“Home” for the Holidays

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Marked by turkeys, stuffing, candy canes, and watching the ball drop at midnight, this is the time of year in which we make our holiday plans to gather with family and friends to give thanks, give gifts, and ring in the New Year.

We take a look at the year behind us and make lofty resolutions for the year to come. Our CPAs and financial planners advise us to make our last minute contributions and take our final deductions, ask us to start putting our spreadsheets, receipts, and bank accounts together, and compile our year end reports including profit and loss statements. Many of us jot down New Year’s resolutions as we put our diets on pause and put our spending on full throttle.

For me, I look forward to my boys coming home from college and law school for their extended winter break, as my sister and her family make their annual pilgrimage to sunny Florida to stay with our parents, and my family enjoys another year together. My heart becomes full of gratitude and my stomach is full of grand buffets including my cousins’ famous “Ethel Ruth” cake, named after my late grandmother.

With all of this anticipation, joy and excitement, there is also the stress of overcrowded roads, restaurants that are over-capacity, and an over-abundance of parties and holiday obligations. Clients want everything to get done prior to the New Year, and every holiday season I have at least one business “crisis” that distracts me from everything that I hold precious and dear. In fact, for many, the holidays is a time of stress and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Prior to my career as a real estate and mortgage broker, when I used to practice psychotherapy, this was the time of year that I would be most concerned about my clients who suffered from depression and anxiety.

As we move into the holiday season of 2015, the old saying, “Home for the holidays,” takes on a more cryptic and deeper meaning than ever before. The world around us seems to have fallen into some sort of bizarre chaos that seems more appropriate for a fictional movie screen than a documentary on our TVs. Between the random terror attacks, lone wolf shooters, horrific plane crashes, racial tensions that divide our country, and politicians that can’t even agree on our most basic values, it is often frightening to turn on the news.

As the world around us remains in chaos, I chose to move into this holiday season with a more optimistic view. Many of the people that I am in contact with on a daily basis are more grateful and embrace a positive attitude. From a financial perspective, interest rates remain significantly low, housing prices continue to rise, the stock market is relatively stable, and gas prices are comparatively manageable.

The real estate market, for now, is doing pretty well. A few years ago, when I did a real estate search, approximately 30-40 percent of the homes found would be foreclosures and short sales. At the present time, I find less than 5-10 percent bank owned properties and short sales in my home searches. Most well priced listings are selling and many renters are becoming homeowners once again. It is still not as easy to get a mortgage as pre-2008, but buyers with decent credit and documented income are obtaining financing and banks are lending money with more ease than we have seen for some time. So many of us who had lost so much during the crashes of the recent past are on a path to recreate the financial security that we once had. Hopefully, we can look back and learn important lessons from what we went through in preparation for the months and years to come.

When I am asked to make predictions by all of my friends, family and colleagues at the many holiday gatherings to come, I will be happy to share my optimism for the future of the housing market in south Florida. I will explain that, although we never really know what the future will hold, I believe that this is a great time to buy or sell a house if you are able and that there is no better time than the present to go home for the holidays. Whether you are traveling home this holiday season, or staying in place with family and friends, it is my wish that you journey safely and make cherished memories of the place that you call home. Laurie Dubow

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