the word from the bank guy

So we talked to Mr. Schwaiger, the real-estate dude, who turns out to be another reason to love our bank. He said banks aren’t lending unless you’re a business trying to borrow a billion, which is stupid times two because that’s how this whole mess started in the first place. And he actually used the word “free-fall,” which makes me trust him. He says things should be better in spring, but we have to keep that in context – “better” doesn’t necessarily mean climbing, just not-falling-anymore.

Side note: There’s a new federal highway, the A94, under construction nearby. The process has been held up by a series of legal appeals, because they want to run it right through the Isen river valley, which is frankly criminal from an environmental standpoint. However, this area currently has a B-road which is insufficient for the traffic we get here – it’s twistier and slower and goes right bang through several towns, including ours – my kids have to cross it to get to school. And while I understand and even share the environmentalists’ concerns, without their legal stalling this road would already be done and my kids wouldn’t be risking their lives every day. Anyway, they’ve just lost their final appeal, so the road will go ahead. And OurTown can reasonably expect a boom in the next few years – we’re convenient to the airport, and will soon be even more convenient to Munich.

So that’s coming through, and when it’s done our location will be even better, because kids won’t have to cross a major transport route to get to school, so we’ll be able to get more money by selling it, was our thinking. Mr Schwaiger agrees.

It’s all about the “Stimmung” – the mood, how optimistic people feel, he says. The A94 will make businesses feel better and they might even do some hiring. Interest rates have been down-up-down, should be up in spring but still not very high: 4-5%, probably. DrBob said “Spring, are you sure? Because everything I’m reading says six months at least before things start looking up,” and Mr Schwaiger said yeah, Germany-wide, the numbers look bad for the near future, but Bavaria is a special case, which actually does match what we’ve noticed. It’s reasonable to assume that the crash will be less bad here, and the upturn will happen sooner, than elsewhere in Germany.

Interestingly, he also said the Inauguration will improve things: Obama’s name has been associated with so many positive things for the last year that no matter what he does, there should at least be an initial bounce when he takes office.

So with the current downturn, and the banks not wanting to lend, and everybody too nervous to buy a house when prices might go down even more, we can expect to lose at least €50,000 if we try to sell now – and that’s IF we can find a buyer, which is by no means certain. In anticipation of the A94, local developers have built a LOT of new houses, and our house, built in 1982, will have a hard time competing. But, with the new road, people should be moving into the area and wanting to rent initially while they decide whether to stay, so it’s a good time to rent.

So that’s what we have, after all those words: a decision that we won’t sell this house right away. Now DrBob has to take that information to a Dutch bank (actually, probably several Dutch banks) and find out what kind of loan we can get with no money down but an extremely stable job. We already know that they won’t accept the house as some kind of collateral, because it’s not in the Netherlands. We also know that house prices are falling in Utrecht, and we don’t want to buy something that will be worth less than we owe on it, if prices continue to fall. We don’t want to rent, both because it’s fiendishly expensive – Utrecht is one of those places where nobody rents if they can possibly avoid it – and because we don’t want to move twice.

Therefore. All kinds of things can happen, and the situation may and probably will change, but for now, we are seriously considering postponing the move for another year. And I hate this idea, but at least it’s an idea, and I can put some time and attention into getting used to it. The uncertainty was a lot less bearable.

Song du jour of the day: Come Home to You, by John Hiatt.


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