Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slow Going

As the economy continues to limp along, I find myself having less and less to do each day at the office. It even seems that the customary monthly bills have reduced to a trickle though I am sure that perfection is entirely illusory. When the time is long everything appears to slow to a crawl. With Easter weekend in the offing I have all but given up expecting anything whatever in the immediate future.

By no small coincidence my personal concerns are reflected in the fortunes of my friends and acquaintances. Never let it be said that Hell is solitary confinement! There is always good company there. For example three people whom I know stand out in particular. They are all selling expensive properties, and indeed have had them listed for some time, but as yet all without success. Each of the properties is located miles from the others and each is of a very different character (though all residential). One (in Mont Tremblant, Quebec) is listed for $5.45M; another (in Dunrobin, Ontario) is listed for $1.489M; and the third (in Almonte, Ontario) is listed for $975,000. Lest one should imagine that it is only these high-end properties which are not moving, I have noted that several more average properties listed for sale in the area are also not moving, and it is always a testament to the problem that there are noticeable turn-overs in the listing agents for them. Some people just don’t get it!

Not all of my work is economically driven, but even the discretionary work has ground to an utter halt. People are seemingly sitting on both their hands and their capital. Regrettably after thirty-five years in business I have learned that no amount of inducement or advertisement will do anything to improve the flow of trade. We’re all caught in a web from which none of us is capable of withdrawing by force of one’s own meager efforts. What’s needed is some communal strength. And time. After the masses have been bludgeoned so regularly with the embarrassment of over-spending and lack of saving, it will take time to adjust to a more liberal pattern of expenditure no matter how worthwhile the product.

I recall that my own grandfather many years ago bought a very large seven-bedroom home at a time when similar pressures were bearing down on the economy. The story goes that when my grandfather presented his offer to the agent, the agent replied with disgust that he wouldn’t even bother presenting such an offer to the seller, to which my grandfather replied, “Well, if you won’t, then I will!” He got the house.

One needn’t look back into the distant past for examples of decline. Even in my own lifetime I have endured some pretty dreadful times; viz., the mid-1990's. In that period, after a year’s work and having paid all my staff and bills, my net profit was a mere $715. It was almost five years before the profit margins returned to previous highs though fortunately they never plunged that low again. During that same period I recall that one of my Clients sat on a perfectly attractive home for four years before she was able to unload it.

I at least have a small advantage in having been in business for as long as I have. One would expect that some of that clientele will eventually surface. Meanwhile it’s slow going.

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