It has been a rough ride the last four years for Woodinville home sellers and indeed home sellers all across the country. All you need to do is pick up a newspaper, read a blog or talk to a neighbor whose home is/was on the market; the news wasn’t good. Prices were dropping quickly, loans were hard to get, inventory was high and buyer confidence was shaken due to the sharp turn in the housing industry.
We have all heard the stories of the nightmare short sales, foreclosures and loss of value that most homeowners have faced and are still facing. As a real estate broker, it has been nothing short of heart breaking to work with sellers faced with losing their home or with the prospect of losing an enormous portion of their retirement.
The amazing lesson that has emerged for me as a real estate broker working with dozens of struggling sellers and buyers (yes, buyers!) has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. That lesson is just the real estate version of one of life’s most important lessons: “It’s not what happens to you. It’s how you handle what happens to you.” I continually come across very brave people trying to make hard decisions about what to do in this market. The fortitude and grace with which people have handled this real estate nightmare has amazed me over and over again. I have worked with sellers who have employed a research-based approach to the financial “downturn.” They have chosen to study the market, investigate their options and ask excellent questions as they formulate a plan. I have had clients who have gone through short sales, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, keeping their sense of humor and reminding anyone who laments their loss that if they still have their health and their kids are happy, then it is all good! One particularly wonderful couple in their 50s whom I worked with to short sell their home said with a hearty laugh, when asked how they were doing, “Oh, we are doing great! It’s like we are newlyweds again with no money and living in a rental.”
I have worked with buyers who have brought great humanity to this market. The perception during the downturn has often been how fortunate the buyers are, and in many cases that is true. But there are the instances where I have, again, been so moved by my buyers who have displayed such empathy for sellers who have lost their home.
One couple misted up when they saw a room that had been joyfully painted pink with a girl’s name stenciled on the wall. I have worked with buyers who have invested in homes with years of deferred maintenance: failing septics, rotting roofs, homes stripped of all the light fixtures. And they have said to me, “I love Woodinville so much; I just want to live here, even if the home is in massive need of repair, and I’m not sure how much it will ultimately cost.”
They are going into the “great unknown” as they try to breathe life (and money) into these distressed homes and make the neighborhood proud again.
And along the way, I have come across outstanding fellow brokers who will do anything for their clients. I have enjoyed putting my head together with these colleagues to work to come up with creative win-win solutions for our clients. I have found myself and cooperating brokers trying to keep a sense of humor as we navigate the less-than-logical systems banks have created to close a short sale.
In the last few weeks, a funny thing has happened: Headlines are saying the market is back, fueled by four years of depressed prices, current historically-low interest rates, and low inventory of homes.
We are seeing multiple offers and even prices notching-up in some segments of the market. Hold on! The market is changing again as it always does. But I won’t soon forget the lessons from the last four years of how great people can be in the face of adversity.