Scott Bayens: Unmasking what makes sense is struggle for some right now, including buyer’s remorse
The other day at the office, I was wrapping up a call behind my closed door when I heard something odd and unfamiliar: collective laughter and a chorus of voices. Unlike others during the pandemic, I’ve been lucky to be able to work away from home since lockdown was lifted — temp check and facial covering required, of course. It’s been a godsend for me as like a house-trained dog, I must be let out at least once a day to bark, allowed to sniff around and make a mark or two on the local hydrants. And that day, boy did I dig up a big tasty bone! A good old-fashioned bull session right outside my door!
Six agents and our support staff — more people assembled inside at work than I’ve seen in the last year — were standing around, sharing stories, jawing about the biz, as well as the recent news about masks. I was enjoying the impromptu conversation so much, I didn’t immediately realize no one was wearing one! I could see everyone’s faces, expressions and inflections. We were all relaxed and enjoying the full facial. For a few fleeting moments, we were free. The president and the governor said so! But what would the county or city do? And what requirements might be kept in place by the firm?
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rescinded its mandatory mask order earlier this month, the rules of the COVID game were again unexpectedly changed. By doing so, we the people were handed another playbook; a new road to navigate, more sets of extra steps. What should have been a collective moment of relief instead created confusion and anxiety as the protection we had been told was so crucial could now be discarded as unnecessary.
The result has been “mask hysteria” as airlines, retailers, local governments and small business owners scrambled to adjust to the change. Bottom line, the onus is now on them to decide what the rules are, handle enforcement and deal with the consequences.
After a year of challenges and changes, there’s no doubt the announcement should have been handled better rather than giving us all another unwelcome shock to the system. Without getting into a useless debate about masks, their efficacy, the vaccine and COVID itself, I’ll simply say our leaders in Washington have way too much faith in the honor system. After all, this is the country where we push our way to the front of the line and do everything we can to game the system.
And that’s exactly what’s been going on in the real estate market. For sellers it means getting what they want just by asking for it, even if it doesn’t make any sense. And if they’re really lucky, there might even be a nice little tug-of-war and toddler-like temper tantrum as two or more buyers fight for what only one will be allowed to keep.
These days I tell my clients the name of the game is finding homes for sale before they hit market. It works for the seller because they don’t have to formally list or prepare for open houses. Brokers like it as it keeps marketing costs and showings to a minimum. And buyers get to negotiate quietly and free of any competition.
But now, as buyers become more desperate, sellers are reluctant to engage in off-market deals and are opting to throw fresh meat into the piranha pool to create more competition and generate maximum returns.
As a real estate CEO said recently, “It is becoming more difficult to convey, through anecdotes or data, how bizarre the housing market has become.” He then tweeted a story about a buyer that offered to name her firstborn child after the seller if they chose her offer. She lost.
But here’s where it gets really absurd and childish. National media is now tracking a new trend: buyer’s remorse. Number one regret as reported by recent buyers? Paying too much. Others decide once the battle has been won, the cost of ownership is too high. And my personal favorite, after going all in, buyers realize they don’t really like the house or its location.
So as we ditch the masks as declare COVID in America a thing of the past, it’s clear to me we’re still not acting like normal people. Panic and desperation are far from our strongest traits and certainly don’t put us in control. In fact, I would argue, what we’ve all lost and are struggling to regain is control, or at least a sense of it.
To take it a step further, I think we’re all suffering from a form of collective PTSD. Our very mortality was threatened. We lost our frame of reference and experience. And the world stopped, it all exploded out of the gate and continues to run out of control. Around here, offseason seems a distant dream. Inflation, supply chain, crypto, you name it; we’re all still trying to figure it all out and regain our footing on these ever-shifting and unpredictable sands.
Around the world and here in the valley, we remain in an incredible period of change. Yes, that’s exciting and creates lots of opportunity. But as we search to find normalcy and our better angels, mask or no mask, it’s OK to admit not everything around us makes sense.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him and view current listings at http://www.aspendreamhome.com.
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