A modest proposal
Homebuyers and sellers are both looking to strike a deal, but by definition they're on opposite sides of the bargaining table. Buyers want the lowest price possible for the house they're eying. Sellers want the highest price possible. If you're in one of those groups and see the other as unreasonable people standing in the way of your dreams, well -- we're all human.
But you know, it doesn't cost you anything to see things from their point of view just a little bit.
You're a seller aggravated at buyers who keep tramping in to see your place but never make an offer? Well, imagine how they feel, going to look at house after house that doesn't suit or is priced too high.
You're a buyer annoyed at sellers who won't budge on price and haven't done a thing to the property since they bought it? Well, imagine how they feel, effectively trapped because they bought too much house and don't have enough money to replace the roof, let alone pay the difference between what you think is a fair price and what they still owe on their mortgage.
Sure, this doesn't apply to all buyers and sellers, but you get the idea.
Having a bit of sympathy for the person on the other side of the housing-market coin doesn't require you buyers to pay more than you think is fair, or you sellers to take less than you believe your house is worth. It just keeps you from forgetting that they're human too. It makes you think twice before you say or write something cruel.
Now, some of you would-be buyers are shaking your heads at me because you're angry at sellers. You're angry at homeowners, period, especially the ones who bought during the boom and thus helped run up the prices. You waited because you didn't want to buy something you couldn't afford. You waited, and you waited, and you waited. But here it is 2009 and you still can't afford anything and -- dagnabbit -- prices can't come down fast enough. Nothing would make you happier than hearing that homeowners are losing their shirts, and possibly their homes too. Serves 'em right, you say.
But here's the thing: Those folks who bought during the run-up in prices? Unless they were downsizing from something more expensive, they probably haven't seen any benefit from the frenzy -- particularly the poor souls who bought at the very peak.
Imagine, if you will, a couple very much like you would-be buyers. They also waited, and waited, and waited. Except they finally gave in and got an adjustable-rate loan and a smaller house than they had in mind because -- dagnabbit -- the longer they delayed, the higher prices went, and everyone they knew was telling them that waiting was exactly the wrong thing to do, and they couldn't believe they were still renting when they'd intended to buy three years earlier. And now here it is 2009, and they lie awake at night, wishing one of the three other buyers they had to outbid for their lousy place with the leaky basement would have gotten it instead.
(I invented this couple, by the way, but I'd be very surprised if they don't exist somewhere.)
There's plenty of housing-market angst to go around, that's what I'm saying. Plenty of renters and homeowners alike wish the housing bubble never happened.
And that's my modest proposal: Remember that you have more in common than it might appear at first glance.