Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast. That’s a catchy tune. And my little girls love the movie. Honestly, I enjoy it too. Lumiere, the suave French candelabra, cracks me up. His big solo number, Be Our Guest, is very entertaining.
So imagine my frustration when I found out I couldn’t buy this film after my youngest daughter was born in 2004. I looked everywhere. Best Buy. Walmart. Amazon. Barnes and Noble. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
Fortunately, we had a trip planned to Disneyland. Problem solved. I would go directly to the source – Main Street U.S.A., Disneyland, California. The souvenir shop there had the movie selection prominently displayed behind the cash register. I could see all of Disney’s big hits: Aladdin, Cars, The Incredibles, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
But wait a minute. Where was Beauty and the Beast?
It’s in the vault she said. What? The Disney cast member repeated it again – it’s in the vault. So I said well go back there and get it! No sir, you don’t understand. Disney puts movies in the vault for extended periods of time. You will have to wait until it’s re-released. That was 2005.
Disney finally pulled Beauty and the Beast out of the vault – last October. I gave it to my daughter for her 6th birthday. I also paid $24.95, about twice what a normal kid movie would cost.
You see, the folks at Walt Disney are master marketers. They don’t just make whimsical princess movies and cool adventure attractions like The Pirates of the Caribbean. They’ve figured out how to create artificial demand.
Disney got a rational guy like me to pay double, and wait five years, for one of their products. People who don’t even have children or grandchildren yet bought this movie out of fear it would get locked up in the vault for another decade. Pretty smart.
That’s why I find it a little amusing when I’m in real estate circles and someone asks me about the shadow inventory. Aren’t you worried about it? If the banks unleash this shadow inventory on the retail market don’t you think prices will plunge even further?
The answer is no, I’m not worried about it because the banks will not unleash this shadow inventory (if there really is a shadow inventory) on the retail market.
First of all, let me clear up one myth – banks don’t foreclose on a mass of houses, board them up and then wait to sell them off for months or years on end (at least not in Arizona). Many experts define this as shadow inventory. I’m on the ground here in Phoenix and that does not happen. Once a bank forecloses they promptly secure it and sell it as an REO.
The home directly behind mine was foreclosed on last week and it was on the multiple listing service 6 days later. The banks do this because there is too much liability in home ownership. If they foreclose on a house and then let it sit they are responsible for property taxes, homeowner association dues, utilities and general maintenance. Even worse, bad things tend to happen in or around abandoned houses. When bad things happen people sue – not good.
Banks are far more likely to postpone foreclosure proceedings on the current homeowner for months or years at a time. I bid on house at the auction earlier this week. Its sale had been postponed 38 times – 1148 days. This property has been in foreclosure for more than three years. I bid on two other houses scheduled to go to sale this week – their sales had been postponed 12 and 18 times. And guess what? All three of these sales were postponed again.
There is another camp of so-called experts who refer to these homes as our shadow inventory. But how do we know the owners of these homes won’t eventually bring their loans current, get a loan modification or execute a short sale? My guess is only a small percentage will actually get foreclosed on and end up on the market as an REO.
Here’s why I’m really not worried about shadow inventory (if there really is such a thing) – artificial demand. The banks are actually copying the Disney marketing model. They’re being fairly strategic about what they release and when. This creates scarcity, which increases demand (albeit artificially).
There is nothing wrong with this. I’m actually a proponent of it. It’s good business and probably the smartest thing the banks have done since this crisis began. It serves us all and makes me want to break out in song – Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest…