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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Collateral damage...

Collateral damage is a quaint term often used by the military or by national security people to classify the deaths of innocent bystanders that is caused by some overt action like bombing a suspected terrorist. We get to see the body of the dead terrorist on the local news, but the pile of dead bystanders is just collateral damage and doesn’t get much press coverage (unless the local government people raise a stink); then the media trot out pictures of some poor kid, all bandaged up in a hospital room.

In the current real estate meltdown, we see stories quite often of some poor unfortunate family losing their home to foreclosure or we hear the laments of the home sellers who can’t sell their houses. The collateral damage that isn’t shown are the thousands of real estate professionals who’ve been forced out of the business or who are barely making it on drastically reduced incomes or the small, local builders who are struggling to avoid bankruptcy and keep their small businesses alive. In our area that translates to 8 out of 9 local new-build developments being on hold. It ripples out from there, of course. Who knows how many building supply companies have had to lay off people because of the bust in new construction caused by this downturn? Locally we’ve seen many mortgage companies and lots of title companies shut their doors or severely cut back. I could go on.

The point is that an awful lot of people are dependent upon the housing market and all of them are suffering because of the downturn. The BBC recently did an article on that aspect of the current market and I found that interesting. We don’t see much about that in our U.S. media, but the BBC is doing it as a human interest story in a foreign country, much as our media might cover the impact of immigration on the British society. Obviously, I could read it and relate to the travails of the Realtor who was spotlighted in the story. We’ve all had to adjust to this market.

As for me, I’ve already reported (see my post of Sep 13- Repo Man), I’ve taken on more buyer clients than I would normally have. My business used to be primarily listing homes, but now it’s fairly well balanced between listings and buyers. Most of those buyers are asking me to find them bank repos to look at, so I’ve been in a lot of cold, dark houses lately. Most bank repo houses don’t have water, gas or power, so we have to try to get in before dark, which comes earlier and earlier these days. Somehow these houses always feel about 10-15 degrees cooler than it is outside, too; so, it’s bundle up time. But, hey; at least I’m out working. I’m not in the collateral damage pile, yet.

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