Monday, January 19, 2009

Home is where your heart is...

I'm from a small town. A really small town. I still have the same friends as I did in kindergarten and the ones I made in highschool. Our friendships have evolved. We don't spend alot of time with each other. We see each other at weddings, showers, funerals and occasionally out shopping. But there is comfort in knowing that we're there. A phone call away. I'd like to think that everyone has this but I know it's special and rare.

We recently started a supper club with just the girls from the actual graduating class (not including the ones who graduated elsewhere). Tonight was the first night. I really didn't want to go. I've been working alot. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I badly needed rest. I actually cried on the way there because I'm exhausted and depressed. Why do I put so much on my plate? I think to myself. I have a really fast paced high demand job that I love but leaves little to no time for a social life outside of work. But I'm determined to squeeze in charity work, family time, social activities and time for myself. Most of the time I love the chaotic lifestyle and the efficiency of the way I fit all corners of my life into my daily schedule. However, a day like today I was feeling sorry for myself and stressed.

I wiped my face before I arrived. I "pushed" through a 20 minute panic attack and ended up having a great time. No matter how much time passes between visits with my friends, it feels like yesterday when we get together. There are no awkward pauses. There is a constant flow of chatter gaining octaves as one tries to be heard over the other. These people know me. Really know me. No matter where I go in life, or how many people I meet, I only really feel comfortable with these people. Truly comfortable. We can laugh. Really laugh, not laugh to be polite. We can talk really fast without having to worry about our accents and dialect. I have changed so much yet stayed much of the same. We all except each other for who we are. We will always have each other in our hearts. And sometimes we have each other for a few hours of conversation and laughter.

I know they have there own lives that are just as busy and between work and kids it's hard to share themselves with others. But tonight they really lifted my spirits and reminded me that we all have to make time and share ourselves with others. Even simple things can make the world of difference in someone else's life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Local Market Facts

I absolutely love to talk about real estate. Usually everywhere I go, I try to direct the conversation, at some point, towards real estate. It’s what I do, it’s what I know and it’s what I love. Lately, I don’t have to weasel real estate into the conversation. Now it’s the first thing people want to talk about when they see me. Fantastic! However, thanks to the national media (who is always just full of positive news) , I usually get “How’s the market?” asked gingerly with pity. When I respond, “Great!” They are shocked and may not even believe me.

Lately, I have buyers and sellers who are informed by peers and family members who watch and read the national news. It’s absolutely wonderful that everyone is concerned and taking an interest in real estate. One question that you should always ask yourself when being fed someone’s facts (opinions) about the market. What is their source? Are they a real estate professional? It is always wise to double check the information with your local real estate professional. I’m always open for questions.

Here are some local market facts for Acadiana, which is located in Louisiana and consists of the following parishes Lafayette, St. Martin, Iberia, Vermillion, St. Landry, Acadia and St. Mary.

Data was gathered from the Realtor Association of Acadiana’s MLS system. There is no implied warranty of the accuracy of the information. I can only go by what was reported to the MLS. Years studied were 1993 to 2008.

Today you can buy an averaged priced home for the price of $170,000 that was on the market for an average of 88 days. Rewind to 15 years ago in 1993, and you could have bought an averaged priced house for $90,000 that was on the market for 98 days. That is a 53% increase in average sales price over the course of 15 years. 1738 homes were sold in 1993 in comparison to 2008’s 3488. Here’s the last 15 years in review:

Year: Average Sales Price Comparison to previous year
1993 $90,037 N/A
1994 $94,353 5% increase
1995 $102,397 8% increase
1996 $108,623 6% increase
1997 $114,924 5.5% increase
1998 $120,808 5% increase
1999 $123,840 2.5% increase
2000 $124,283 less than 1% increase
2001 $129,536 4% increase
2002 $128,886 1% decrease
2003 $133,692 4% increase
2004 $142,171 6% increase
2005 $162,712 13% increase
2006 $175,837 7.5% increase
2007 $178,453 1.5% increase
2008 $169,858 5% decrease

