A Rising or Falling Tide?

With another set of family holidays behind us, and the big busy season just around the corner, what is ahead in the rocky world of real estate? Will the mortgage crisis ease soon, or worsen? Will we tip into recession, or skate over the thin ice to firmer footing?

It might be wishful thinking on my part, but it seems that there are signs that a further plunge may be averted. To get there, it’ll take concerted efforts by both government and the private sector. Most important will be the attitude of the public toward what is happening around us. It is, after all, consumer spending and consumer confidence that is the primary engine of our vast economy.

Will the government, through our elected representatives, make smart moves to help those in need? And by those in need, I don’t mean hedge funds and mega banks. It is the mainstream, Main Street Americans, who are under siege that I worry about. And will those in the private sector who benefited from the boom times make the moral and rational choice to become constructively involved in helping the nearly 2 million homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure, due to rate resets?

This mess is a collective problem. John Kennedy said of the U.S. economy that a rising tide lifts all boats. We are not as yet in a rising tide. At the best, we are at slack tide. The issue is, is the water receding, or coming back in toward the shore? We can hope for the rising tide. But hope alone is insufficient. It will take hard work by families who are at risk, to tell their stories, for legislators and mortgage holders to hear those voices and heed the warnings and cries for help.

The fast-receding tide of a recession will wreck both leaky and sound boats. If something can be done to avert that threat, all of us will have to sacrifice something for the common good. And those of us lucky enough to own second homes need to be and ought to be supportive of those who are at risk of losing their only homes.

As my late brother used to say: hope for the best, expect the worst and take what comes. Here’s to the hopes for a more prosperous New Year. And here’s to hoping that the right things will be said and done by those in power to avert disaster. And as always, we all will have to resolve, since there isn’t any other choice, to take what comes.

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