Vol 7 No. 40 - June 27, 2007

The theater of real estate
By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

Don’t you love the theater? I do and we’re fortunate to live in an area that offers many venues and opportunities to attend the theater.

But not all theater involves a stage, an orchestra and a balcony. There’s theater in politics. Just watch the Manatee County Board of Commissioners on Channel 20 sometime. There’s theater within families, especially during holiday time, and there’s theater in real estate. In fact, some of the best theater around is the ongoing saga of the real estate market endlessly reported throughout the media.

Just how much are buyers and sellers influenced by what they read and see on television regarding the real estate market? Some people think quite a bit. Since buying a home has a psychological component to it, it’s not a stretch to believe that negative publicity about the housing market can have an affect on consumers. Will they jump in and buy, what range of offers will sellers accept, or will everyone just sits on their hands waiting for things to actually turn around?

Ellen Renish, regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors, feels that the media is to blame for the slowdown in the housing market in 2006.

"What happened to us in the mediais that stories about a real estate bubble and it’s potential to burst caused consumers to not do anything," she says.

Consumers tend to give a lot of credibility to what they read, especially in national magazines and major newspapers. Any slight change in the marketplace is hyped, creating a drama where one may not exist. Real estate professionals would like to see real estate media cover the long rang perspective rather than amplifying minor changes that may just be a blip on the radar screen.

What the national media and to a lesser degree the local media overlook is that all real estate is local. Just consider the diversity of real estate styles and locations within Manatee County. You have waterfront properties on Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, the Manatee River, canals, lakes and a few others I probably forgot. There are established communities in northwest Bradenton, east Bradenton and incredible new growth east of I-75.

Each of these areas has its own real estate dynamics and preferred buyers. True, they are all influenced by interest rates and the general economy of the country, but that’s only part of the total picture.

This is the reason buyers need to investigate on their own or with the help of a real estate professional. Neighborhoods and price ranges in various areas of a region, state and town can be vastly different. Based on recent Multiple Listing Service statistics, Sarasota/Bradenton is doing a lot better than other areas of Florida, and Anna Maria is starting to show very positive signs of an impending turn around.

What the media almost never factors into its real estate dramas, is the fact that the average person still is buying a home to live in, a need that must be met in almost any market. That’s why people still bought homes when interest rates were 16 percent, during the depression and in time of war. They still need a place to live.

Nationally home prices increased 60 percent in the period between 2001 and 2006, for most Anna Maria Island homeowners that number is at least double.

Let’s keep the drama in the theaters and out of the media at least when it comes to real estate. There’s no need for swan songs just yet.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper