Heavens: 'Real estate is constantly evolving'

By Diana Dietz | May 8, 2013 | 3 min. read

Real estate columnist Alan Heavens addresses attendees of the 2013 PHFA Housing Forum in Harrisburg
Real estate reporter Alan Heavens addresses attendees of the 2013 PHFA Housing Forum in Harrisburg

The real estate industry is constantly evolving, according to Alan Heavens, residential real estate reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A veteran reporter of 35 years, Heavens has written about real estate and home improvement for the last 14 years. He was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Commonwealth Housing Forum, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), in Harrisburg last week.

“I’ve been working for newspapers since 1967 and real estate coverage has always been a large part of reporting for me,” he said. “My father had been a real estate agent and broker. I helped him study for the tests, watched him work, and went with him on calls. When I began writing about real estate for the Philadelpha Inquirer in 1989, I discovered the nature of the business was very different from when my father sold real estate or from when I started writing about it in 1970.”

Heavens began writing about real estate full-time in 1994. He said many predictions were made about the real estate profession from various industry experts. “A prediction made in the year of real estate consolidation was that the mom and pop brokerage was over,” he noted.

For the past six months, Heavens has written a popular Sunday feature called ‘On the House: Town by Town’. Each week, he visits a different town or neighborhood and learns as much about it as possible. “What I learned is every one of these places has a thriving mom and pop brokerage frequented by buyers looking for the personal touch of someone who lives in town,” he said.

Heavens said he remains very cautious about the real estate market. He said the weakness of the economy is the reason why mortgage rates continue to be so low. “The economy will continue to recover slowly, and job creation, despite being better than it was a year ago, is still not what it should be,” he said.

During the 2000 to 2006 real estate boom, Heavens received many telephone calls from readers asking when he thought the phenomenal run up in prices would end. “Too many homeowners believed it would never end. At least 23 percent of them are still under water,” he noted.

“When readers called and asked when I thought record low interest rates would rise, my answer would always be ‘at any point.’ When faced with the reality of homeownership, you should never ever take on excessive debt in the hope that everything will work out for the best,” he added.

“One of the things I’ve learned from my current real estate stint with the Philadelphia Inquirer is that the job doesn’t come with a crystal ball. If I’ve learned anything about the real estate industry over these past four decades it’s that it is constantly evolving. That has made covering this subject interesting to say the least,” he concluded.

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