For weeks I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect thought for this newsletter and found myself continually searching for something meaningful. When I first sat down to write Passover and Easter were upon us and I thought, what a great way to welcome in the new spring season by entitling my thoughts “A Second Chance.” This was a time when the Hebrews were saved from their captivity by the Egyptians and the angel of death passed over sparing their firstborn sons. For Christians, Christ’s resurrection was their second chance to realize there was life after apparent death and now there was the promise of an eternal life to come. While both holidays are rich in history today they are commonly seen as the welcoming of spring and one of hope.
To me, spring has always been a rebirth of sorts with flowers and trees coming back to life after a long harsh winter where it appeared they succumbed to the ravages of the snow and ice. People emerged from their homes after being cooped up most of the winter and everything just seemed more alive as the promise of summer with its warmer weather and outdoor activities was just around the corner. It was that euphoric feeling I wanted to capture, and one that has been on the faces of many we’ve seen this year who have decided to make Florida their permanent home in search of a better quality of life.
As much as I intended to embrace this theme, I found I was continually approached by many asking how to navigate a real estate market that seems more like a runaway train. What started as their euphoric journey to a new beginning has become anything but, as we are experiencing what has become a feeding frenzy. Wasn’t March supposed to come in like a lion, marking the beginning of spring, and exiting like a lamb? If that is the case, then April and May must be monsters and our “Spring” has more than sprung. Of course, I am referencing the real estate market and not the weather, as by all accounts our temperatures this season have been some of the most enjoyable we’ve experienced in a long time.
The real estate market on the other hand is something I don’t think anyone could have predicted. Low inventory levels combined with significant numbers of those looking to move to the area have created a unique market the likes most people have never seen. No longer is a full-price offer going to guarantee you’ll be the winning bid, in fact, most likely you’ll be looking from the outside in. Remember when a home that was on the market for ten days was considered a very new listing worth seeing? In today’s market, most people look at a home that has been on the market for ten days and wonder, “What’s wrong with the house?” Offers of $20,000, $30,000, $50,000 and moreover full price are now commonplace. Some are foregoing inspections and offering to compensate the seller on some of their closing costs. And did I mention “escalation clauses?” What is going on? For the seller, it’s almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Those who never thought of selling their homes are now thinking, “With the meteoric rise in offers, let’s put our house on the market.” Of course, that may be a double edge sword as once they sell their home they now jump into the tank with all the other buyers competing for the limited inventory on hand.
Others feel, “I’ll just wait for the housing market to crash, and then I’ll buy a home at a more reasonable price.” While I’d be as foolish as anyone to predict that will never happen again, after seeing what happened to the housing market in 2007 and 2008, I can tell you this is a very different market. Then we had much higher inventory levels and sub-prime mortgages were given to almost anyone who could sign their name. Today, most likely many would not be able to secure a loan under today’s lending guidelines. Then it was very much a speculative market driven by investors. Baby Boomers were supposed to be moving down for the next 20 or 30 years, so how could the sky ever fall? Unfortunately, we all found out, “Man makes plans and God laughs.”
What I’m seeing in the housing market today reminds me of the behavioral patterns of the panic hoarding we’ve seen when a major storm is in the forecast or during this pandemic. Fear of not having enough and grabbing as much as you can reach epidemic proportions as store shelves laid barren for weeks on end. I’m still trying to understand the rush on toilet paper, paper towels not to mention hand sanitizers! Since when did everyone become so obsessed with being germ-free? Go to a store today and the shelves are fully stocked once again, although I still have been challenged at times to find chicken wings! Panic shopping now seems to be a distant memory for some but now it has manifested itself in the housing market.
Having worked in the “concrete jungle” of New York City myself, I can understand why someone would want to move to Florida, but many states like Florida aren’t closing their doors to those looking to relocate for a better quality of life. For those waiting for the market to crash before they buy, you may be waiting for a while as this market is characterized by “end users, not investors. Inventory levels are much lower and you’ll be surprised by the number of cash buyers in the market. My advice is not to worry new listings are coming on the market every day. It may not be the home at the price you originally were after, but it is hard to put a price on the quality of life you will gain.
I feel life gives us lessons we can either learn from or repeat. When we couldn’t get the products we wanted during the pandemic, we found we could be just as happy with something that served our needs almost as well. We didn’t get to visit our favorite restaurants or entertainment venues as much, but most of us found enjoyment in the simple pleasures of early morning walks or bike rides together, perhaps even watching a Hallmark movie or two together.
