I can’t hardly believe it! I was just reviewing the stats sent at the end of the year by WordPress, detailing the traffic this blog got in 2010…holy moly! Thousands and thousands of hits! I was honestly surprised. Well, thanks, I guess but you know that makes me think maybe I had better get busy here!  By the way, if you have input for upcoming editions of University Place What’s UP?  just drop me a line, her.  Comments are welcome, too.

www.UNIVERSITYPLACEWHATSUP.wordpress.com

Looking back on 2010, in some ways it was a wonderful 365 days while in other ways it was disastrous, disappointing and sad. We lost some remarkable people. None less that the Pierce County deputy sheriffs who were taken from us as well as at least one very dear, long-time friend of University Place, Mr. Dick McEntee. How about one more sincere thanks for their service…God bless all of them and all of our neighbors to whom we bid farewell in 2010!

So, what does 2011 have in store? Well, the city enters the new year with a freshly confirmed City Manager in Mr. Steve Sugg which bodes very well for us in the new year. Steve is leading a staff that’s stretched pretty thin but I’ve been impressed at all they are getting done on our behalf. We’re lucky. There are some cities out there who are really suffering through this economy.
I don’t publicize a lot of info about upcoming classes at the city because it’s so very easy to just click on the city website and get the details but one recently caught my eye (Gee. I wonder why?) when I read… “Tired of the usual quiet still life’s, bored naked models, and redundant landscapes?” Bored what? I immediately had two thoughts: “What in the world is Parks & Rec offering now?” and “Just what have I been missing?!?” I guess it pays to stay in touch, er, um…
As it turns out, “Abstraction in Oil” is being offered as an art class to adults, starting Jan 22nd. So, I guess it’s not what I thought but if you want to know more… http://www.cityofup.com

If you’re interested, there’s a special city council meeting Monday, Jan 10th at 6:30 where, among other things, they’ll hold a required public hearing to consider a proposed rate hike for the garbage man. Yes. You ARE welcome to attend. Again, check the city website for details.

Out and around, 2011 is bound to be interesting. Perhaps frustrating or maybe a relief is in sight. Well, of course I’m talking about the economy and if I’m talking about the economy I’m bound to be looking at residential real estate.
When you do, you find so very many conflicting speculations, data compilations, “expert” predictions, etc. How do you know what to bet on? Well, I do think it’s important to watch the national scene but it’s equally important to examine local trends.
Every day we hear about how the banks have literally millions of foreclosed homes they have yet to offer for sale – yikes! Yet, we see the stats that demonstrate the delinquency on home loans is absolutely improving. It IS clear that we cannot have a strong recovery unless real estate contributes strongly to economic growth. Real estate “health” has been at the heart of every recession recovery for as far back as our economists care to observe. No, no, no I’m not denying the extremely powerful role employment plays in that process but I am saying simply this. We won’t have national recovery until the real estate market recovers. Fact.

CNN/Money posted an interesting article recently. On one side, Bill Ackman, founder and CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management and the infamous Warren Buffett both stand on the side of the bulls who say it is time to start investing in real estate. Meanwhile, Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac which is, among other things, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, highlighted the impending foreclosures to predict lower home prices in 2011.
Well, Who the hell is right?
When it all comes out in the wash, the news will probably be somewhere in-between.

So, what are market watchers keeping their eyes on right now? Oh, how about this Friday’s employment report, as a start? Overall, the recent numbers have been strong and growing but we have to remember that employment over the holidays is often topsy turvy. No short term snapshot can be effectively predictive, anyway. No matter whose data you digest. The trends show us where we have been, where we are and where we are going.

In the next installment of this blog, I’ll show you the end-of-year numbers for University Place and Fircrest residential real estate. They actually are pretty telling ESPECIALLY when you take them in the context of prior years. That’s where lazy journalists bother me greatly. (Am I picking on the Tribune again?) The concept that we can learn anything of value by comparing year-against-year stats. “Oh, home sales are up as compared to November of last year.” What does that tell us that we can use to formulate any opinion or make any decision or plan? Nothing. So, we’ll look back to a date BEFORE we had crashing housing numbers and we’ll see very, very clearly, where we have come and answer the question. “When will the housing market bottom out?” (Would you be surprised if I said, “It already has”?)

Want a crystal ball? Well, don’t look at me! If somebody tells you they know what’s coming in this economy, grab their crystal ball from them, turn it over and watch the sand running out the huge crack across the bottom!

You want to look ahead? OK, here’s the first of two installments thanks to Jeff Ashley and Mark Meath of Cobalt Mortgage. Here are their top reasons for the real estate market to get stronger this year (We’ll look at the other side of the coin next week):
1.) Homes are more affordable than they have been in a generation due to low rates and lower housing prices.
2.) The economy is improving and jobs are being created, unlike the previous three years. As the economy improves, household formulation will rise as well.
3.) While credit standards are tight, we have probably reached the height of the credit cycle and as real estate recovers banks will be more anxious to lend. Along the same lines, as rates have crept up, refinances are down and that means banks will be competing for a smaller market share of home loans.
4.) The population is growing. We are now over 300 million. These people need to live somewhere. Even those who are foreclosed upon will need to live somewhere–and not necessarily in an apartment. (We’ll take a look at these lender’s “Why not” side of the coin, next week.)

Did you realize that FHA, VA and conventional home loans are still being offered at rates less than 5%!?!  Ask all of those folks you know who bought their homes about 20 years ago when the rates exceeded 17%…ask them what a hellacious deal less than 5% is!

“Stay tuned Martha. This is going to get interesting!”

In the meanwhile, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I certainly do hope it brings good things to you and your family.
Our very best to you and yours from the Maddock – Janson -Croft family! See ya by next week.
Pat Maddock

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So, just who IS this guy?

Pat’s been a top producer with Coldwell Banker Bain REALTORS in University Place and he was the 2007 President of the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of REALTORS as well as a 2009 Vice-President of the Washington REALTORS, the statewide trade association of professional members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). He also serves the University Place – Fircrest Division of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce on it’s Board of Directors and he serves the City of University Place on the Economic Development Commission.   Pat is also a 20-year Air Force veteran. But most importantly, he’s been a     University Place native since 1953.

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