"So why aren't people out buying homes and at least looking at homes for sale", I asked my real estate agent with only a small hint of frustration. This was the second phone call in a month telling me I should consider lowering the asking price for my home. I am relocating to a new assignment and need the cash to buy a home when I move. We have had no action on our sale. No one is looking. The local real estate market is frozen.
"Fear" was his reply, "people are living in fear today".
It's true. People are afraid they might lose their jobs and afraid the United States might dip back into a second recession. They fear Congress will not come up with a viable deficit reduction plan. They fear the unknown problem of Europe's ongoing crisis. They frankly fear there is a lack of political will and leadership to produce effective solutions to our economic problems. This fear is keeping them from making even sound some sound financial decisions.
While applying for a mortgage loan yesterday the lending officer I am working with gave her take on the current housing crisis. "First time home buyers are afraid to step into the market and buy a home even when it makes economic sense to buy rather than rent" That's true too. Interest rates are at historic lows making monthly housing payments for modest homes very affordable–much cheaper than rent. Now I know home ownership is not for everyone but today there are some bargains in today's housing market that could pay future dividends. But if fear rules, then nothing happens.
Fear may be the biggest part of our dilemma. We have some big problems facing us but they are not insolvable. With some moral, ethical and political will the United States and other world economies could climb out of the sinkhole of economic malfeasance that has brought us to the brink. But if fear locks up the mind and will then it will be very difficult to work our way to a solution. Fear immobilizes and closes down possibility and opportunity. Like him or not, Franklin Roosevelt hit upon the core of the issue when he said, "we have nothing to fear but fear itself".
Folks, there is a lot of fear on today's street.
Since I am buying a home out of state I am working with another agent at our destination. She is like many who are looking for hopeful news in each days economic report. Like us, she has seen many years of good times and believes the good times will return. Most of us think the same way, we have no real choice. And I do hope we soon see the end of rough times and a stabilizing in world markets that will cause the numbers to go up.
I look at Europe's economic problem and understand how it impacts Main Street in America. American Banks are exposed to Greek, Italian and Spanish debt. If any one of those nations default on their debt it could bring down another large American financial institution. The ripple effect through the economy is unknown. This keeps banks from making loans out of fear, even as they sit on billions of dollars in cash. And that locks up capital and expansion of business which in turn keeps jobs from growing and puts in jeopardy existing jobs. And that explains why a lot of people are afraid to step out in a large long term commitment like a home mortgage. And so, Europe's crisis becomes my minor "crisis" as I wait for someone to buy me out of my existing home.
But life goes on and we have to make decisions. I am reminded of how the prophet Jeremiah was instructed by God to buy a field in Jerusalem as the city was about to fall to the Babylonians and the citizens killed and led off in captivity. It didn't make economic sense. Buying real estate in the midst of an entire cultural collapse is pretty risky if not outright stupid. But Jeremiah bought the field from his cousin and filed the deed in a clay jar in the ground. God said, "houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land." (Jeremiah 32:15 Jeremiah 32:15For thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.
American King James Version×)
Talk about hope and confidence–there it is. Jeremiah made a decision and put down his money based on confidence in God. He made a statement to live, to move forward in hope without fear. With this action he said there is a future. Jeremiah was a pretty positive man when you scrape away the outer anxiety we sometimes see.
The world economy is going through some rough waters right now. America's leadership role is changing. Europe is seeing its biggest crisis since going to the single currency more than ten years ago. But Europe will hold together and the Euro will remain in place. They have too much invested to see it all collapse. Too much history is pushing Europe toward a solution that will bring them to an even larger role in world affairs. Don't count them out.
And don't count America down and out just yet. For reasons most do not understand, America still plays the key military, economic and political role in world. God is bringing this world to a moment of decision. Keep your eyes and heart focused on Him. Put your hope and confidence in Him and keep fear at bay.