This time last year, the housing market was coming off its largest refinance boom in recent history, and brokers everywhere were counting their blessings and sending a record number of holiday cards to their clients. Largely due to the Middle East threat and the reality of a long war with no discernable victory, forecasts were for a drop in the overall state of the economy, which was still to be led by the formidable housing market which would also suffer a substantial downgrade.
Instead, we witnessed the scandals concerning Enron and WorldCom, a new Middle Eastern enemy, countless threats and terrorism warning color-changes, and the steepest decline of the stock market in years. And now, we're right back where we began in 2002, with the housing market breaking records, holiday cards stuffing mailboxes, a call for the whole cycle to continue.
Talk about history repeating itself.
"We now expect existing home sales to total 5.52 million units in 2002, up 4.2 percent from last year's record of 5.3 million," said Dr. David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. "In 2003, sales should ease-off to 5.29representing the fifth year that existing homes exceeded the $5-million benchmark."
Due largely to historically-low interest rates, which aren't showing any signs of fluctuation, this projection seems to be accurate, but what if the United States attacks Iraq in early 2003? What if Iraq or its Middle Eastern allies counter against U.S. soil? What if Martha Stewart goes to prison?
There seems to be as many doubts for 2003 as there were for 2002, with as many ifs' and buts' as on Sept. 12, 2001. And, if the ifs' become whens,' I'd sure like to see how many whos' start looking for wheres.'