The Housing Market Never Stops Changing

By: Victor Normand
Published: May 2014

Real estate professionals agree that presently, there is a shortage of homes for sale in most areas. Consumers who are actively looking for a home to buy would most likely agree.   In the larger economy, whenever there are more buyers than sellers of anything, the market will correct the imbalance, and so will the housing market….. eventually. It takes considerable time to produce new housing and it apparently takes considerable time to convince existing home owners to offer their property for sale.

Sometimes there is urgency on the part of sellers and buyers to make a move in the instance of a job change perhaps, but often there is a rather big window of opportunity within which to make a move. For the most part, buyers are living somewhere now and can continue that way, and sellers often seem to be waiting for inspiration. Unfortunately for sellers, when a clear sign comes, it is often too late and the most favorable conditions have passed. For some potential home sellers, waiting for a home to return to its peak value is an indicator of when to sell.

In some Massachusetts communities, home values have reached or surpassed the peak values of 2005. Those communities tend to be the towns in the inner suburbs of Boston, mostly east of route 128. Other cities and towns located south of Boston and in the north central towns are far from recovering their peak values. In our market, most towns are still off the peak by around 10% (see the chart below). Still other potential home sellers are held back by the fear that once they sell, they will have trouble finding something to buy in this tight market.

The perfect situation is a balanced market where all sellers and all buyers are equally matched in number. Unfortunately, while balanced markets do happen, they rarely happen for very long. There are clearly times when it is a buyer’s market, like during the years immediately after the Great Recession, and there are times when it is a seller’s market, like now. More often we are in a state of transition where buyers think it is a buyer’s market and sellers think it is a seller’s market. So, knowing the inventory of homes on the market relative to recent sales activity is a good measure of the overall condition.

The chart below shows the current supply of listed single family homes by town, the number of home sold in the previous 12 months, the actual monthly absorption rate and the number of months it will take to sell off the current inventory. Nationally, in 2010, the worst real estate year after the Great Recession, the absorption rate stood at 9.4 months. According to the National Association of Realtors, a balanced housing market should have between 6 and 6 ½ month of inventory. The rate for the entire state of Massachusetts in presently 4.4 months, and in our market the average is 2.6 months.

Like politics, all housing markets are local. In our market, housing values are increasing in most towns, though not as fast as others and not yet fully recovered to their pre-recession levels, and the inventory level of houses for sale are so low as to keep the market in favor of sellers. That is the condition today, and tomorrow you can be sure changes are likely.

Something is wrong with my grandfather clock. Now what?

Colonial-Grandfather-clockBy: Dug North (Acton Real Estate client)

Like all machines, grandfather clocks become dirty and worn through years of use. This is often when they developed odd behavior or simply refuse to run.
So what is to be done? Let’s take a look at the process for having a grandfather clock serviced.

Step 1: Talk to a professional about your grandfather clock

First, you’ll want to speak with a qualified clock repairer. Here are the kinds of things the repairer will probably want to know:

  • What brand of clock is it?
  • How old is it?
  • Is it driven by falling weights? How many?
  • Does it play a song on the quarter hours (chime) or does it just count out the hours (strike)?
  • What is the clock doing or not doing? When did it start? Have you detected any patterns?
  • Has it been serviced before?
  • Can you send a photograph or two of the clock?

Before going further, be sure you feel comfortable working with the repair person. Ask for repair estimates and if the work will be warrantied.

Step 2: A first house call to evaluate the clock

House calls may be a thing of the past in many fields, but not so when it comes to large floor-standing clocks. The clock repairer will want to take a look your clock in person. If the clock hasn’t been serviced in a years, chances are very good that it will need to be overhauled. How can your know for sure? Ask to see the clock movement and have the repairer point out the pivot holes in the clock plate. Is there evidence of old, black (or green), dirt-filled oil around the pivots? Ask to see the cut pinions and see if they are dirty too. This dirt and — the associated wear that invariably comes with it — is more than enough to stop a clock. If you are resolved to have it fixed, and the repair estimate sounds fair, it’s on to the next step.

Step 3: Overhaul the movement or (sometimes) replace it

The repairer will take the mechanical parts out of the clock case for service in his or her workshop. These parts include the movement, pendulum, weights, and dial. They will overhaul the movement, taking the mechanism apart completely to clean all of the parts and restore the ones that need it. The repairer will then run the clock for a week or more to be sure that everything is working properly. Certain modern grandfather clocks have movements which are still being manufactured. It can be wiser and more economical to replace this type of movement rather than to overhaul the old one. Ask if this option is available to you.

Step 4: Second house call to Install the movement and configure the clock

Finally, the repairer will bring the serviced parts back and reinstall them into the clock case. The repairer will then make adjustments that can only be made when the movement is in the case such as positioning the hammers that hit the chime rods, making sure the clock is level, and that it is ticking evenly (this is known as being “in beat”). This is a good time to ask any questions you might have about the care and operation of your clock.

After a couple of house calls and a bit of waiting, your grandfather clock can be up and running again.

ADug-near-grandfather-clockbout the Author:
Dug North buys, sells, and repairs antique mechanical clocks at 307 Market Street, Studio 411, in historic downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. Learn more on his web site