Spring is a wonderful time of year and this year it is even more special as not only are flowers and trees coming into full bloom but so are we as a community now that many of the restrictions that have governed much of our lives for the past year are being lifted. The lesson we learned from the “pause” the pandemic forced on us was to enjoy each other and the pleasures life gives us. If we’ve learned our lessons from the past we don’t need to panic every time we encounter something we’ve never experienced before. Spring is in full bloom this season and perhaps more bright and full of appreciation and hope than ever before.
Do you ever find yourself looking forward to that “holiday” of the month with the same anticipation you did as a kid? For me, I think of those special days almost as the dessert after a wonderful home-cooked meal. When I think of those days I find they mean the same to me today as they did when I was a child, and perhaps are the only traditions that haven’t changed throughout the years. I think of the fun we had on Halloween trick or treating in our costumes, Thanksgiving where we played touch football games before gorging ourselves on turkey and all the side dishes until we couldn’t move, and what more needs to be said about the excitement of the holiday season and New Year! While each month brings us a unique joy in its own way, the ones I find that make us all seem to laugh and take life a little less seriously are St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your religion, ethnic background, or political beliefs, on those days we proudly celebrate with revelry as if that was part of our ancestry.
Recently we had dinner with a couple who introduced Gail and me on a blind date 35 years ago. They are from New York where the husband has had a jewelry business in the heart of New York’s Diamond District for many years. We were dining outside in St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota and this couple was looking around like two kids entering Disney World, amazed at the number of people out and about enjoying the shops, restaurants, and beautiful evening weather. They had been to Florida many times before but this time was extra special as New York has been shut down to a large degree, and according to the husband, New York City has become a ghost town of sorts with rising crime rates and the closure of many businesses. However, despite the depressing news from New York, our conversations are always full of laughter as the husband has an uncanny sense of humor and like most wives, she just rolls her eyes.
I couldn’t help but look back to this time of year as a kid growing up when we carved pumpkins and watched horror movies on Chiller Theater that left us so scared that every creak and sound we heard in our home had us diving under the covers somehow thinking we wouldn’t be seen by these creatures of the night. What Halloween would be complete without Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula and a supporting cast of Ghouls, Mummies, Werewolfs, Ghosts, Witches and Vampires! After working ourselves into a terrified frenzy the thought of putting out the garbage that night was the last thing you wanted to hear your mom ask you to do. “Mom can’t it wait until morning, I really don’t want to be burned at the stake?”
We dressed up as our favorite creatures, sports heroes and celebrities. Guys dressed as girls, girls dressed as guys and we even dressed up like old geezers, which at that time anyone over 30 years of age qualified.
We freely roamed our neighborhood streets filling our shopping bags so full of candy it would take decades to consume, while keeping most dentists gainfully employed. And of course the ammunition of the day was a carton of eggs, cans of shaving cream, sticks of chalk and a sock full of flour. You never had to ask which home didn’t hand out candy, as the dreaded chalk mark on the sidewalk indicated no one was home and as a consequence for being so unthoughtful typically resulted in the owner being seen washing off the salvo of eggs from the night before.
It was fun trick or treating in disguise when no one knew who you were and the stories told the following day from that special Halloween night were priceless. It also gave us the opportunity to express ourselves in ways that were fun, carefree and creative. However, despite our unique way of expressing ourselves we seemed to bond a little bit closer.
This year has been a year of adjustment. For many it has been a year of despair and others a time of reflection. However, one thing I think we can all agree on is that it is a time when we are focusing on our differences rather than what has brought us together. Just like those horror movies we watched as kids that depicted creatures we knew not from where they came, today we are seeing different kinds of monsters who are tormenting us 24 hours a day.
Back then we could put our monsters back in the closet until the following year, the kind we are facing today think they are here to stay. They are dressed differently and walk amongst us both day and night. When we got scared we pulled the covers over our heads, today I hear kids say they don’t want to hear what is going on in our country or around the world as it sounds too scary.
I’m not sure how we got so off track, but when I think of so many wonderful things we have to enjoy that are found in community events, family and friends it seems like those are the things we need to take back out of the closet labeled “Taking for Granted,” and realize our fondest childhood recollections are within easy reach with lots of great memories still to be made.
While this year’s Halloween may be a little different, it can still be one that will be fun to enjoy and give us that emotional break we all could use. Just make sure you keep an eye out for those creatures in the night when you hear those terrifying words, “Honey, can you take out the garbage!
Most will find from our monthly newsletters that I tend to look at life through my years as a youth. It was a special time when you could savor the simple things life had to offer and take those exciting moments and defeats a bit more in stride. Of course we didn’t have families to support, financial responsibilities to meet, and those never-ending deadlines that collectively seemed to have stolen those precious moments of reflection and appreciation from our lives. We just savored the simple pleasures of life, oftentimes taking them for granted. I always considered myself a “summer kid,” as my fondest recollections revolved around summers spent outdoors at our home on Shelter Island, New York.
