I’m not in the market to panic and blindly overpay for a house

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When I drove over the Shands Bridge last Tuesday, I thought it was for the final time. I was wrong.

After selling my condominium a couple of months ago and renting while I looked for a house here in Clay County, I decide to make the move, even if it meant renting for a few more months until people come to their senses with this current real estate market.

My movers showed up late and left early because they had another job to complete. They promised to come back the next day to finish. That meant I also had to reschedule my final cleaning.

It was frustrating because I’m getting too old to turn moving day into moving week. The guys came back the next day, loaded my boxes and furniture into a container and left. I came home to find enough items not moved to fill a 10-foot by 5-foot storage unit. I know because I had to load it on Thursday morning.

When I asked why they didn’t pack everything, they said they weren’t sure what needed to go, which prompted my response: “What part about the word ‘moving’ do you not understand?”

It gets worse.

The family that bought my condo was scheduled to move in last Thursday. They were driving from Georgia and were scheduled to arrive mid-afternoon. I was frantically trying to complete the move myself and do some last-minute cleaning. The family didn’t get here on time because of the broken suspension part on the Buckman Bridge. It’s the only time I didn’t mind crumbling infrastructure since the three-hour delay gave me the cushion I needed to get everything moved.

The three-day ordeal also forced me to get a hotel room for three days.

What’s worse, there’s no real solution on this side of the Shands Bridge. Houses are being sold well above their market values because people are panic buying. These probably are the same people who still have 3,000 rolls of toilet paper from a year ago. Maybe they were sitting in a gas line for hours when the Colonial Pipeline shut down for a few days. Some panic-driven motorists even tried to store gas in zip-lock bags! Heck, I’m old enough to remember filling the backseat of my Ford Pinto with 12 packs of the original Coke when New Coke was introduced.

There certainly is a shortage, real and imagined, of available houses in our area. Many are holding onto their homes because if they sell them now, they may not have a place to go. But it’s so tempting to cash in now because there are plenty of people who are willing to recklessly outbid your best offer. More frightening is there are plenty of buyers who are willing to skip inspections, appraisals and pay the closing costs. That’s insane.

A big reason why there aren’t a lot of reasonably priced houses is there aren’t enough houses. Construction slowed dramatically after the last housing bubble burst in 2007-08. Now there isn’t enough inventory, and new construction now is racing to keep up with demands. That’s why there are plans to build thousands of new homes south of Fleming Island and along the First Coast Expressway.

In the meantime, there’s still no reason to fall into this trap, MIT housing economist Bill Wheaton told National Public Radio.

“Don’t buy into a frenzy,” Wheaton said.

If you factor out inflation, the past one-year gain in home prices is about 10%, he said.

“It’s never been that high – ever in the last 50 years, so there’s really something going on,” he said.

At some point, supply will kick in and prices will drop. Like a rock.

I know the real value of a house is what somebody’s willing to pay, but there’s no logical reason for a house that’s listed at $220,000 to go for $260,000 or more. If houses on a street are generally valued at $225,000 each, once a person cashes in on the frenzied atmosphere, the values of the houses on that street still are $225,000 – including the house that sold.

What the seller will learn quickly is once they sell, they likely will realize how difficult it is to find a new place. Turnabout really is fair play.

On top of that, everything associated with the housing and moving industries are raising prices to ridiculous levels. Why? Because they can.

For now.

That 10-by-5 storage unit I needed because my movers didn’t understand they needed to take everything now costs me more than $200 a month. Four months ago, it was less than $100.

Short-term rentals until the market levels off – and it will level off – isn’t a solution. I was offered a single bed and I would have had to share a bathroom with the homeowner for, get this, $468 a week. And while it was advertised as “Beautiful,” I had to walk through piles of clothes and shoes that were stacked up in the living room.

All of this has made me even more determined not to be lured into this sucker market. I’m perfectly willing to pay fair market value – or even a little above. But I’m not going to be stupid. Frenzies come and go. Beanie Babies did. So did Pet Rocks.

Until then, however, I plan to impatiently wait for things to level off – even if it means driving over the Shands Bridge a few more times.

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