Agents Declare 7-Day Moratorium on Purchases

By Dave Fratello | April 1st, 2013

In an extraordinary joint action announced this morning, real estate agents working in Manhattan Beach have declared a weeklong moratorium on writing, or receiving, offers on properties listed for sale.

It's an effort to restore balance in a market that has seen pent-up demand and low inventory for too long, some say.

"This is the craziest market I've experienced," said one local pro who's helped clients buy and sell Manhattan Beach real estate for over 30 years. "I've been through all the ups and downs. What I see now is crazy. We have to step in and calm everyone down."

Bidding wars have become the norm in Manhattan Beach over the past 18 months, and prices are starting to get out of hand.

The thinking behind the moratorium is that inventory should be allowed to build up, giving buyers a clearer sense of choices before they dive headlong into the next bidding war. With choices, perhaps the market will calm slightly.

Last week, 21 new listings emerged in Manhattan Beach, but 24 listings went into escrow, thereby reducing inventory over the period.

The unprecedented joint action has been under discussion for weeks. It's not easy to get the real estate community to act as one. But the severity of the crisis developing in local real estate seems to have pushed major brokerages to take action. Eventually, all the local players came to agreement, provided that the moratorium can be enforced.

The basic rule is this: Listing agents will discourage offers for a week beginning April 1st. If they receive one, they will "lose" it in their "spam" email boxes or "misplace" any faxes or printouts they receive.

No agent representing a buyer looking at a Manhattan Beach property will draft an offer for a client, citing the moratorium.

Any agents who attempt to breach the moratorium will be publicly shamed in a full-page ad in the Beach Reporter.

MBC caught up with one agent who led the way on the moratorium.

In a phone interview from a poolside in Cabo San Lucas, the agent explained, "This is the perfect time for a moratorium. Yes, the market's too crazy. Also, I'm in Cabo. Really, everyone's out of town. You think I want to be working on my computer in a hotel room? I'm going windsurfing. The offers can wait a few days. People should just freaking chill, and enjoy April 1st."

No word yet on whether the moratorium might spread to other markets during their Spring Break weeks.

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