After the one decrease in 2002, the rates dropped to similar numbers we’re seeing today in 2003 and business picked up again. Acadiana has always done their own thing, real estate wise, than the rest of the country. When parts of the nation were rising to incredible prices, were still gradually increasing. The only spikes you’ll see is 2005-2006 that were a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Lots of newly homeless people had no choice but to relocate in Acadiana. The 5% decrease you see in 2008? That’s the market correcting itself from the unusual price spikes we saw. Overall, Acadiana’s market seems to increase 4% per year. We are still ahead! Although NO ONE can predict the future of real estate, one could assume the following: If history repeats itself, as it usually does, one could invest in a $170,000 home and in 15 years would receive a $102,000 return on investment.
My professional opinion of today’s market is this: It’s still a powerful investment. The rates are at an all time low and that is going to jump start sales. Lots of buyers are sitting on the fence waiting for “rock bottom” prices. But just like the stock market, you don’t know it hit “rock bottom” until it’s already on its way back up. Don’t delay. Buy when it’s the right time for you. Take advantage of the super low rates today because we don’t know how long it will last.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hugs...good or bad?

A little before Christmas, the CEO of the company I work for sent me the following youtube video. I thought it was such a cool idea. How simple but hugs. I then visited and read what this was all about. My take on it was that it was a great way to show others that time and compassion are much more valuable than any gift that can be bought in a store. Lafayette, LA isn't the type of city that has heavy foot traffic. The only place I knew would be packed Christmas Eve day would be the mall. Even better!!! While people are running frantic to find that "perfect gift", a hug or the idea of a hug could shed some light and help them to remember that it's about people, not things.

So I went down to the mall on December 23rd with my great spinoff idea. I'm just smitten, thinking to myself that I'll make this an annual thing. For those of you who didn't click on the above's the plan, in a nutshell. I was planning to hold a sign that says "FREE HUGS". People who want or need one can approach and hug me. Those who don't want to can pass me by. Simple right?

I went to the mall office (i didn't even know one existed until I spoke to customer service). I met with a young man in his office. I asked permission for the above plan. He sat laid back with one foot propped (on a coffee table I think) and asked a series of questions. His main concern was that people were going to feel violated. Their personal space is at stake! To answer that concern, I explained that there is no violation of personal space. No one would be approached or spoken to unless they approached me. He decided to give me an example. The booths in the middle aisles of the mall where the salespeople use very aggressive sales tactics to where they stand in your way, violates people's personal space. HHmmm...okay...then why are they in the mall if that is a major concern of yours? I wonder to him. The response was that it's contractual and he has no control over it. Okay....

On the the next obstacle, which was that I would need a MILLION DOLLAR insurance policy to be able to do this on the mall premises. This shouldn't be a big deal I'm thinking to myself. I could make a phone call my my liability insurance agent and find out if it would cover this. But for what? So I inquired of the reason. He responded that I could get hurt such as slipping and falling. Again, I wondered aloud....Every person in the mall could potentially slip and fall, do you require your shoppers to carry million dollar policies?

My mission wasn't to inspire others to hug strangers. It was beyond that. I was hoping to inspire others to think outside the box. I was hoping to shock folks with the oddity of it all. My mission was to help people realize that ANYONE can do charity work. Think simple. Well, this guy didn't get it and he wasn't having it in his mall.

To shut me up, his bottom line was actually that he doesn't think that the mall is the best place to test drive this idea. Fair enough. I asked where would he suggest an idea like this would be more acceptable. He actually had a couple of good events and college campus. I thanked him and left.

Out of curiosity, before leaving, I asked what would have happened to me if I would have gave out free hugs in the mall without consulting him. He informed me that I would have been arrested on trespassing and assault charges. WOW!

I was in awe. My mind played back to when I visited YouTube and the site for Free Hugs. I read briefly on how Free Hugs were banned but didn't pay much mind to it. I thought that was absurd. How can you have a law against hugging people who want to be hugged? I realized that the guy I spoke to at the mall did his job well. I'm not criticizing him. He's doing what he knows needs to be done because of past experience, I'm sure. It just makes me sad that there is so much red tape for something as simple as this. Come to think of it, there is red tape and precaution for EVERYTHING. Why is that you think? I would love here others ideas on this....