Wisdom from a Petting Zoo for the Holidays

By: Victor Normand

The merchants and businesses in West Acton Village held their annual Holiday Stroll recently to the delight of children and adults alike. There was music in the air, decorations everywhere, a scavenger hunt and a charity gift basket raffle. And of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance. Smiles were evident wherever you looked.

The strollers were treated to cookies and hot chocolate as they went from shop to shop, including a special holiday market opened just for the event. A small forest of decorated Christmas trees was set up at Villageworks where Santa and the Mrs. held court.

There were also animals present for the celebration, including a beautiful horse drawn carriage offering rides around the village and a little petting zoo for youngsters and us older folk with sheep and goats, a llama and a donkey. It was the donkey that made my day.  Unlike my cockapoo Edward, this donkey genuinely appreciated being petted. He just stood there motionless for as long as I was touching him. The other small animals roamed about in the enclosed area, but not my new four-legged friend. I truly felt a connection.


It was a connection that belonged to the season. My first thought in response to the undivided attention I was receiving went to imagining that this poor fellow, despite his involvement with a petting zoo, did not regularly get paid much attention, that after the day’s gig, he would be heading back to his lonely stall in a lonely barn on a lonely farm. In reality, I’m sure this creature has as happy a life as any donkey can expect to have and that he is treated very well.

By now I am feeling guilty that it took this unintended little act of kindness on my part toward this docile creature to make me realize that there are human beings in my world who could use little random acts of kindness as well.

We had a drop off station in the office for donations of food items for the Acton Food Pantry and families in need were the beneficiaries of the gift basket raffle. And in general, many of the organizations we support, pay special attention to the needy at this time of year, but the need for a gentle touch may often be much closer to home.

We should all be on the lookout for those around us, family, friends, co-workers who might be unhappy especially at this time of year when happiness might seem to be happening to everyone except them. Take a chance, show some love and kindness to everyone you come in contact with, you just might be surprised by how long they stay around for your touch.

Hominis Ambulantes

By: Victor Normand

Acton Real Estate_092814-4803I walked to the hardware store last week. For me, and I believe I am not alone, this was not an expected mode of transportation; the hardware store is 1.1 miles from the Acton Real Estate office, my point of departure. I need to get more exercise and the idea to take this walk came to me earlier in the week and actually became a bit of a compulsive event. Once I decided to do it, there was no turning back. Of course, I have taken my share of nature walks, but to forgo my car for such a trip as this during a workday was uncharacteristic and the idea could easily have been set aside.

On the appointed day I had prepared for the journey by wearing comfortable shoes and I assessed good weather conditions. I told no one of my trek ahead of time for fear that it would not be fulfilled. Out the front door I went with the simple comment “I need to run an errand.” I had previously determined that there would be sidewalks available to me throughout my mid-day walk. For the entire distance back and forth, I passed only two other pedestrians, though several young bikers did zoom past on occasion. I have to admit to feeling self-conscious. More so on my way to the store when I had the companionship of neither man nor beast, and I was emptied handed. Returning with my purchase, a trivial item of no urgency for the office, I felt comfortable with an answer to the question “What could that walking man, wearing business clothes be up to?” which I imagined every motorized passerby to be asking themselves.

The total elapsed time for both the walk and the shopping was just under one hour; which would have been twenty minutes by car. This effort helped my heart and lowered my carbon footprint, but cost me 40 minutes. To be honest, my work product for the day did not suffer.  Walking around eschewing the automobile is not practical or even possible for most of what we do these days, but it is becoming more popular and, from a real estate perspective, more desirable.

In a way, we seem to have come full circle in the relationship between housing and transportation. Until the middle of the nineteenth century when rail transportation emerged on the scene, (Acton had no less than three lines passing through town) most folks needed to live within walking distance of work and commerce. The automobile changed all that of course and we began to spread out. And indeed we did, building homes further and further away from where we worked and shopped, adding more roads and highways to accommodate the migration until we found ourselves at the practical limits of time and road capacity. So we are coming back to the rails and the “walkable” environment.

