"If you don't tell your story, someone else will," Joe Williams, co-founder of Keller Williams said recently about the media's disinclination to quote real estate brokers as sources for the myriad stories written recently about the so-called housing bubble.
Instead they turn to anyone but people who buy and sell homes for a living -- stock analysts, economists, media pundits, authors, and so on. The effect on buyers has been paralyzing. Many brokers say buyers are concerned with more than rising home prices and interest rates -- they're scared of being the next greater fool.
With enormously improved conditions -- interest rates comparable to 40-year-lows and rising inventories that provide greater selection, pending sales are already beginning to rise. Even the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan said he thought the "worst of this may well be over." This could cause many buyers to miss a golden opportunity -- home prices and sales expected to rise again in the spring.
Conditions are also improving for sellers. With the number of households expected to increase 15 percent nationwide in the next 10 years, demand will continue. In addition, 2006 has hardly been a failure for housing -- so far, it stands as the third-best year on record.
Now the NAR is doing something about the negative hype -- running full-page newspaper advertisements in six of the nation's leading newspapers beginning yesterday. The ads are designed to urge home buyers who have been waiting to buy the home of their dreams to act now before the market changes. Not coincidentally, the newspapers chosen -- Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, are among those most guilty of hyping the housing bubble to the point of scaring buyers to death.
NAR's first-ever newspaper blitz features the headline, "It's a great time to buy or sell a home." The advertisement points out that interest rates have fallen seven months in a row and are near 40 year lows, inventories of existing homes are higher than they have been in decades and prices have stabilized. But the perfect conditions for buyers are likely to change as sales pick up, prices gain traction and conditions improve for sellers next year.
"Homeownership is a safe, secure way to build long term wealth. The national median price of homes bought ten years ago, has increased 88 percent," points out the NAR. With prices having risen 50 percent over the last five years, including a longer timeline circumvents criticism that the housing market traditionally only barely beats inflation by a point or two. It's done that and more in the last five years, but keep in mind, that previous to the boom the nation was recovering from a housing slump.
In addition to the newspaper ads, the NAR is blitzing network television and radio with ads directed at buyers and sellers. These begin airing in the second week of January -- the start of the spring selling season in the warmer parts of the country.
"The market is much better than you might hear or read," says Tom Stevens, NAR's president. "Consumers should take advantage of this perfect alignment of low rates and extraordinary inventory before market conditions change,"
And NAR's 1.3 million members and state and local Realtor associations are being encouraged to adopt the message in their own advertising and communications to consumers, beginning with this news:
- Total housing inventory levels fell 2.4 percent at the end of September to 3.75 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.3-month supply at the current sales pace, according to NAR's existing home sales report.
- The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $220,000 in September, which is 2.2 percent below September 2005, when the median was $225,000.
- According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.40 percent in September, down from 6.52 percent in August.
The time to buy or sell is now .