Bringing the Economy Home

Many Realtors, Builders Lost Homes in Idaho’s Housing Market Meltdown

After several weeks of reporting on the Idaho housing market, it’s impossible not to notice just how many of the people who have lost their homes in the downturn are real estate agents and builders, or do other kinds of work related to housing.  In our first broadcast story, for example, we met Carmel Crock, a realtor who lives in Boise.  In the midst of the boom, she made financial decisions that counted on the housing market’s continued strength.  She refinanced her home in the expectation that her income would keep rising, allowing her to manage a higher monthly payment.

David McNew / Getty Images News

New home construction stalled at this California development in 2008.

Crock says when her income fell and she found herself in the middle of a financial mess, she wasn’t on her own.  Many people she knew professionally were also having to figure out how to negotiate short sales.  “Unfortunately, I had realtor friends, long-time acquaintances, builders who were going through the same thing,” she says.  “None of us were doing this alone.”

Now, Crock is putting her hard-won expertise to work.  She says it only made sense to use the experience of her own short sale to re-brand herself as a short sale and foreclosure specialist.  “We could recognize that part of the way we could help our personal businesses was to help other people through exactly what we were going through,” she says.  “We were learning by example.”

In the course of reporting our more recent story about the rising number of deficiency judgments, I met Terri Pickens, an attorney in private practice in Boise. Her primary focus is commercial and real estate litigation, but when her clients began losing their homes, she helped them with that, too.  “Most of my developer clients have felt a really big hit from the downfall of the real estate market,” she says.  “And as a consequence most of them have lost their personal private residences in addition to their subdivisions, or commercial developments.”

As she understands it, not only have people whose work is connected to real estate suffered a direct hit in the downturn.  They also may have been more likely to be drawn in by the excitement of the boom.  “They were more likely to purchase a home that they couldn’t purchase in a down market,” she says.

Andy Enrico, Vice Chair of the Idaho Real Estate Commission, compares the present downturn to previous slumps in the housing market.  He thinks back to the early 1980s, not long after he began selling real estate in Boise.  He says he watched people get caught in that downturn, too.  “Builders got in trouble, and real estate agents who wanted to aggressively buy and invest got in trouble, because they thought the market would never quit,” he said.  “When you get so busy, you think sometimes, ‘Maybe it won’t end.'”


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