We are building houses closer together, though not necessarily any smaller, embracing infill locations and increasingly finding urban and town center locations more desirable. As it gets more and more stressful to drive anywhere (does the Sunday drive exist anymore?) I am happy to be evolving as a walking man.

Real Estate and the Sharing Economy

By: Victor Normand
Published: January 2016

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, all businesses and industries have been under siege by technology. In England, the Luddites attempted to stop progress by trying to get Parliament to outlaw the use of spinners and power looms in the making of cloth. That did not work and so we have all come to accept that there will always be better ways of doing things, though the pace of innovation seems lately to have us all spinning.

The term “sharing economy” understates the revolution in both technology and social norms that has affected almost the entire economy. We can trace this movement, of course, to the internet which only exists because of programs that allow all our computers to share information, communicating openly and in a common digital language. We have swiftly moved from sharing content on line to sharing our lives on Facebook and now in ever increasing ways, sharing our things, not the least of which are cars and houses.

Real estate has been affected by both the sharing of information and the sharing of physical places. The success of Airbnb has made huge inroads into the traditional lodging business by making it easy and safe for people not in the lodging business to get into the business. With sites in over 8,000 cities worldwide, Airbnb participants are offering everything from igloos to medieval castles. Although widely accepted by consumers, Airbnb lodgings have caused disruptions in some communities, particularly in tourist locations where the income from the rentals has had the effect of causing property values to rise.

The popularity of co-working spaces is another example of the acceptance that having access to space is more important than ownership. At Acton Real Estate, we have a regular periodic need for a large conference room, though not every day. So instead we share that space with other businesses in our building.

Information sharing is another opportunity often used to upend traditional business models. Real estate brokerages have long been in the sights of technology innovators who have made numerous attempts to lower costs, reduce waste and create value by offering consumers an alternative approach to the sale and purchase of real estate through expanded technologies.

Real estate consumers seem to have an endless appetite for information. With this in mind, the innovators set about gathering and organizing information and sharing it as it had never been shared before. They rightly assessed that by and large, real estate agents, not unlike others in sales, regarded information as power. In the old days, consumers were required to subject themselves to identification by logging in to websites, and as well, real estate listings were often short on details. All this was intended to make consumers seek out and deal with those “knowledgeable” real estate agents.

What these innovators failed to realize was that we live in a dynamic economic environment. Most real estate brokerages did realize that this old school model was not going to survive in a sharing economy. And they opened up and did not fight technology as Luddites might have recommended, but rather embraced the free flow of information. An added benefit of this transparency has been a higher level of trust between the real estate professional and the client.

Not every service or commodity is suitable for the sharing economy. A software engineer named Punsri Abeywickrema, who worked for LinkedIn and built platforms for the rental of everything, concluded that the most suitable category for the sharing of things should cost more than $100, but less than $500. This may also help to explain why more consumers use a Resident Expertsm now than they did ten years ago…….

2015 NAR Survey of Home Buyers and Sellers

By: Victor Normand
Published: November 2015

The National Association of REALTORS® has conducted the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers since 1981. It’s just- released survey for 2015 contains many interesting changes and trends. While the survey is national in scope, much of the information is helpful to Buyers and Sellers in our market. The report is over 140 pages in length and is the result of responses from over 6,000 individuals. Demographics, housing characteristics and the experiences of consumers in the housing market are covered in the report. Below are some of the major findings.

First Time Home Buyers

The percentage of first time home buyers continues to decline. Down from last year to 32 percent of buyers, this is the second lowest percentage since the 1987 rate of 30 percent. School loan debt was cited as a contributing factor along with the rising cost of housing. First time home buyers tend to be single men and women who are at an economic disadvantage to married couples with two incomes. In addition to school loans, credit card debt and car loans were cited as impediments to accumulating funds for the down payment.

Characteristics of Home Buyers

The typical home buyers are in their mid-forties and married (67 percent); 15 percent are single women and 9 percent are single men. Thirteen percent of home buyers are purchasing multi-generational housing to accommodate aging parents and/or adult children still living at home.

