What a year. Even though the recession is technically over—can you say record corporate profits?—it’s been a crazy year for real estate. Let’s take a look back at the top ten trends, people and stories of 2010.
1. Home Prices Recovered
In the lucky places, that is: Manhattan (where I work as a real estate agent), San Francisco, Alaska, Texas… and more. For a comprehensive list, check out this article from Chicago-based real estate writer Ilyce Glink about places where prices are rebounding.
2. Home Prices Declined
In the unlucky places, that is: Florida, Michigan, Las Vegas. The Case-Shiller index, a statistic that tries to track housing prices by city, predicts more pain to come in many areas of Arizona, Florida, and Nevada.
3. Record Low Interest Rates
Mortgage rates were under 5% (which is historically great) for a long stretch until taking a sudden bounce upward at the end of the year.
4. Smartphones Took Over
Three years ago, I was at a conference where the panel told every agent to get a smart phone. Since then I’ve been through the BlackBerry Pearl and the Google Nexus One, and am hungrily eying the Nexus S. For consumers, the expectation is that their agent is now reachable all the time—by phone, email, and text—and that apps are available to show what homes are for sale in different neighborhoods. Why bring the laptop?
5. Foreclosures Took Hold
From your average out-of-work autoworker to movie star Nicolas Cage, it seemed like more and more notices were coming from the bank to take back property. That meant good news for buyers—especially first-time buyers who were willing to take the risks of looking at foreclosed homes.
6. Foreclosures Froze
So many hundreds of thousands of foreclosures were hitting the system that it seemed like the banks didn’t have personnel to process them all. In fact they might not have, and a scandal that revealed that bank officials were signing foreclosure documents without reading them — “robo-signing” — caused the government to call a temporary halt to foreclosures in the fall.
7. Fannie Mae Got Famous
Fannie Mae is a quasi-governmental agency that helps keep the mortgage market moving. Five years ago, you could buy a house and probably not know that. But in these days of credit crunch, Fannie Mae and its sister agencies really turned into gorillas, getting a finger in about two-thirds of the mortgages issued in 2010. That means that whether your lender was Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Chase, Fannie’s rules became your rules.
8. Bedbugs Bugged Us
Blame poor housekeeping and more global travel. These little pests showed back up in big cities everywhere. We took the opportunity to calculate what bedbugs were costing us, and to advise on bedbug defense.
9. Green Was Great
We don’t yet have personal wind turbines in the front yard, but eco-advances like green countertops and bamboo flooring continued to make inroads. Energy sensitivity was helped by a tax credit that rewarded consumers for buying certain energy conserving appliances.
10. Susan Sarandon Sold Property
In back-to-back movies (both with Michael Douglas, naturally) Susan Sarandon played real estate agents. She’s most fun in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (which, I have to warn you, is a terrible movie) where she points out that if she could “just hang on” she thinks the market will turn again. Bonus movie trivia: Unlike the original Wall Street, for the sequel Money Never Sleeps director Oliver Stone shot many locations on the West Side of Manhattan. That may be because he was living in a rental overlooking the Hudson River at the time in an apartment that he eventually ended up buying, and which was featured in the November issue of Architectural Digest.