Tuesday, December 01, 2009

U or W?

Well, it's been an amazing 6 months, to say the least. Every minute someone is making a prediction about where we are in the "cycle" and whether the bottom of the chart is going to look like a "U" - that is, a flat bottom that we ease out of - or a "W" - a double-dipping bottom with a small rally in between. As always, the jury is still out. When will we know? In a couple years. Yeah, it's what they say about hindsight...

Luckily, when it comes to real estate, we can often see what's going to happen years in advance because it's a lagging indicator - that is, whatever is affecting the market happens first, then real estate follows as much as 12-24 months later. That's why, when the markets were shaking in 2008, New York real estate was still going up, albeit at a slower pace than 2006 or 2007. Now, the market is getting the shakes of 2008 out of its system.

Where will it go next year? Well, the stock market spent most of 2009 recovering from a disastrous 2008. Oddly enough, in fits and starts, so did the rest of the country's real estate market. People who can afford to take their properties off the market are doing so. All that will help create upward pressure on the market.

Unfortunately, there is another lagging indicator - employment - that is going to stretch out our recovery. The government stabilized banks last year from the fallout of poorly-made loans. This year, it looks like a lot of good people are on hard times from the layoffs they've suffered, and now banks have to contend with more foreclosures. New York is still relatively insulated - there are so few foreclosures - but a lot of banking jobs and the services that revolve around them have been lost.

So, still no conclusions. But look around you and remember what you can. Maybe next time this happens - and you can bet that it will happen again - you'll be the one who was ready to take advantage.