met Joseph Heller and “Catch 22”.
I can still hear Captain Yossarian trying to get himself grounded from flying combat missions during WWII. They (The Army Brass) kept telling him the only way that would happen if he was diagnosed as being crazy. And since he knew it was crazy to keep flying suicide missions he was obviously sane and therefore would have to keep flying,….. Catch 22.  Move over Yossarian and save me a seat!!! We are in this together and Charles Dickens  is out there somewhere.


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