Homes Purchased

No surprise, detached single family homes are preferred by 83 percent of buyers and homes requiring renovation are often avoided. Eighty-four percent of home buyers purchase existing homes; the average age of those homes is about 25 years. The median distance between the home sold and the home purchased was only 14 miles. Overall, buyers expect to stay in their home for 14 years, though the actual time in residence in 2015 was 9 years, down from 10 last year.

Home Sellers and Their Selling Experience

The average age of home sellers was 54 and the most common reasons for selling were: Their home was too small followed by job relocation and lastly, their desire to be closer to family and friends. For recently sold homes, the average sale price was 98 percent of the final listing price. Recently sold homes were on the market for a median of four weeks.

Home Selling and Real Estate Professionals

Most sellers used a real estate professional to sell their homes. Eighty-four percent say they would definitely (67 percent) or probably (17 percent) use their agent for future services. Seventy-two percent contacted only one agent to list their home.

For-Sale-By-Owner (FSBO) Sellers

Only eight percent (down from nine percent last year) of recent home sellers were FSBO sales. This was the lowest share since NAR began these surveys in 1981. FSBO sales typically sold for less than agent assisted sales, though FSBO homes typically sold in less time, usually because the home was sold to a relative or someone the seller knows.

Understanding real estate is a continuing process, just ask a Resident Expertsm.

Holiday Reflection

By: Victor NormandGhost with Scrooge
Published: December 2014

At the end of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens describes the change in his main character: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”

Scrooge had his epiphany because of a piece of undigested beef (or it might have been too much to drink) that caused ghosts to show him what he should have known of his poorly led life and what he needed to do to turn things around. It feels good to be reminded that we all have choices and opportunities to embrace the true spirit of the holidays.

In real estate we live in a very material world. Our work is in the main, defined by land and buildings and everything affixed thereto. But as anyone who toils in these fields knows, attachments with real people are formed every day. We strive to know our clients and their most important physical needs. We build relationships with service providers and vendors and we rely on the efforts and experience of our associates in the office.

We would all like to be known as good people throughout our lives, both now and after we have gone to that last and final “Open House.” When you think about it, it does not take all that much to be known as a good and honest person, so long as we are true to ourselves. In our hearts and minds we always know the right thing to do, keeping faith with the right thing to do is sometimes a challenge.

Scrooge and his business partner ran a nineteenth century financial institution, then called a Counting House, which today we might call a private bank, and money lending is what they did. The image of Scrooge, if not the name itself may have come to the minds of first time home buyers or sub-prime borrowers these past several years. And it is hard to imagine anyone having the serenity of Bob Cratchit who could count his blessings amid poverty and personal hardship.

But by the end of the story, things had gotten better. Scrooge changed his business model, his debtors got relief, Bob Cratchit got a raise and a fat goose to boot, and Tiny Tim’s future was much brighter. Redemption for Ebenezer Scrooge was at hand and Dickens hoped his little story would find its way into all our hearts.


The Real Estate Market in Cuba

By Victor Normand
Published: July 2014

It would literally take an act of Congress before Americans could legally buy property in Cuba, but Cubans are now able to buy and sell their homes on the open market, for market value. For more than 50 years that was not allowed, but now, it’s legal and happening every day. If you think it is a challenge to sell your home or buy a new one here, the process is that much more complicated for the average Cuban.

Jackie and I visited Cuba recently (yes there are proper ways to get a visa to the largest of the Caribbean islands and the only fully communist country in the western hemisphere) and among the many things we experienced, we could not help being curious about Cuban real estate.

You might be surprised to know that between 80% and 90% of Cubans own their own homes. That wasn’t always true, in fact only a small percentage of Cubans owned their own homes before the revolution in 1959, but within days of the communist takeover, all private ownership of housing was abolished, rents were cut in half and evictions outlawed. From that time on, rents were paid to the government and the tenants were given title to their homes in exchange for rent payments that never lasted longer than ten years. Still, until 2011, there was only one place where Cubans could actually buy a piece of real estate, in cemeteries:

cuba 1Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba

Among the many social problems that exposed the former Cuban government to overthrow, the cost of housing was right up there along with organized crime and government corruption. The change brought about by the revolution was successful in making almost all Cubans “owners” of where they lived. However, government policy dictated that homes were for “living in” not “living off of”. The problem was that while Cubans owned their homes, they could not sell them. Passing the home to your heirs was allowed and swapping or permutas was tolerated until 2003 when even permutas was outlawed.

