When I was a child, my family once took a day trip in the fall through the mountainous regions of upstate New York, for an inexpensive but dazzling array of autumnal eye candy.
Having grown up at sea level—on a street called Valley Drive, no less—this spectacular journey through mountain country was quite a feast for my young eyes.
Every so often, we’d see a blue sign with binoculars and the words “Scenic Overlook” underneath, pointing toward a rest area with picnic tables, restrooms, and, of course, a great view. The first couple of signs we passed, we stopped and took in a stunning sight—enormous waves of red, brown, orange, and yellow leaves swelling beneath an expansive blue sky.
After a couple of stops, though, we’d had enough. We’d ignore subsequent signs and keep on driving.
The image was already secured in our memories—we didn’t need more variations on that theme. Eventually, we'd turn around to drive home, back to Valley Drive, and, by that time, we were no longer taking in the scenery—we were taking it for granted.
I’m reminded of this because we’re at a place in the multifamily market cycle that could be defined as a peak—and also, somewhat negatively, as an overlook.
We all know this is a cyclical business, that all upturns end up turning again. We all know that in the business world, just as in nature, the only constant is change.
We might not want to know that—we’re an industry with 10-year cycles and two-year memories—but, deep down, we know this incredible run will come to an end.
And my gut says that if we’re not already at the peak, then we’re getting pretty damn close to it. Maybe we’re already at the peak, at the highest point of the mountain, high above the clouds—maybe we’re already on the other side of the mountain, feeling the weight of gravity and starting to slide down … .
The real question is, how could we know? It’s the kind of thing you can only really know in hindsight; in retrospect.
So what are you looking for—or, more accurately, what do you look out for—when you look ahead? What bellwethers do you believe in? Are there any harbingers of doom hiding in plain sight, invisible only because we’re not looking for them, or have grown tired of looking?
Because that’s the problem (maybe that’s the only problem) with being at the peak: The temptation to take that bedazzling Scenic Overlook for granted, and forget that it’s made possible only by the first touch of winter frost.
So, keep your eyes peeled and buckle up, folks, as we head back to Valley Drive. It may get a little bumpy.