If you’ve been reading this site for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably heard of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at WSU and its spokesman Glenn Crellin. Mr. Crellin is frequently quoted as an authority on local real estate markets across Washington State. With a neutral-sounding name like “Center” and its existence as part of a state university, the WCRER would seem to be a logical place to look for unbiased information about the real estate market. Indeed, the description of the Center on their front page is quite lofty:
The WCRER was created in 1989 by the WSU Board of Regents to achieve the university’s tripartite mission of education, research and service in real estate. The ultimate goal of the Center is to provide a wide range of useful and understandable information, analysis and knowledge using academic methods in practical context while reporting findings in common language.
However, there is a problem. It’s not that they are not acheiving their stated goal. It’s that they seem to have an additional, unstated goal: to encourage and protect the real estate sales industry. Given that their board of trustees consists almost entirely of realtors and developers, I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, when Glenn Crellin comes out and encourages agents to stifle a housing market that is good for potential home buyers, it grates on me.
Yes, the local real estate market has softened. But let’s not call it dire. That was the message Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University, delivered last week to those gathered for the annual meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors.
Crellin told the group that Pierce County’s housing market contained a nine-month supply of houses for sale as of Sept. 30, making it a buyer’s market. Counsel clients, he told the agents, to keep their homes off the market, if they can, to help return balance to the market.
He also said homeowners should shift their outlook on the true purpose of the purchase of a home.
“Owners need to focus on why we’re dealing with housing in the first place. It’s shelter. They need to focus on the shelter and potential tax breaks … and not worry so much about whether in a year a house is worth $5,000 more or $50,000 more.”
Heaven forbid we have a couple of years of a buyer’s market. It’s not like a multi-year, over-the-top seller’s market should be followed by a buyer’s market of similar magnitiude and length. No, we need a “balanced market,” so agents, tell your sellers to quit flooding the market already!
Where do you see sales activity going in 2008?
In 2008, we’re going to see a moderate reduction in sales, particularly in the first half and hopefully a recovery in the second half.
What will be the major forces guiding that one way or another?
Consumer confidence. If buyers believe these are satisfactory times in which to make a purchase, the market will recover. If consumers have been convinced home values are going to drop, they’re going to stay on the sidelines and the market will stay soft.
Do you see home values dropping in the near future?
I don’t think there’s any reason to think we’re going to see a sharp decline. Median prices have leveled off in recent months. I think we’ll see limited price increases through the middle of next year.
So here he basically outright admits his true purpose: to manipulate the market by giving consumers a false confidence. Good luck with that. I love the circular reasoning here. Sales will increase, because buyers will be more confident, because they won’t think values will keep dropping, because sales will increase. Personally, I don’t think positive (or negative) spin one way or the other is going to effect the direction of the market. Thinking otherwise seems to me like believing that if everyone on a roller coaster just wishes hard enough, maybe instead of falling down that next big drop, it will somehow level off, then keep going up.
(Devona Wells, Tacoma News Tribune, 11.12.2007)