If you travel to Cuba, as we did in April, you will be struck by the deplorable condition of most residential properties. It seems that while the government gave apartments to their occupants, no one owned or was responsible for the buildings within which those apartments were located. Every day in Havana, where one in five Cubans live, whole buildings or parts thereof collapse into the streets.

cuba 2Residential Neighborhood, Havana, Cuba

In addition to what happens with 50 years of neglect, no private mechanism exists to deal with a severe housing shortage. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, the Cuban Government under Raul Castro instituted reform in 2011 which allowed homeowners to sell their property at market prices. The real estate brokers, called corredores, or runners, who had previously arranged the permutas, were back in business.

Because there is no organized system for marketing real estate in Cuba with little help from the tightly controlled, censored, and expensive internet, the buying and selling of homes mostly happens at places like the Paseo del Prado in downtown Havana on Saturdays. Buyers and sellers stand around the square holding signs with the particulars of property for sale or sought after.

paseo-de-marti-o-paseo-del-prado_515148Paseo del Prado, Havana, Cuba

Since there are no mortgages in Cuba, all real estate transactions are in cash. Cuba has a dual currency system; the Peso, used for local purchases is worth about 4 cents, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which can be purchased for one dollar less a 10% tax to the government. Rent and transaction taxes are paid in pesos, the purchase price in CUC’s.

The average monthly wage for a Cuban worker is about $20. So how does the average worker buy an apartment for 40,000 CUC’s in Havana, or a free standing house for 120,000 CUC’s? Two ways: either sell a larger, higher priced home and buy a less costly property, keeping the difference as a nest egg; or use cash earned by exiled Cubans who have repatriated or have provided remittances to relatives on the island . The bad news is both buyer and seller pay a 4% tax on the sale, the good news is, the sale price is determined by an assessed value mostly based on the original, post revolution value determined by the government and paid in pesos not CUC’s.

Cubans are only allowed to own one primary residence and one vacation home. So, while real estate activity has increased every year since the reform on 2011, the lack of private capital has meant that the housing shortage has not been helped by all this new housing market activity. Younger Cubans often live with their parents or other relatives, waiting for a housing opportunity to open up.

Other economic reforms have taken place recently allowing certain businesses to operate privately with government permission. The corredores joined the list of occupations allowed to work on a private basis in September of 2013. Because nearly every Cuban has a stake in real estate, expect more changes to come. There are no licensing laws or continuing education requirements, but you can be sure there will be a Cuban version of Resident Experts (SM) just the same.

Housing and Recession

By Victor Normand
Published: June 2014

Everyone knows the economy runs in cycles. No one knows exactly when those cycles begin or end until they do, but one thing is for sure, these cycles will continue. Despite having a basic knowledge of economics, most of us continue to buy high and sell low. And that is probably what turns normal economic adjustments in the economy into panics…….. and panics into recessions.

Although reliable economic data does not exist for periods before the mid 1800’s, it is likely that since 1790 there may have been as many as 40 periods of economic contraction.  Lower and middle class individuals and families tend to suffer the greatest economic hardship when the economy turns bad, with the value of housing declining as a direct or indirect consequence of the economic downturn.

The first major American depression is recognized as the panic of 1819. During the rest of the nineteenth century it was follow by the Panics of 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1883. They were all triggered by combinations of crop failures, or big drops in commodity prices, reckless railroad and land speculation, bank failures, and major declines in stock prices. The “Panics” were followed by periods of tight credit, the decline of property values and the rise in unemployment. Despite the similarities in these economic calamities, they kept happening. The economic crises of the next century occurred with similar regularity and a bit more variety.

Here’s a summary of what the twentieth century gave us for bad times in the economy:

The Knickerbocker Trust Panic of 1907

The president of the Knickerbocker Trust decided to try to corner the market in copper. His plan came undone when millions of dollars of copper was dumped on the market in a bid to prevent a hostile takeover of an unrelated business. As the extent of the copper market manipulation became known, other banks refused to accept checks from Knickerbocker which led to a run on the Knickerbocker bank and fueled big losses in the stock market.

The Great Depression of 1929

This one is familiar. The bull market that lasted for more than six years began to come undone when talk of a tariff war with Europe began a rout in stocks that eventually brought stock prices down 90% from their pre-crash highs. Other economic excesses and the onset of the “Dustbowl” added to the misery. The hard times lasted off and on for most of the next ten years until the war time economy got everybody back to work.

The OPEC Oil Crisis 1973

The quadrupling of oil prices and an embargo on oil shipments to the US by Arab oil producers sent the economy into a recession. Consumer prices rose sharply but wages did not, creating “stagflation”. Rising interest rates along with the high price of gasoline badly shook the economy which took a decade to recover lost value.

The Savings and Loan Crisis 1986

Lax regulation in the Savings and Loan (S&L) banking sector led to many S&Ls into making long-term loans at fixed interest using short-term money. When the interest rates increased, the S&Ls could not attract sufficient capital and became insolvent. Nearly one third of the 3,200 S&L’s failed.

The Dotcom Bubble 2000

The failure of many internet technology based companies precipitated the end of the longest period of economic growth in US history during the 1990’s and might not have turned into recession except for the September 11th 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

The Great Recession 2007-2009

The Sub-Prime mortgage crisis led to the collapse in the US housing bubble causing the decline in housing backed assets, helping to set off a global economic crisis. Many of the largest financial institutions in the country including Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Citi Bank and AIG, failed.


Housing is more than a commodity. During the years when we remain in residence, the market value of a home may vary, but it always remains where we anchor our lives. This intrinsic value of a home has never been in decline despite the condition of the economy. We always try to make the best economic decisions when we are in the market for housing, but even if we do happen to buy high and sell low, our homes are our castles.

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 ClockFix.com.

Higher Education Debt and the First Time Home Buyer

By Victor Normand
Published: April 2014

Last week I got my credit card statement from American Express. The statement showed current balances of $2,540 which will be paid by the due date as I usually do. In the event that I would like to stretch out payment, Amex provides a schedule showing that if I only made the minimum payment of $35, and assuming I did not charge anything else on the card, it would take over 9 years to pay it off and I would have paid them $4,400.

All credit card companies are required to make this disclosure, perhaps student loans should come with similar disclosures. I do remember my daughters having to participate in an online tutorial before getting their student loans approved.   My recollection is that the purpose of the tutorial was to stress the student borrower’s obligation to pay back the loan and what would happen if they did not. No student or parent of a student looks forward to borrowing money, but I am not sure the impact of those loans is fully comprehended on all levels.

Paying off a student loan every month is a great way for graduates to build a good credit score; unfortunately all student debt is included when establishing the debt to income ratio for obtaining a home mortgage. Many first time home buyers, those typically between the ages of 25 and 34, are finding it difficult to buy homes because of their student debt. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, nationally, fewer than 30 percent of all home sales are to these first time buyers. Historically, it should be between 40 and 45 percent.

Currently, student loan debt at over 1 trillion dollars exceeds all credit card debt. Over 70 percent of recent college graduates carry debt averaging $29,400. The simplified example below shows the impact of this debt burden on a young couple each carrying such debt.

april blog 1

The disturbing aspect of this trend is its direction. Over the past 20 years, student debt has doubled, increasing every year while real wages adjusted for inflation for college graduates has been flat for the past ten years.

april blog 2

All this is not to say that getting a college degree may not be worth the cost. Lifetime earnings for an individual with a college degree are 70% greater than an individual with only a high school diploma, and the unemployment rate for young college graduates is half that of their contemporaries with only a high school education. Still some full disclosure and a bit of cost-benefit analysis wouldn’t hurt.

As for the effects on the housing market, it is too early to tell. For the time being, in our market, buyers of all ages outnumber sellers so while some first time buyers are missing in action, their absence has not been felt. But in the long run, the inability of these first time buyers to get a stake in the housing market or their delayed entry will have a dramatic effect on their wealth accumulation through home ownership. And that goes to the heart of the American Dream.