After what seemed like an eternity being confined indoors due to harsh winter weather, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive with the awakening of its colorful plants and trees signaling summer was just around the corner. It was like watching a black and white picture come to life with color and air that smelled so fresh and clean. Once again we were outdoors looking forward to endless hours of bike riding, the start of the little league season, and a host of other outdoor activities along with those special holidays of Mother’s Day and Easter.
This year we are experiencing a different kind of spring, and one not so different in some ways from those I experienced as a child. While we are starting to “awaken” from the “confinement” we’ve experienced over the past few months and resume our “physical” connection with friends, I think we are doing it with a greater appreciation for our home life, our families and the friends who make our lives so special.
During these past few months, I’ve seen couples taking walks hand in hand, families bicycling and kayaking together, neighbors celebrating cocktail hour on the quiet streets in which they live, and with joyful amazement, I watched a group of couples from the condos across the water from our home dancing on the lawn and docks to songs from years gone by. There is no doubt in my mind, while we are experiencing a very different chapter in our lives; our inherent desire to be socially connected and enjoy the simple pleasures life affords us has not changed.
While we are adjusting to our new way of life in how we live, work and play, I find myself saying “History has a way of repeating itself,” and I’m not going to squander the lessons learned from this reset. I am going to savor my times with friends and family, along with the blessings I received, with a renewed appreciation long after the challenges we currently face have passed. I also feel our community will be the beneficiary of this renewed personal connection with each other. I sense more of a community spirit as we look to support those local businesses fighting to stay alive while doing their best to serve the community. Like many I speak to, there is a pent up desire for people to embrace their communities and each other during this time with a spirit of “We’ll get through this together.”
In an article I recently read by internationally acclaimed speaker and bestselling author John O’Leary, he describes a conversation he had with his grandfather during lunch twenty years ago that changed his perception of the meaning of success. With vivid detail he recalls his grandfather’s question, “Do you know why they call my generation the “Greatest Generation?” It isn’t because we survived the Great Depression…. It’s not because we served in World War II…..It’s not because we came home and built the most productive society in the history of the world. They call us the Greatest Generation because we never forgot all the lessons learned along the way. The Depression taught us to value the little things and to live within our means. The war taught us what real evil looked like, what real sacrifice looked like, what real heroism looked like.”
John continues, “The Greatest Generations conception has much in common with the situation we find ourselves in now…. The collapsing markets and soaring unemployment witnessed by my grandfather evolved into the practice of appreciating the little things, living within their means, and taking nothing for granted.
Likewise, we have the opportunity to shift into this mindset for the long haul, instead of shifting back to the over-scheduled, over-extended, avaricious society we found ourselves in before we were rocked by shelter in place orders.”
He concludes by saying, “Although the journey forward remains unclear, the Greatest Generation reminds us that what defines a society during adversity is not only how they respond in the midst of it, but whether they afterward apply the lessons they’ve learned from it.“
This is just one of the many lessons I’ve learned and one I remind myself that “All is well.”
We sat on the tailgate of our parent’s Ford Country Squire station wagon on our way to the beach where we swam all day, made sandcastles and threw jellyfish at each other. As if we didn’t spend enough time together during the day, many times we would sneak out at night to play flashlight tag or just sit and talk about the day’s events or what we would like to do when we grew up. My fondest recollections are those of summer when life seemed sweeter and gentler with each day being more savored.
As a community, we all seemed to grow a bit closer. Today I see something vastly different. While we aren’t consumed picking up the pieces from homes and properties lost during Hurricane Charley, we have been forced to ” pause,” and with that pause, I am seeing people going back to those things I was so fond of as a child. I see couples taking early morning walks and riding bikes together. Many have taken to the water paddling kayaks or taking out those boats that have been sitting idle for months on lifts. I can hear the laughter of neighbors planning impromptu cocktail hours in the streets or on front lawns as they socially distance themselves from one another. Long overdue phone calls are being made and facetime chats are now allowing us to speak with loved ones in real-time.
During this time I’ve often wondered if this was God’s way of bringing us back to the way of life he intended for us. Where those simple pleasures and friendships we enjoyed as kids were meant to be enjoyed as adults, and not to be taken for granted.For those who celebrate Easter and the significance of its meaning, this year will be one that is very different. No longer will people be getting dressed up to go to church. Children won’t be participating in community-sponsored Easter egg hunts and small gatherings with only immediate family for Easter dinner will become this year’s norm.