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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It’s worse than I thought – listening to discussions at the barber shop –

The men's barber shop is an American institution and certainly pre-dates Starbucks as the original gathering and discussion place for men (women certainly know what I mean, since they’ve had their hair dressers shop forever, too). I’ve called Starbucks sort of a snail-version of Facebook or Twitter, like regular mail is called snail-mail when compared to email.

So anyway, I go into my barber shop yesterday for my regular haircut ands the talk turned immediately to real estate. The barbers all know I’m in real estate and I wear my real estate badge everywhere, so even the other customers can see that I’m in real estate. Inevitably thins start out with the generic, “So, how’s the real estate market?” question; which I try to answer in as positive a manner as I can. Then the horror stories start flowing out from everyone in the barber shop.

There’s always 1-2 people in the place who know someone who’s lost a house to foreclosure. Likely there will be 2-3 people who know someone who just got laid off and may lose their house. If I’m really lucky there may even be someone in the place who looking to buy or sell a house, but mostly it’s just about sharing horror stories. My barber told me that on a recent Saturday morning out of his first 10 customers, 7 had recently been laid off, so that’s hi barometer of how bad things have become.

Another barber climes in that he had a customer yesterday who has lost almost $100,000 in value off his house and may just walk away. Another customer allows as how he’d like to buy a house to take advantage of the tax credit, but he can’t afford to sell his place, since it is so far underwater. Then a general discussion of how the government programs haven’t worked and how they should do something different makes the rounds of chairs. That can and does get pretty ugly.

There are all sorts of scholarly studies and reports out there about this mess we are in and lots of government programs and press released about programs circulating; however, if you want to really know what’s happening out in America, go sit in your local barber shop and listen – listen to America. If this were Floyd’s Barber Shop in Mayberry, Aunt Bee and Opie would be hiding in the basement and Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife would be facing an angry mob. Andy might even let Barney get his bullet out of his shirt pocket. It ain’t pretty out there right now and the natives are getting restless.

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