For the last several weeks, everything relating to my move has been, for the most part, under my control: the packing, the cross-country travel, and the unpacking.
But now the spotlight changes to something that is frighteningly out of my hands.
Will my Lodi home of more than twenty years sell quickly at its fairly priced level? Or will it linger on the market as so many other homes in my neighborhood have?
If it remains unsold, then I may be forced into a coin flip decision of whether to accept the inevitable low-ball offer or put the house up for rent. A third chilling possibility is that I could take the maximum gamble and carry the house until the market improves, as it inevitably will.
Contractors have spent the month since I left inside and outside my house, renovating and upgrading. It goes on the market this month. By my calculations I have ten prime weeks left in the selling season, between August 15th and November 1st, to find a buyer.
The equity that I have built up during two decades of home ownership protects me from financial devastation.
I bought my house in 1988 so I'm not going to lose money.
But I do regret that I couldn't move fast enough two years ago to cash in on the real estate bubble that I knew, from years spent on Wall Street analyzing inflated markets, was headed for the tank. An unexpected illness kept me from selling and, in the process, cost me at least $100,000
Despite the mortgage meltdown, my part of town retains its solidly middle class ambiance, nurtured by my conscientious neighbors.
Still, I'm caught in the housing crisis buzz saw: as my Lodi house drops in value, although more slowly than in previous months, so too does my Pittsburgh home.
As if the reality of owning two houses in a disastrous market isn't bad enough, the news from every print and television report is a non-stop stream of gloomy predictions.
In July, the Christian Science Monitor wrote that houses in nearby Victorville, CA have plunged by 43 percent over the last year. [Housing Crisis Hits Exurbs Hard, By Michael B. Farrell, Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2008]
Other reports, and you don't have to look hard to find them, predict that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that prices may continue to fall for two more years. One particularly ominous expert evaluation earlier this week described it this way: Housing Crisis Worse Than Imagined.
As one who always tries to find the glass half full perspective, I searched the Internet until I finally came across a U.S. News & World Report article that, after studying all the data, concluded that housing prices fell further during the 1930s Great Depression.
Needless to say, I found that cold comfort.[Comparing Today's Housing Crisis with the 1930's, By Alex Markels, U.S. News & World Report, February 28, 2008]
But amazingly, even though Stockton is the world's foreclosure capital, pending sales have risen in San Joaquin County for five consecutive months, although at lower median prices. This encouraging tidbit comes from no less an authority than Linda Bush, president of the Lodi Association of Realtors. [Not All Housing Markets Taking a Downturn, By Linda Bush, Lodi News-Sentinel, August 1, 2008]
To help me sleep at night, I repeat and repeat in my mind the words of my ever-optimistic agent Joanie Selman-Prince that I only need one qualified buyer and that Lodi is still one of the state's most desirable locations.
Attention all buyers! Come forward please. No reasonable offer will be refused.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.