PRESIDENT'S CORNER: The Boulder in the Road
Gail Fattizzi | March 2020
In June 2019, on Highway 145 near Dolores, CO, an 8.5-million-pound boulder, along with another 2.5-million-pound rock, rolled down onto the roadway, completely blocking a main artery connecting Cortez and Telluride. The Colorado Department of Transportation had a real quandary. They were able to blow up the smaller rock. Rather than spend $1.5 million to explode the larger boulder and repair the highway, they chose to leave the rock in place and build a new section of highway around it at a lower cost. This new landmark is now called Memorial Rock. Nine weeks of rebuilding the highway and problem solved!
I’m sure you’re thinking, what does this have to do with real estate? As an industry, we are constantly facing and navigating various obstacles like the rock, and finding solutions as did the Colorado DOT. Each transaction we are involved in is strewn with obstacles. We constantly have choices to make and factors to weigh in on. We are a profession of resiliency, creativity and problem-solving on a regular basis.
Right now, our biggest obstacle as an industry is undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic. As with many other industries and businesses; we are certainly not alone. Hopefully this is a temporary situation but, for now, it’s an obstacle to doing business as usual. When people are fearful or in a state of uncertainty, it causes inertia at best and panic at worst. I recently heard this described as “anticipatory anxiety.”
Business has not come to a complete halt and we don’t expect it to. However, the huge volatility in the stock market and economic slowdown is shaking consumer confidence and, in some cases, the ability for some to make that down payment or qualify for the mortgage they previously could. They are spending on needs, not wants. There are some who simply won’t put their homes on the market right now, concerned about where the buyers walking through may have been. These scenarios are not necessarily conducive to buying or selling real estate. But, there are still many people who need or want to move forward with a home purchase at this time. And the silver lining for them? Rates are at the lowest we’ve seen in our lifetime!
Like the giant boulder in the road, this is an obstacle that wasn’t anticipated. No one saw it coming, nor could they have predicted how significant the impact would be. But the solutions are not as simple as blowing it up or building around it. The solutions for combating the emotional, physical and financial impact of COVID-19 do not come easily, and much is out of our control. However short- or long-term the impact, this is our new current reality, the nature of which we have never seen before.
As an organization, HGAR is evaluating the situation daily. We are constantly gathering and assessing information and trying to make prudent decisions on the basis of what we know. Many events have been canceled or postponed, and likely there will be more of that to come. Today we made the very difficult decision to cancel all classes at HGAR for at least the next few weeks. Anything that is non-essential will be postponed, and all necessary meetings will be conducted via Zoom remote technology. Business can’t and won’t come to a halt, but the health and safety of our members, staff and our clients must be considered first. This is a fluid environment and requires us to be flexible and expedient as needed.
We have endured many difficult obstacles in the past as an industry—20% interest rates, the mortgage crisis and recessions of various proportions. Yet, home buying and selling has never stopped. People need a roof over their heads. Now is the perfect time for many homeowners to refinance their mortgages to lower interest rates. We can guide them in that direction. We can help those who are still buying, selling and renting. We can be a stabilizing influence. As industry leaders, we can stay positive!
There is a way around the boulder!
This viewpoint reflected the author’s sentiments prior to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order that shut down all non-essential businesses, including real estate brokerage and development.