As usual, the first week of August brought the usual report cards on home sales and other real estate data: the “second quarter stats.” The start of summer signals the beginning of what journalists call the slow news season (in Washington, the ‘silly season’) – a slowdown in the drumbeat of nonstop crises and turbulence in world and national affairs. Sometimes I think the most welcome result is the relief that comes from realizing that we don’t even need to glance at newspapers and TV news. Nothing new is happening. Thank goodness! That’s a mini-vacation all by itself.
One side effect it that it is much more likely that you may have missed some good news that could affect Santa Barbara homes sales. And possibly a subtle change in the way that news is beginning to be presented.
Reports from the National Association of Realtors, the Census Bureau and others have been looking up for a while, but reports in the national media have emphasized the caution signals. Lately there seems to be a shift in emphasis, if not content. The New York Times reported on the 19.8% increase in home sales in the last 12 months – and for once, the Grey Lady spent more ink on the ‘upswing’ than on the lagging recovery. “…Real estate was far down the list [of categories] investors had to worry about,” said the Times. Coming from that source, it was the journalistic equivalent of a ticker tape parade.
USA Today headlined “HOUSING PRICES RISE IN MOST U.S. CITIES,” and went on to quote economist Maury Harris stressing the importance of positive headlines. “It’s a confidence builder at a time when Americans really need something good happening.” He has a point: in the past, Santa Barbara and Montecito home sales, like those everywhere else, tend to reflect the national temper even though real estate is a very local phenomenon.
The Christian Science Monitor reported on the “lift to the long-suffering housing market” provided by the record lows in mortgage rates. They pointed out that previously occupied home sales contract signings matched the “fastest pace in two years,” with prices “rising in most markets.”
The Wall Street Journal sounded a bit more encouraging, as well. “Generally speaking,” they reported, “home prices are rising again in most markets because demand is up strongly from one and two years ago, which the number of homes for sale is down sharply.”
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