A few thoughts on locals and housing following 9/11
It seems that two themes have dominated the Vail Daily the last week: the memories of Sept. 11 on the 15th anniversary of that fateful day and local housing. Ironically, one of my memories of Sept. 11 happens to include a story about locals and housing, so I thought I’d share my experiences.
Like everyone, I recall well the sunny peaceful morning, and flipping on the news and seeing smoke pouring from the tower. I recall putting down my plate of toast and losing all interest in breakfast. I woke my wife up and we flipped on the TV in the bedroom and we sat there in disbelief. I tried to call a niece who lives in New York City, and of course the phones were impossible. Back then, there was no text messaging, the internet was dial-up and email was a novelty only used at the office. Later that day my niece got through to my sister, who spread the word she was fine.
At the time, the financial markets were mostly closed and as mortgage rates are set daily in tune with the financial markets nobody knew quite what to do. The lenders were cautious, but still accepting loan rate locks, at least early on. I was at the moment in the rather unenviable position of having several loans in progress that were not locked in at a set interest rate, including several locals who were buying their first place. I felt that the future of rates would be bumpy and we should lock now, as the future was quite uncertain. I was unable to reach any of my clients (cell phones were not universal back then) so made a decision to lock rates in and hope the clients would agree with me later.
Later that day I did end up talking to all of my clients and all agreed I had made the right call. The ability to lock loans was pretty much suspended by noon and the markets were pretty chaotic for the next several days. In the following months, rates did drop slightly but all agreed things could have gone the other way just as easily.
In the following weeks, two things happened. First, there were a lot of second home buyers that canceled their contracts, uncertain of the long-term impacts of the economy. In some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnest money were left on the table and Realtors were scrambling to keep their deals together.
The second thing that happened was that my phone started ringing off the hook with locals looking to buy a place. For several weeks I was fielding three or four calls a day from people wanting to know how to get pre-qualified and see what they could afford. Prior to that day I might have taken three or four calls like that in a month.
Talking to these people I started to sense a recurring theme. Nearly all of them seemed to have decided that if they were going to realize their dream of home ownership now was the time. The events of Sept. 11 seemed to jar something in everyone that life must go on, and a realization that the future always has some uncertainty, so why wait. There was a “live for today” sense of life that had not been there before.
A surge of local buying
In the six months or so following Sept. 11 there was a tremendous surge in locals buying homes. I don’t know the exact numbers, but while I don’t think I closed a single second home loan during that period, I probably had one of my busiest six months in some time before or after, and every one of the loans was from a local home buyer.
In the national news there was seemingly no end of reports of the real estate market slipping nationwide with declining sales as many were unsure of their jobs’ future, or the value of their assets. While overall sales here might have dropped because the second homeowners and investors were waiting out the storm, locals were making the plunge in record numbers.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Eagle County is that so many of the people who make their home here are those who came here looking for a unique lifestyle and are independent thinkers. People here tend to make their lives happen as opposed to just letting life happen to them.
As tragic as Sept. 11 was, the fact that it moved many locals to rethink their goals and priorities in life is in its own way a salute to those who lost their lives and their loved ones. It was also a personal statement by many to the terrorists that life would go on and Americans would not run and hide. That I had the privilege of being part of that process for many Eagle County residents has given me a great belief in the ability of America to persevere through the worst of times.
Chris Neuswanger is a mortgage loan originator with Macro Financial Group in Avon and may be reached at 970-748-0342. He welcomes mortgage related inquiries from readers. His blog and web site is http://www.mtnmortgageguy.com