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There's a terrific article on the front page of the Business section of the NY Times today. The article discusses the rise and fall of the real estate market in Cape Coral, Florida. There are some homeowner testimonials, which are pretty boring, but the article also delves into the lives of builders, realtors, and bankers that have gotten hosed.

Highly recommended.

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Yep, I did, but I took it back out. Unnecessary.

It's a good article, sort of, but it also has that ring of an Associate Editor somewhere in the Times being told to run up some real estate disaster column inches to fill space.

Here's a few projections, all guesswork, but what the heck......

1) House prices will be reasonably stable in areas where there is real job growth, or solid job market fundamentals. Seattle, NY, Boston, Chicago, Portland OR, San Francisco, Huntsville AL, East Coast ring suburbs around DC/Baltimore, etc.

2) Places like Florida & Arizona, which have had multiple speculative bustouts, will suffer until the oversupply evens out, and it will even out because people want sun. The problem w/these areas is there is no industry other than development. If there are no other problems (like running out of water), they will come around.

3) Land value is much more important than structure value; land adjacent to job markets will continue to appreciate, albeit after a cooling off period.

4) There are inescapable costs for building; raw materials, labor, etc. Houses can't drop below what it costs to build them. Labor costs can't go down much, as the margins are already razor thin. We've already got bottom of the barrel morons building houses, monkeys can't do it, so labor can only go down so far. Raw material costs are not going to go down at all.

5) We are in the precursor to the real boom in mfg. housing; remote site stick building will continue, but it will taper off, and planned unit developments will begin to increase. Heck, they're already increasing.

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I agree with Kurt M and Jim M. The situation now is unlike anything since 1947.

Real estate will retain value and grow and houses will no longer become the primary store of value.

The concept of shelter is changing from a private personal house that reflects the occupants status and retains individual wealth, to merely four walls in a desirable climate designed for liesure and a physical address for the 401k statements to be delivered. While the cornfield palaces will continue to reflect status for several years, the model has already moved to site condo cornfield palaces where the structure is "worthless" and the land retains value and can not be indiv owned.

The astute inspector will be learning to understand this new concept. I know Jim M and Kurt M have lived thru a similiar change in home buying in the late 80's and early 90's. We have seen the market explode with everyone buying houses with creative financing. When the $40,000 house sells, then the $80,000 house sells, then the $140,000 house sells is no longer true. Now the market does not promote starter houses - go right for the $200,000 palace. Problem is the corn field palaces can not survive long enough for 5-6families to occupy. Kinda like the houses built in 1968-1972 that are self destructing before your very eyes. Thank you Norm for that wisdom.

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Yeah. Economists in agreement is bad. I don't think anything is going to "even out"; it's going to shift.

Thats my understanding. This is suppose to end with a liberalistic shift. Old adversarial attitudes which were considered healthy dissatisfaction will be frowned upon.

Clients will choose services differently based on our offer to not just provide them with expert inspection services but to do so in a completely non-adversarial way that is concerned with protecting everyones feelings involved.

Sorry Hausdok.

Chris, Oregon

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My reading indicates a continous unstable market in those areas that had the biggest gains until 2010 and a slow upswing in the Midwest starting late spring 2009.

The presidential election will impact the Midwest market first and have little impact on Ca, Tx, Ga, Fl, Az and eastern seaboard.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Clients will choose services differently based on our offer to not just provide them with expert inspection services but to do so in a completely non-adversarial way that is concerned with protecting everyones feelings involved.

Chris, Oregon

I'm not sure I understand that, but I don't necessarily disagree w/it. I think it's accepting another's (realtors/sellers) explanation of the interaction, though.

If we're doing the job the way we should be, it's fact based. Facts are inescapable. Adversarial issues on my jobs, without exception, are the result of the realtors. Period.

Realtors create tension spinning facts into subjectivities. Sellers respond to the subjective like anyone else; they bring their personal experience. Lacking credible footholds upon which to place their feet, one must point to someone as the instigator of conflict.

Ergo, inspector = antagonist. Not accurate, but the illusion of precision offered by the accusation provides justification for the parties to blame the messenger for the "conflict".

I've had jobs where the house has about $12 of defects, and the realtors made me out to be the antagonist for lack of enough cognitive firepower to make the deal happen. I've had other deals where I've stacked up $100K of major critical stuff, and another (competent) realtor systematically dealt w/the issues & resolved the "conflict".

Problems come from realtors, not the illusion of an inspector being adversarial.

