And their names are Jane Doe, John Doe, and Snarky Doe.
cVillains and I must have been drinking the same Kool Aid, as we both have interviews with the Real C’Ville bubble bloggers … If you haven’t read the Charlottesville Bubble Blog, you’re missing out. They can be brash and snarky at times, but their anonymity gives them freedom and license to write about subjects I can’t touch on this blog. In addition, their critical analysis has proven to be insightful, and their commenters frequently give “on the ground” opinion. As far as I can tell, their audience is comprised of buyers, sellers, voyeurs, Realtors and others with and without sticks in the real estate fire.
I am thankful for their time and responses to my questions. Some (Realtors) may question my reaching out to the Bubble Bloggers, as they have occasionally targeted fellow Realtors. True, but the commentary they provide is valuable and fills a void in the real estate discussion in Charlottesville.
One of my goals is to encourage all of my clients and readers to educate themselves as much as possible; there are a few real estate blogs in the Charlottesville area – this is one that should be considered, if only for their candor and “contrary” point of view. This point of view is crucial; groupthink is dangerous, and Real C’Ville provides thoughtful, intelligent commentary, as they prove with their responses below. If nothing else, they help to keep us accountable and on our toes. * ….
How many of you are there?
There are two and a half of us. Two write most of the material; the other one synthesizes newspaper articles and other blog posts, and does the layout and posting work. She actually is a regular contributor to a couple of blogs, regional and NYC, with a real identity. She keeps trying to leave us on our own, but then some article will break or she’ll get interested in a property and stay on.
What was your inspiration for the blog?
There was a particular house that came on the market in the Winter that a bunch of folk in our circle of friends thought was ridiculously overpriced. Nationwide, prices were dropping, but here was this place 20% higher than last year’s version. And when we tromped through the open house, none of us could believe it. Someone commented that it would be an “outsider” who’d pay that kind of coin—and in fact, it was a couple from the Northeast, come here to work in Finance, who bought the place 90-120 days after listing. That house never appeared on the blog, but it inspired conversations, and motivated watching CAAR, Craigslist, the printed materials, and neighborhood signs more closely. We’d already been reading bubble blogs, and were of course inspired by these. There are some bubble blogs that are national, some that are regional, and some that are local, focusing on properties, and we’ve linked to them on Real C’ville.
We don’t intend the vitriol on those blogs—which we actually admire (the blogs as well as the vitriol). We like passion. Some of our commenters tend to wax more vitriolic than we do. Because the other blogs are so impassioned, we can remain a touch more balanced. Which, anyway, probably goes over better around here (know your audience, etc.). A lot of the vitriol is aimed at those who are considered greedy, and those who could have prevented the “credit crisis” from getting as bad as it has. This is more than deserved, in our humble opinion. This economy will weaken the finances of the majority of citizens, individually, for years to come. And to the rest of the world, we look like piggish idiots. It’s not good politically, among other things.
Do you rent or own?
This is an important question, because it gives insight to whether or not the blog is just a bitter rant from people locked out of the market, or more balanced in its presentation.
Of the two primary bubblers, one of us owns, the other one rents. The renter rents from the owner. The part-time galpal, we’re unsure of. She’s something of a mystery. She’s working on her laptop all the time, it seems—blogging. But what else is she doing? She doesn’t go to an office. She always has plenty of money, nice car, accouterments. She rents a big house in town. We think there’s a trust fund somewhere, but she won’t be pinned down. Of the other two, the one who rents has far more money than the one who owns. The one who rents may own in a year or two, presumably, when prices seem like they won’t decline. But right now this one, the renter—says he’d feel “rooked” if he bought a house. As if it were made of clouds or were just an illusion. He uses the word “rooked” all the time. He pays off his credit cards every month, and he’s an online rate-chaser (moving savings deposits from one bank to another, for best rates, more popular when the Fed was higher and banks were paying more).
Probably other people have made the following observation, but it says a lot about the housing market here and nationwide. His contention is that when mortgages were “free” or “cheap” –requiring no down payment, and low payments for a period of years before resetting–a lot of people were able to disconnect the house from the actual price. If you could get a $400K house for $1200 a month for the first three years, something with a big yard, 3 bedrooms, etc., it seems like a deal, especially if it were to “appreciate” 15-30% the next year and the next. You’d make a profit with very little outlay (due to “leverage”) when you wanted to sell. But if you were to buy a 1600 sq ft house now for $399K and actually parted with $80+K as a down payment, plus all sorts of costs and fees, totaling let’s say perhaps $100K, you’d still be paying (at 6.8%) nearly Two Grand a month. For 30 years.
So you’d been wiped out of a big chunk of change, and you still had large monthlies, plus property taxes, maintenance, whatever touch-ups or renovations you wanted to do, need for new furniture or appliances, etc. Ouch. People used to wait and sacrifice to make what was typically the biggest and most important purchase of their lives for this very reason. But during the Bubble, a house purchase turned into more or less the equivalent of buying a car. (And we all know how Americans at every income level love buying much fancier cars than they should).
Ed Note: I decided to break this up into two parts. Part 2 will be published next Monday.