A look back at summer of 2005
Harold Bubil is on vacation. This column appeared on Sept. 17, 2005, as the real estate boom was starting to unravel.Cheryl Loeffler wasn't kidding when she told me that many people think all Realtors do "is talk on our cell phones and drive around all day collecting commission checks."The Prudential Palms Realty agent (now with Sky Sotheby's), who specializes in Sarasota's luxury condominium market, laughs at that scenario. She knows the job is hard, and it's getting harder -- something home sellers will not want to hear."Buyers are getting tougher because they're having to pay these huge prices," Loeffler told me recently. To close deals, "We're constantly putting out fires."Although it's too early to say the boom is over, I'm hearing from other Realtors that buyers are starting to resist the rapid rise in home values. One top-selling Realtor told me recently, "It has not been my favorite summer." She said it's getting more difficult to make deals in her specialty -- the upper end of the market, where 449 Sarasota-area properties are now listed on Realtor.com at $1 million or more.The good news for Realtors, who for more than a year have been crying for something to sell, is that listings are up. Last spring, said Joe Murphy of Coldwell Banker in Manatee County, his team had four listings. Now they have 22.The bad news for sellers is that their agents are having to work harder to sell them. On Wednesday, Murphy and his team spent $1,500 to cater a mini-tour for Realtors of four homes in Waterlefe Golf & River Club, off State Road 64 in east Manatee. Three of the houses are priced at $1.25 million or more. His expenditures for advertising, direct mailing and other marketing costs are going up, too."Six months ago, you'd put a sign in the yard and the house would be gone," he said. "Now we have to work at it."Part of the reason is it's the slow time of year, Murphy said. It will be interesting to see how the market fares in the coming winter season.But if, indeed, a little air is being let out of the "real estate bubble," it won't be soon enough to prevent other problems, according to this week's edition of The Economist. The magazine says America's housing boom "is leaving the economy exposed not only to a cooling of property prices, but also to long-term costs. By diverting resources away from more productive sectors and by fueling consumer spending, the property boom is exacerbating America's imbalances, such as its large current-account deficit. Eventually, there will be a price to pay."For more real estate content, including blogs and podcasts, go online to heraldtribune.com/realestate.