The "crisis of the transaction" is almost a set piece scenario. It's like a bad corporate manager. There has to be underlying confusion which allows the manager to "save the day". If things are being managed effectively, confusion wouldn't exist in the first place. Many "effective" managers create the confusion that allows them to exist. Most realtors create the confusion that provides them the illusion of managing the deal.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Clients will choose services differently based on our offer to not just provide them with expert inspection services but to do so in a completely non-adversarial way that is concerned with protecting everyones feelings involved.

Anything is possible, but I can't imagine a day when clients are more concerned with everyones feelings than they are with getting the whole truth and the best possible deal. I think clients will always want a serious, thorough inspection, no matter who it pisses off.

Brian G.

Human Nature Is Very Reliable [:-cyclops

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I was very happy to see my area (greater Nashville, TN) listed as one of the bright spots for 2008, on our nightly news lastnight. Right under Portland, OR and Seattle. They are saying that the homes in my area should have around a 4% to 6% increase in pricing and sales of home should be in about the same percentile range.

I found it very interesting that the areas that are still showing growth were also the areas that had fewer sub-prime loans.

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Clients will choose services differently based on our offer to not just provide them with expert inspection services but to do so in a completely non-adversarial way that is concerned with protecting everyones feelings involved.

Well maybe not in a red state.

If we're doing the job the way we should be, it's fact based. Facts are inescapable. Adversarial issues on my jobs, without exception, are the result of the realtors. Period.

Clients have never purchased inspection services to get the facts and truth on the building per se.

Problems come from realtors, not the illusion of an inspector being adversarial.

My point has been missed. It has to do with changes going on in society in general not the inspector/realtor/client relationship as it has stood. I believe the greatest impact will be on how we market ourselves but I absolutely believe that adversarial attitudes if sensed or in your face will have an increasing impact on how our clients feel about us.

Anything is possible, but I can't imagine a day when clients are more concerned with everyones feelings than they are with getting the whole truth and the best possible deal. I think clients will always want a serious, thorough inspection, no matter who it pisses off.

In the blue Willamette Valley of Oregon, it's an everyday occurence.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Clients have never purchased inspection services to get the facts and truth on the building per se.

What the fooook are you saying there? You are in the home inspection business(?).....

My point has been missed. It has to do with changes going on in society in general not the inspector/realtor/client relationship as it has stood. I believe the greatest impact will be on how we market ourselves but I absolutely believe that adversarial attitudes if sensed or in your face will have an increasing impact on how our clients feel about us.

Response by Brian G. Anything is possible, but I can't imagine a day when clients are more concerned with everyones feelings than they are with getting the whole truth and the best possible deal. I think clients will always want a serious, thorough inspection, no matter who it pisses off.

In the blue Willamette Valley of Oregon, it's an everyday occurence.

Chris, Oregon

I goofed up the Brian G. quote thing; how do you do that thing where all the responses are neatly dissecting the conversation? I gotta work on that.

Brian and I regularly snipe @ each other, but on this (his) point, I agree completely. Customers want their best deal, and don't really care who get's pissed off. Fundamental human nature stuff. Maybe Oregonians are developed beyond the norm.

There's arguing, and there's discourse w/a desire to find ideas that might change your mind. Which are we doing here?

The dynamics of the job are such that, on any given occasion, anyone can go off adversarily. I'd agree that anyone going in looking for a fight is gonna come out looking like a moron.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Well maybe not in a red state.

Umm...I'm at a total loss as to what the heck that means...?

Clients have never purchased inspection services to get the facts and truth on the building per se.

Brother Chris, I respect how you've handled yourself since you've been here, but like Kurt I'm dumbfounded by this statement. It seems to be the exact opposite of the obvious truth that keeps us in business. What are we missing?

My point has been missed. It has to do with changes going on in society in general not the inspector/realtor/client relationship as it has stood. I believe the greatest impact will be on how we market ourselves but I absolutely believe that adversarial attitudes if sensed or in your face will have an increasing impact on how our clients feel about us.

I suppose much of this depends on how one defines "adversarial". I mostly find realtors defining me that way because I won't play ball, or even pretend to. My approach is similar to Kurt's; I'm looking for facts. I report facts, and professional opinions based on observations and solid sources. Clients sometimes see me as their advocate simply because I stand up to the BS barrage from realtors, sellers, and half-arsed repair people, but I'm really just defending the truth. I can't imagine those groups ever seeing it differently.

