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A-Rod, Ryan Braun and Willful Denial

A-Rod, Ryan Braun and Willful Denial

AROD AP (1)I didn’t want to believe it.

Deep down, I absolutely new Ryan Braun got caught with his hand in the PED cookie jar but, when he escaped on a technicality, heart overrode head and I willfully chose to ignore the inconvenient truth that he really had gotten caught using performance enhancing drugs.

Call it a Jewish thing. Braun is one a handful of Jewish players in the majors, albeit a non-practicing one, and ever since the days of Hank Greenberg my people have taken a close interest in any major leaguer who’s meshpuchah. There’s even a website dedicated to the idea (which came in handy for a Yom Kippur appear years ago.)

When Braun when the MVP, there was a certain satisfaction from afar seeing a ballplayer with a yiddishe kopf  succeed. What I didn’t want to believe is he used the same kopf to not only choose to use PEDs, but then to virulently deny he had used them up until the time he couldn’t lie any longer.

I knew better but I lived in willful denial.

That takes us to Yankee Stadium last Friday night, when more than 50,000 people jammed into the ballpark to see the return of Alex Rodriguez. Incredibly, stunningly, nauseatingly, he received a standing ovation when he came up to the plate and his name was part of the Bleacher Creature’s roll call.

As Joel McHale says on The Soup, think about what you’re clapping for.

On the radio, play-by-play announcer and paid spokesman John Sterling said that the Yankees fans should of course cheer wildly for A-Rod. “He hasn’t committed murder, has he?”

Yankees fans held up signs proclaiming A-Rod’s innocence, even though A-Rod himself isn’t claiming he’s innocent. He knows what we all know – he’s guilty of using PEDs. All he’s trying to do now is negotiate the number of games for which he’ll be suspended and how much money in salary he’ll lose.

He says he’s fighting for his life; he’s fighting for his bank account, nothing more.

It’s so much easier to dislike A-Rod, not only for the PEDs but because of the general black cloud that follows him wherever he goes …

  • Running across the pitcher’s mound after grounding out, which simply isn’t done, starting a scuffle
  • Slapping the ball out of a player’s hand like he tried back in 2004
  • Allegedly tipping pitches in hopes opposing players will return the favor and allow him to pad his stats
  • Passing out his phone number while benched during last year’s playoffs
  • Generally sucking in any month that starts with “O”

What made the standing ovation even more stunning is it came from the same crowd who booed lustily whenever he showed his face during last year’s playoffs during which, as I mentioned, he was benched because he couldn’t hit his own weight. Much less Kate Hudson’s.

The Yankees fans have to know he’s guilty, right? Right? Or is willful denial that strong …

* * *

Willful denial also exists in the real estate world. Some buyers now are starting to think about waiting “until prices come down.” Some sellers are holding off until they can pull out another double-digit jump in appreciation despite the unusual nature of this year’s increase.

Both scenarios can be debunked to a degree in the same chart, which I’ll stealing from Zillow. (Yeah, yeah, I know … I’m using real sales prices, not the Zillow Index, whatever that consists of.)

Here’s the median sales price chart for Peoria Arizona real estate over the past 10 years …

Peoria Median Sale Price

Notice the jump in prices just past January 12 … it looks like the first 10 seconds of California Screamin’ at California Adventure. And notice that stiff vertical ascent looks an awful lot like a shorter version of the 2005, bs-loan fueled bubble model.

I’ll maintain to my last days there isn’t a bubble now, if only because the easy credit no longer exists; buyers have to have some skin in the game to purchase and when you’re putting five, 10 or 20 percent down on a purchase, walking away doesn’t look as appetizing. (Not to mention rates are lower and interest-only loans and ARMs almost non-existent these days.)

There are multiple reasons why the market’s rapid appreciation is going to level off … rising interest rates, Fed easing of the buying program and increasing supply are the main culprits. (At 10,778 detached homes across Maricopa County, we’re close to January levels after the summer selling season, which is unusual.)

The other reason is our old friend, the economic concept of reversion to the mean. Same chart, only now I’m adding a trend line (approximated, as the chart doesn’t go back before 2004, but I kinda know the direction well enough – think 3 to 5 percent annually.)

Peoria Home Values

We’re at about 10 percent below where the market likely would have been had there not been a bubble; if you believe in reversion to the mean, the idea that values tend to work their way back to the average (though few mention it when it means appreciation, only decline), the Peoria real estate market should get back to that point.

Having said that, the closer the market gets to that mean, the longer it seems to take to actually get there. Think of an airplane landing … it just doesn’t drop out of the sky from 10,000 feet to land on the tarmac. Rather, there’s a gradual path toward the ground. Thinking of the ground as level (and flipping the world upside down), the market isn’t going to get back to the mean on a spike and then level off. When it happens, it’s going to be more gradual. You can see this at the tale end of the chart, if you draw a trend line through the spikes and dips.

That’s the reality of where we are. But that doesn’t prevent many buyers and sellers from retreating into willful denial, even in full view of the facts about the market.

There’s no logical reason to hold the position either than prices are going to tumble or that the market’s going to jump about 10 percent in a couple month’s time, not with the factors currently in play. Just like there’s no logical reason to cheer a confessed cheater like A-Rod, or even Ryan Braun for that matter.

I’ve left my willful denial behind. Time for the consumers in the Glendale and Peoria real estate markets to do the same.

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