On my street, three of the 24 houses are for sale, two of those for more than a year. Out on the main road there are two new homes, built on spec I think, that are also unsold. There has been a sustained house building boom here in northeast Pennsylvania that may now have over built itself out business. Part of this slowdown may be due to local causes.
As more working people move here to escape the high cost of housing in New York and New Jersey, schools are being built and property taxes are going up. Soon they will be high enough to make housing in New Jersey competitive again. Also, under the best of traffic and weather conditions it takes 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours to drive to New York. Commuting uses a lot of gas and as gas prices rise, along with interest rates, tight budgets become tighter and sometimes snap. Too many people that are driven by dreams of a country home, backyard and good schools make delusional calculations on what they can afford. There are a lot of foreclosed homes competing with a growing number of new houses for a dwindling number of buyers. I’m guessing that for many the financial benefit of living in the Poconos no longer out weighs the agony of spending four to six hours a day getting to work. I’m also betting that the swindling builders are no longer able close deals with wised up potential buyers, with an unfounded promise of a new commuter railroad to built any minute now.
In addition to keeping track of the homes on my street up for sale, I also study the golf courses. I used to golf and some friends still do. There are many public golf courses here and a few years ago they were crowded. There were usually more cars in the lots with New York and New Jersey plates than there those licensed in Pennsylvania. It was difficult to get tee times and when you did you crept along the course taking five and more hours to complete 18 holes. It was almost as frustrating as commuting. You paid a hundred bucks to get pissed off.
Now, no one is golfing; it seems. My friends that golf say the courses are nearly empty. You can play a round quickly and then go around again and again until dark. I confirm their observations every day on the way to the post office. The golf course at the bottom of the hill is always nearly empty or at best there are five or ten cars in the lot, a few more on weekends, very different from the spill over mobs a few years ago.
As with the collapse of the housing market I have guesses about empty golf courses too. Would be golfers are working long weekday hours and also weekend hours, because they are scared shitless they will lose their jobs and fail to keep up with a rising flood of debt. Those demands on workers, white and blue collared, coupled with family duties, leave no time for golf. An afternoon of golf today turns into hours of agonizing over vulnerabilities coming from things left undone.
At last check, the market was down better than a hundred points today, the drop mainly fueled by the diminished housing market.