If you're just saying that HI's who are loudly and aggressively anti-realtor are eventually going to turn clients off, I agree. Zealots generally do turn off more people than they excite, no matter what the subject.

In the blue Willamette Valley of Oregon, it's an everyday occurence.

I'll take your word for it, but I still don't see any such attitude becoming a large trend. That would require a massive shift in human nature, on all sides, away from putting one's own best interests first and foremost.

Brian G.

People Are People [8]

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I bet you guys are all thinking that brother Chris has gone off the deep end.

I have spent the last year and half completely reinventing how I write reports; a project that is now largely accomplished. This current slowdown finally gave me the time to also rewrite my own report writing software which has dramatically sped up the whole report writing process for me.

My interests of late have been turning to the question of independence.

I am always interviewing clients, realtors, lenders etc. about everything. Well I ran into a marketing guru a while back and put this question to her concerning the death grip that the NAR has on inspectors, how futile my marketing and advertising efforts have been and she didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. I thought it was because she was unfamiliar with the problem. No, in fact, she was. My head is still swimming with all the stuff she rattled off.

Basically she showed me that I was framing the problems wrong and that was what was causing the realtor strangle hold not the realtors or the empty advertising results!

Framing the reason why clients buy my services to “so that they can find out the facts and truth about the houseâ€

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That makes a little more sense.

Beware the marketing consultant thing. It's smart, but it's the tender trap. I've talked to a half dozen who all had divergent opinions on framing my approach, all of which I agreed w/and felt compelled to pursue.

Their particular skill is appearing smart & knowledgeable about subjects they know nothing about. The better they are, the spookier it gets.

They are all very good @ identifying the idea that folks frame their marketing problems "wrong". That's the underlying concept in all advertising failures.

Yes, it is about feelings. Blowing social presence is blowing the gig. Identifying how one blows social presence is critical.

I would have to hear the ladie's discussion of how framing your efforts as “so that they can find out the facts and truth about the houseâ€

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They are all very good @ identifying the idea that folks frame their marketing problems "wrong". That's the underlying concept in all advertising failures.

Thats good to know. She was convincing. I am known to be gullible.

Still it was exciting because up to that point I had no idea how to market myself directly to clients.

Chris, Oregon

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Facts is facts, truth is subjective

Thats interesting. But Ibn al'Arabi the great Sufi philosopher disputes even that: the facts part that is.

As inspectors we have a unique advantage in the debate.

My point is that while the facts are the objective of the inspection they are not the objective of the client. The objective of the client is the hedging against bad feelings. Differentiating this is important when considering how to market yourself directly to the client.

Another idea that she brought to my attention was a change in attitude. Instead of thinking of the client as sort of a one off event probably never to be seen again, to instead think of the client say like a new family member, someone that you plan on seeing again. building that relationship is what will lead to a lot of referrals. It's one of the paths to independence.

I know thats not new, I have thought about it before, but it has new bearing if one is to wean themselves off of depending on realtor referrals.

This is also where the adversarial thing comes in. That darn word frames idea wrong for me here. It's more suttle then that. As one gets closer or tries to build a longer term relationship with the client, particularly liberal thinkers, it becomes more important to just stick with the facts, and be clear as you can without injecting morality into it. Oops, there is another word that will get framed wrong. I have a long ways to go to find proper words to use.

I guess I should submit this all first to W.J. to be edited.

What's more important do your think for the client to feel?

That your the best inspector in town or his or her new best friend?

Which do you think will lead to more referrals?

Chris, Oregon

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My HI company tagline is: "Each house tells a story. We write 'em down." Do that well and try not be a dick and you'll stand head and shoulders above 90% of our field.

Worry about making every client feel good, and what hair doesn't fall out will quickly turn gray.

Very few people (most especially marketing types) understand our business. It's very easy to overcomplicate and overphilosophize the Art of Home Inspection, and in so doing, lose your way.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Clients buy inspection services as a hedge against feeling bad.

I'm usually quite suspicious of "framing", but in the case of many home buyers that makes a lot of sense.

OTOH, many (but not all) of the most successful inspectors I've encountered have quite "adversarial" attitudes, at least as reflected in their advertising and web sites.

Here a example I was looking at earlier in the week, an inspector who's doing 400-500 inspections a year in Texas (no idea if he posts or reads here):

http://www.texasinspector.com/

I don't know if it's "adversarial", exactly... but he's certainly pulling no punches in his opinions of newer inspectors, Realtors , regulators and some others.

And clearly, looking at his inspection volume, he finds plenty of receptive customers.

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