Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Real estate and alchemy

It seems to me that the practice of real estate is getting more and more like alchemy. You know the mystical art from the middle ages wherein a wizard, sorcerer, mostly schizoid types that thought they were such, try to turn iron into gold using various methods.

Now before you write me off as a lunatic just think about it. We mix together buyers and sellers in a chaotic market and try to align the elements of a transaction. Buyers are loosely connected to reality because they have been told that they are in charge as it is a buyer's market. Most sellers are in denial that the market is as bad as they read and hear so they set their prices beyond reasonable expectations.

Now the realtor is supposed to take all those elements and bring them together into a viable transaction that gets to the closing table and laces everyone's pockets with gold. You have to in many cases turn the lender's scrutiny into a positive element knowing all the while that it has never been harder to qualify for a loan. The seller's lender, in many cases, has to agree to take it in the shorts on the loan that he made to the seller all those several months ago when we were all living fast and loose. They have to agree to accept cents on dollars in short sale arrangements otherwise they own a piece of property in a distant city that they could care less about.

If that is not bad enough, once you get those elements looking lively then you have to endure the appraisal. That process has become a minefield. Mix in all the foreclosure and short sales, comparables are so diluted that not even a sorcerer can divine what a property is worth. Yet we press on in this mystical process we call appraisal. We accept their opinions as if they were the Rosetta stone of truth and accuracy. The truth of the matter is that they ain't got a clue. The old process has been "improved" by the government that now employs clearing houses that are assigned to retain an appraiser for a transaction. You could possibly get a Moultrie, Georgia appraiser coming into Leon county to perform an appraisal. They have no basis in experience or knowledge of a market that is foreign to them. Ala-Kabatra, Ala-kazam..........your property is worth zip! End of process and usually the sale.

Now we bring in the element of property insurers. If you are fortunate enough to get one of these guys to return your call then you are subject to all sorts of Harry Potter sorts of intepretations. From the four point inspections that they do to their interpretations as to how wind worthy your house is. After you have negotiated this complicated maze then you are off to the title search.

The title search turns up all sorts of strange manifestations, ranging from mechanic's liens to estate disputes amongst surviving heirs. You can apply all the eye of newt you wish in some of those challenges but you can likely forget getting a clear title to hang your hat on.

Add in covenants and restrictions of homeowners associations, surveys, home inspections, wood destroying organism inspections and just the general orneriness of all parties involved you had better have some elements of an alchemist within you.

To quote the wizard of Id, " Frammin' on the jim jam and frompin on the fritz !!! ". Turning iron into gold or spinning straw into gold is akin to trying to successfully get many real estate transactions to closing in our present day scheme of things. Wish it were not so, but it is and will be for some time to come.

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